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About Pop Up Satellite Archival Tags

PAT and miniPAT satellite tagsThe Great Marlin race relies upon Wildlife Computer’s MK-10 and mini Pop-up Archival Transmitting (PAT) tags. The miniPATs are 60 millimeters smaller, 22 grams lighter, and allow for shorter deployment periods than the larger tags. Both types of tags can be attached to a billfish with a titanium dart, connected to a heavy monofilament leader with a pin at the bottom. Once the fish is tagged, the satellite tag records depth, temperature, and light (used to calculate the fish’s location). At a pre-programmed date, the pin at the bottom of the tag corrodes away and sets the tag free from the fish. The foam float located at the top of the tag then brings the tag to the surface, allowing the antenna to relay summaries of the stored data, via the Argos satellite system, back to the laboratory.

As the data arrive at the lab, scientists are able to re-create the fish's journey through the ocean - creating a track of the path it took, along with a record of its diving behavior and the temperature of the water it swam through. These tags are especially useful in cases where the animal does not spend enough time at the surface to use radio-based geolocation methods (e.g., GPS), and when there is a need to deploy the tag quickly, with minimal handling of the animal – such as with billfish and large sharks.

Tag Specifics

Transmitted data


You can program the PAT to selectively transmit time-at-depth and time-at-temperature histograms, depth-temperature profiles, and/or light-level curves. You also set the histogram duration (1 to 24 hours) and bin ranges. This provides the flexibility to customize data collection to best achieve different experimental objectives.

Fisheries-independent tracking, archival data


Because the PAT can yield data without the animal being recaptured, it offers a fisheries-independent means of tracking a target species. In addition, a full archival record is maintained in non-volatile memory. Thus, should the PAT be recovered, you have the same detailed data that are collected by a conventional archival tag. A surprising number of PATs have been recovered by beachcombers and fisheries, giving the researcher a complete record of the animal’s behavior.

PATs are best-suited for large pelagic animals. PATs have been deployed on a variety of species, including large tuna, marlin, and sharks, as well as swordfish and sea turtles. The PAT tag is attached to the animal via a tether. Generally, the researcher determines the best tether design and attachment method.

How the PAT works


The PAT archives depth, temperature, and light-level data while being towed by the animal. At a user-specified date and time, the PAT actively corrodes the pin to which the tether is attached, thus releasing the PAT from the animal. The PAT then floats to the surface and transmits summarized information via the Argos system. Argos also uses the transmitted messages to provide the position of the tag at the time of release. The transmitted data are sent to the researcher by Service Argos. The data can be analyzed further by the researcher using Wildlife Computers PC-based software. The results provide the migration path taken by the study animal, depth and temperature preferences of the study animal, as well as oceanographic data in the form of depth-temperature profiles. Data from deployed PATs have revealed interesting and often unanticipated information on the depth and temperature preferences of these animals.

All aspects of the PAT’s data collection and transmission are user-programmable. This simplifies the logistics of your experiment design; you do not need to pre-specify these parameters before ordering the tag.

The PAT recognizes attachment failures and animal mortality


Data from the PAT also offer insights into attachment failure and animal mortality. The PAT’s on-board software includes a “Premature Release” feature. This feature monitors how long the PAT remains at a “constant depth.” Constant depth readings imply the PAT is floating at the surface or sitting on the sea floor. Among the parameters set by the user are a threshold duration (24-192 hours) and depth variance (in meters). The threshold duration is the longest time a healthy animal should remain at a constant depth, and the depth variance is the number of meters the depth may vary but still be considered “constant” (necessary to account for tidal effects). The PAT recognizes a “premature release” event when it has been at a “constant” depth for longer than the threshold duration.

When the PAT recognizes a premature release, it initiates its release process and begins transmitting, rather than waiting for its release date. This gives you immediate notification that something has gone wrong, the location of the event (via the Argos location of the pop-up site), and minimizes the chances that something will damage the tag between the premature release event and the programmed release date.