California Fish Researchers Using ATS Technology for Salmon Tracking Work

Researchers in the Central Valley from the US Bureau of Reclamation, US Geological Survey, NOAA Fisheries, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies have been involved in ongoing fish movement studies in the Sacramento Delta, San Francisco Bay, and the Central Valley for many years now. ATS has been there to support these efforts as one of the primary suppliers of technology and equipment used for this research.

One study in particular taking place in the Central Valley began this last winter. ATS equipment and know-how have helped contribute to this study.  According to Josh Israel, Science Division Chief in the Bureau's Bay-Delta Office, "The technology really helps us understand movement and survival of juvenile salmon and get that information to managers effectively."

A website allows managers and stakeholders interested in salmon survival and movement to monitor ATS tagged salmon groups as they move down the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and through the Delta:, San Francisco Estuary magazine recently featured an article which included interviews with some of the researchers involved in this innovative and important work:

For more information about ATS Acoustic Fish Tracking Systems, you can visit

         *Special thanks to Josh Israel for his contribution to this post.


Bumble Bees are Tracked in Minnesota with ATS Transmitters

KARE-11 TV's popular outdoor life television production Minnesota Bound recently featured a story about Minnesota's bumble bee population and efforts to learn more about bee behavior in the state.

The video shows researchers attaching ATS' lightweight model A2412 transmitter to bumble bees. The model has since been replaced with an even lighter version, the T15 Tiny Transmitter, which weighs only .015 grams!

Everything You Need to Know About Injectable Acoustic Fish Tags

For many years engineers, designers, and biologists from the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have been working on optimizing acoustic fish tag design. ATS is proud to have been involved in this endeavor and has supplied over 80,000 acoustic fish tags for the JSATS program over the last ten years. The latest advance in tag design is an injectable version (ATS model SS400) of the previous design, which was a surgically implanted tag (ATS model SS300).

For those interested in designing, purchasing, and deploying an acoustic fish tracking system, we'd like to draw your attention to two comprehensive scientific articles on the new injectable acoustic tag, which is also JSATS compatible. The articles are from the Scientific Reports section of

The first, An injectable acoustic transmitter for juvenile salmonwill give you complete details on the design and engineering behind the tag.

The second article is titled Comparing the survival rate of juvenile Chinook salmon migrating through hydropower systems using injectable and surgical acoustic transmitters

We think you'll find both of these articles useful when considering your study design.

Thanks to Daniel Deng, from PNNL, for bringing these articles to our attention.

Below, actual injectable transmitter shown with a scale (a), and a Computer-Aided Design model of the injectable transmitter showing the actual shape of the transmitter (b).


New Video Tutorial for Neolink Neonate Monitoring System

The Neolink system is powerful, and to some degree, complex. The system allows for two-way communication between a mother's GPS collar, a Vaginal Implant Transmitter (VIT), and a fawn collar.

To help you understand the different programming aspects and special field checks that are needed when deploying Neolink equipment, we've put together a 15-minute video that you can see on YouTube.

Check it out, and when you're ready to get an equipment quote, contact an ATS consultant! 



ATS Telemetry Equipment is Used to Track Beetles


Below is an excerpt from an article in Entomology Today that describes a unique and interesting application of how animal tracking can be used even on small insects, such as beetles. ATS is offering transmitters that are some of the smallest and lightest available today. Complete information on our insect tracking systems is available here:


This article includes a link in the last paragraph to a published study in the professional journal "Environmental Entomolgy." The paper describes in great detail how the study was conducted, and its results.

Judas Beetles: How Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles Are Betraying Each Other’s Secrets

tagged coconut rhinoceros beetle

The coconut rhinoceros beetle is a difficult pest to control, but the use of radio
transmitters and laser-engraved identification numbers for tracking is helping
to reveal its often hard-to-find breeding spots. (Photo credit: Matthew Siderhurst)


By Josh Lancette

It starts with the search for a mate. It ends with betrayal. And death. And a toppled crime empire.

How? Someone is wearing a wire from the feds.

Specifically, that someone is a coconut rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros.

Its empire? An army of its kind aiming to destroy palm trees in Southeast Asia and several Pacific Islands.

And the wire? Technically, it’s a radio tracking device, placed on beetles by researchers from the University of Guam, Eastern Mennonite University, and the U.S. Agricultural Research Service.

Josh Lancette

Josh Lancette

But why?

The coconut rhinoceros beetle is an invasive pest that’s devastating palm trees by boring into the crowns of the palms to feed on sap, thus killing the trees. The beetles are hard to control, and techniques such as pheromone trapping, biological control, or sniffer dogs have been ineffective or expensive. One of the most effective strategies for controlling the beetle is finding and eradicating potential breeding locations. However, breeding sites are often cryptic and found in a wide variety of locations, so discovering the sites is easier said than done.

So, the researchers decided to try a new method. Dubbed “the Judas technique,” it involves capturing adult beetles, placing radio tracking devices on them, and then following the tagged beetles to breeding locations using the tracking device. In preliminary tests, the results of which are published in Environmental Entomology, the technique was effective for finding cryptic breeding sites.

New Neolink Series VIT Transmitter and Fawn Collar E-mails You Alerts at Fawn's Birth and Mortality.

Our new Neolink Series consists of two new models. The first is the M3930U VIT Transmitter. VIT stands for Vaginal Implant Transmitter. This type of transmitter is expelled when the newly born fawn's mother gives birth. In its simple form, the transmitter begins beeping at a fast rate when this event happens.

However, the new Neolink configuration adds the capability for the VIT to radio-link with the doe's G2110E2 GPS Iridium Collar. Once this link is established, the Iridium collar begins transmitting data to you, the researcher, starting with notification of the birth event.

The second new model is the M4210U Expandable Fawn Collar. Like the VIT, this transmitter is also radio-linked with the doe's Iridium GPS Collar. Once the fawn is collared, its status is monitored, and you will receive alerts via e-mail. The alert types are for initialization (collar only), absence (out of radio range), birth (VIT only), and mortality (collar only).  E-mail alerts include the collar ID, alert type, time stamp, and a GPS location. The alerts will be received within 20-30 minutes of event. In addition to the e-mail alerts, all of the Neolink event data is sent to ATS' hosted website (

ATS' VIT wing design has been optimized by leading deer biologists. Our expandable fawn collar has field proven reliability, through over twelve years of use. . The typical life for the Neolink VIT Transmitter is 213 days at a 30 ppm pulse rate.The fawn collar life is 923 days at 30 ppm. Weight of the units is 28 grams, and 85 grams, respectively.

The Neolink series will help you to save your aviation budget, since overfly's of your study area are no longer needed as often. When ordering Neolink equipment, your Consultant will only need the VHF frequency range you are working in. Keep in mind that the VIT and the fawn collar need an existing or new G2110E2 Iridium/GPS Collar, to complete the system.

What’s the Range on These Transmitters?

We get asked that a lot, and for good reason. Everyone wants to find their animal, and they want to know how close they need to be before they can pick it up on frequency before calling it a day. The answer varies; there are numerous variables, and the variables are always changing!

Let’s start by saying that VHF tracking is line-of-sight. That means that the receiving antenna has to “see” the transmitting antenna before a signal can be heard, and vice versa. Anything that is in the way of that line-of-sight path will attenuate, or degrade, the signal. This includes light or heavy brush, trees, and most definitely, mountains. And if the animal goes behind a crop of rocks or decides to lay down, there goes your range.

Many times, the best way to increase range is to hold the antenna higher up off of the ground. To really increase range, get in an airplane and track – you’ll have excellent line-of-sight and very good range, many miles in fact.

Another big influence on range is the type of receiving antenna used in your field work. One simple way to increase range is by using an antenna with more elements on it, e.g. a four element antenna instead of a three element one. A directional type antenna will provide better range than a dipole antenna, which only has one element. An excellent paper, Selecting Receiving Antennas for Radio Tracking is available on the ATS website.  

Also, using a narrow band receiver designed specifically for telemetry will increase range, especially one that includes digital signal processing (DSP) capability. The ATS R4500 series of telemetry receivers are a good example. Their band width is 4 MHz, and a DSP chipset is used; better performance than a receiver with 8 or 16 MHz band width and lacking DSP.

Finally, the transmitter design itself will influence reception range. A longer antenna will increase range, and use of a three stage circuit will too. ATS offers the option to include a three stage circuit in some models. This will provide you with a stronger signal than a standard transmitter circuit, but at the expense of battery life, since the power output is higher.

If you have additional questions about how you might increase the range of your radio telemetry system, please call us at ATS.


Two directional Yagi antennas installed on a tall tower for excellent line-of-sight range!

(Photo courtesy Chuck Grandgent, Normandeau Assocites)

Iridium Collars Proving Successful in Nevada Research

Mule deer researchers in Nevada are utilizing ATS’ G2110E Iridium/GPS Location Collar to learn more about mule deer migratory corridors and migration behavior. Currently, over 150 Iridium collars are deployed in Nevada, with more recently deployed in winter 2012-13. 

Researchers there are able to collect fixes as frequently as one every 15 minutes, or as few as one per day. The variable programmability of ATS' Iridium collars has allowed researchers to increase fix intensity during peak migration periods, and decrease fix intensity during times mule deer remain largely sedentary on winter and summer ranges. 

The collar's flexibility of programming, and remote programmability via e-mail command, have allowed researchers to learn several things about their mule deer including: summer range, winter range, migration corridors, migration timing, migration triggers, migratory behavior, foraging areas, and fawning areas. A couple of the migration corridors in Nevada have been demonstrated to be over 120 miles long, as shown in the image bottom left. 

Another question currently being addressed with the Iridium collars is “how do mule deer respond to novel disturbance along their migration corridor?” Hourly fix intervals have allowed researchers a better understanding of the potential energetic cost associated with navigating novel disturbance that bisect their migration corridors. The image at bottom right shows how five deer moving through a disturbed area moved differently before and after the disturbance than they did while moving through the disturbance. This type of information is essential to understanding the potential impacts of migratory corridor disruption.

This application is just one way ATS' Iridium collars can benefit wildlife research. To learn more about how ATS can help you meet your research objectives, call your ATS Consultant, or go to the ATS website and request a same day quote today!

 Click on images to view full size.

New Condor Detection System Features R4500 Receiver-Datalogger

ATS has worked closely with Normandeau Associates to help integrate the highly capable R4500SD Receiver- Datalogger into a new Condor early detection system. The system, known as ReCon (Remote Condor Observation Network), provides energy facility operations centers with real-time alerts of an approaching condor.

Because condor range expansion could one day lead to interactions with renewable energy facilities, the ReCon system will help to address this concern. The system has now been fully tested and proven effective, and is available to researchers from Normandeau Associates.

This is just one example of an integrated system using the R4500 line of standard and coded receiver-dataloggers that have been deployed around the world for the study of aquatic and terrestrial animals. The R4500 is also at the heart of ATS’ system for tracking deer and fawns using coded transmitters, which is in use throughout Colorado today.

For more information on how an R4500 system can benefit your research, contact an ATS Consultant.

 Schematic of Normandeau Associates ReCon system


View of ATS model R4500SD Receiver-Datalogger used in the Condor Detection System, ReCon (pdf).

Drexel University Studies Northern Pine Snakes. by Kevin Smith

We thank Kevin Smith of Drexel University for this guest post:


The Northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus) is a state threatened species in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Due to the cryptic and fossorial nature of this species, there is a lack of data on their early life behavior and dispersal.  An understanding of first season life history traits from hatching to ingress is particularly difficult to monitor.  

Without field observations it is difficult to elucidate key developmental processes, such as shedding rate, feeding rate, diet preference, habitat preference, dispersal patterns, and the spatial ecology after leaving the nest.

The Laboratory of Pinelands Research, under the direction of Dr. Walter F. Bien at Drexel University, has been studying the Northern pine snake for over a decade in collaboration with the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, and the New Jersey Air National Guard at Warren Grove Gunnery Range.

Dr. Ron Smith and Dane Ward have collectively implanted and radio tracked over 70 individuals, investigating their spatial ecology and distribution. Until recently, the use of implanted radio transmitters was only applicable for fully grown adults, and external transmitters are not appropriate for semi-fossorial constrictors as they interfere with normal snake behaviors and readily fall off this active species.

Last year, however, as part of Kevin PW Smith's doctoral thesis, we performed the first surgical transmitter implantation in eight P. melanoleucus neonates using six ATS model R1635 and two model A2414 transmitters.  

Both models were successful in tracking pine snakes in the first stages of life. In collaboration with the New Jersey Conservation Foundation at the Franklin Parker Preserve,  we monitored neonate activity daily, and recorded environmental and behavioral data. This season, an additional ten neonates will be implanted with ATS model R1635 transmitters and tracked daily.  

Being able to make daily observations on a previously secretive and understudied life stage in situ has given us insight to a wide range of behaviors, including dietary patterns, shedding schedules, and micro-habitat usage.  

Each day of new data has helped fill in vital gaps of the life history of this species. This research facilitates our ability to better plan, recommend, and execute more conservation strategies for this threatened species.


 Photo credit: Kevin Smith