Animal Telemetry Network, ATN

A humpback whale breaching in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California.

Female northern elephant seal with a Wildife Computers GPS tag on her head. The tags on her lower back are archival MK 9 tags that are used to record the diving behavior (Credit: Dr. Daniel Costa, UC Santa Cruz)

The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System is undertaking efforts to enhance our ability to collect, deliver, and use ocean information, including biological information.  Data from electronic tags attached to marine animals will soon flow to IOOS.

The addition of this biological component will help scientists better understand how marine animals move with the flow of tides and currents and provide insight into how they may alter their behavior or migration patterns in response to climate change.  Data from these animals are transforming the way scientists study our waters and opening up new data sources. With the broader science community becoming more engaged and linking to IOOS, we will be able to provide information more readily to the state and federal officials who need it most.


A humpback whale breaching in the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of California.

Tags attached to sea lions and other marine life will help scientists better understand how animals move with the flow of tides and currents and how those patterns may be affected by climate change. (Credit: NOAA.)

The vastness of the ocean limits our ability to observe; this technology is leading to profound advancements in our understanding of these animals and how they interact with the ocean. This knowledge translates to a better understanding of our planet and emerging issues on climate change.

Scientists began widely using marine animal tagging technology in the 1990’s on tuna, sharks, sea turtles, seals, whales, salmon, squid and crustaceans, among others. Sensors track the animals over long distances for multiple years, collecting valuable data below the surface from remote and difficult to reach environments where conventional oceanographic sensing techniques are technically or economically unfeasible.  However, data are collected in different ways for varying applications. A major challenge is to better synchronize the many different tagging programs and improve data sharing to the broader ocean science community.

While the animal tagging community has made great strides in data sharing, collection and analysis, efforts are continue to create a stronger bridge among these scientists and other ocean observers.  IOOS along with other federal, state and academic scientists are working to establish a framework for integrating biological observations to the IOOS, which is expected to begin as early as the fall of 2011.

Animal Telemetry Observations and Applications

Animal Telemetry Observations and Applications


In the last 25 years, technological advances have made it possible to use animals as platforms to carry remote-sensing devises (i.e. Animal Telemetry). Large animals such as sharks and marine mammals can carry sophisticated tags that sample the environment and report to satellites. Small animal like salmon and other fish can carry small acoustic tag and communicate to acoustic receivers. Access to integrated animal telemetry observations is improving ocean forecasts,  establishing baseline habitat usage studies on potential sites of future anthropogenic disturbance, providing critical information for protecting Endangered Species and finally improving Fisheries Management.

Project Details

Animal Telemetry Programs / Projects in North America.

Animal Telemetry programs/projects in North America (yellow dots)

Animal Telemetry programs/projects in North America (yellow dots)

Animal Telemetry programs/projects in North America

Atlantic Arena

Coast of Maine Passive Acoustic Sensor System (CoM-PASS)
Penobscot Telemetry Group
Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry Network (ACT)
Florida Atlantic Coast Telemetry Project (FACT)   
Adopt a Billfish
Tag A Giant Foundation 

Pacific Arena

California Fish Tracking Consortium (CFTC)
Northwest Hawaiian Islands array
PacIOOS array
Hawaii TunaTagging Project (HTTP)    
Large scale Census of Marine Life (COML) projects:
Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP)  
Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST)

Gulf of Mexico

Gulf of Mexico – wide Acoustic Array Network (GAAN)

Great Lakes

Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observing System (GLATOS)


Alaska Animal Telemetry Ocean Observing. (AATOS)
Internationally funded project
Ocean Tracking Network (OTN)

Contact Information

Project Manager, Dr. Hassan Moustahfid:
Phone: 301-427-2447

Collaboration and Workshops

Improving Access to Animal Acoustic Telemetry Observations Project, June 13, 2013


IOOS Animal Telemetry Observations Workshop, March 2 - 3, 2011

 NOAA’s IOOS and National Marine Fisheries Service had hosted a meeting in Santa Cruz, California in order to bring together the broader tagging community.
The goal of the workshop is to talk about establishing a national capacity for Animal Telemetry Observations and developing a stronger national capacity to understand coastal and ocean biology and oceanography.

Background Materials

Exploring New Technology Horizons by Mary Glakin, Tracy Rouleau, Suzanne Skelley, and Zdenka Willis (pdf)


Workshop Synthesis Report

Toward a National Animal Telemetry Observing Network (ATN) for our Oceans, Coasts and Great Lakes


Organizations and Partners Involved

This effort is comprised of a wide collaboration of organizations and partners, including: (NEED INFO)

Federal / State Agencies

NOAA Fisheries
US Navy
Fishery Commission
NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office


Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University/ Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP)
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii
University of Washington/ Pacific Shelf Tracking Network (POST)
University of Delaware/ Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry Network (ACT)
University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of California, Santa Cruz
Rutgers University/ Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences


Census of Marine Life (COML)
Global Ocean Tracking Network (OTN)


Lotek wireless, inc
WildLife Computers

Press Release

National Ocean Observing System to See Marine Animal Migration, Adaptation Strategies

podcastAnimal Tagging Audio Podcast:

Explore the World of Animal Tagging Podcast

Collecting Ocean Data with Marine Mammals. Scientists are enlisting marine mammals with electronic tags to collect critical ocean data from around the nation. NOAA's Integrated Ocean Observing System is working to standardize various tagging programs so researchers can better tap into this data stream.