Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 24, Issue 1, pp 199–218 | Cite as

A review of detection range testing in aquatic passive acoustic telemetry studies

  • S. T. KesselEmail author
  • S. J. Cooke
  • M. R. Heupel
  • N. E. Hussey
  • C. A. Simpfendorfer
  • S. Vagle
  • A. T. Fisk


Passive acoustic telemetry provides an important tool to study the spatial ecology and behaviour of organisms in marine and freshwater systems, but understanding the detection range of acoustic receivers is critical for interpreting acoustic data and establishing receiver spacing to maximize study efficiency. This study presents a comprehensive review of how acoustic detection range has been considered and assessed to date, summarizes important variables to monitor when determining the detection range of a receiver array, and provides recommendations to account for detection range during experimental design, analysis and data interpretation. A total of 378 passive acoustic telemetry studies (1986–2012) were scored against a set of pre-defined criteria to provide a standardized assessment of how well detection range was accounted for, from a maximum possible score of 45. Scores ranged from 0 to 39 (11.1 ± 0.4; mean ± 1 SE). Over the past decade mean scores have been consistently between 6.7 and 12.9 which indicates that detection range has not been adequately considered in most contemporary acoustic telemetry studies. Given the highly variable nature of detection range over space and time, it is necessary to create a culture of detection range testing among the scientific community. For robust telemetry studies it is recommended that consideration of detection range should be given a greater focus within study design, execution and data analysis. To aid array design in new systems, short-term detection range tests should be conducted in the most representative area of the study system prior to deployment. As well, fixed distance sentinel tags should ideally be deployed at a representative receiver site within the array to provide a continuous assessment of detection range and influential environmental parameters should be monitored to facilitate modeling of detection range variability over time. When warranted, data analysis should incorporate modeled variation in detection ranges.


Acoustic telemetry Ultrasonic telemetry Passive telemetry Range test Detection range Animal movement 



Support for this project was provided by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Canada Foundation for Innovation (International Joint Ventures Fund) through the Ocean Tracking Network to ATF, SV and SC. ATF and SC are supported by the Canada Research Chairs program. We would like to thank the editor and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the earlier draft of this manuscript, which improved the current version.

Supplementary material

11160_2013_9328_MOESM1_ESM.docx (64 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 64 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. T. Kessel
    • 1
    Email author
  • S. J. Cooke
    • 2
  • M. R. Heupel
    • 3
    • 4
  • N. E. Hussey
    • 1
  • C. A. Simpfendorfer
    • 3
  • S. Vagle
    • 5
  • A. T. Fisk
    • 1
  1. 1.Great Lakes Institute for Environmental ResearchUniversity of WindsorWindsorCanada
  2. 2.Department of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  3. 3.Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, School of Earth and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  4. 4.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia
  5. 5.Institute of Ocean Sciences, Fisheries and Oceans CanadaSidneyCanada

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