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Biotelemetric Methods (10 ECTS)

Course period: Spring semester (April–May), every second year.
Next course: 13 April – 11 May 2015, then spring 2017
Language of instruction: English
Credit reduction/overlap: 10 ECTS with AB-825
Grade: Letter grade (A through F)
Examination support material: Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
Course materials:  Curriculum/reading list ca. 350 pages (30–35 scientific articles)
Course responsible: Kit M. Kovacs
UNIS contact person: Steve Coulson
Course costs: Excursions, NOK 0–800 (3–4 days x NOK 200 per day with overnight stay)
Course capasity min./max.: 5/20 students (AB-325/8825 in total)

Required previous knowledge/specific course requirements:
Students should be enrolled in a relevant master biology programme. Basic knowledge of statistics and computing, and a completed bachelor programme in biology, are required. Students using biologging or telemetric instrumentation in field studies of vertebrate taxa, within their current master programmes will be given preference.

The course is intended for master students working with projects involving field studies of vertebrate taxa.

Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

Have a thorough knowledge base regarding a wide array of biologging and biotelemetry techniques and a fundamental understanding of their applicability in advanced research undertakings, involving a wide taxonomic array of animals.

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • Have practical experience using both basic and advanced telemetry equipment.
  • Be able to:
    (1) operate VHF receivers and track animals in the wild using this technology
    (2) operate active underwater acoustic recording systems and remote sampling devices such as camera-monitoring systems
    (3) down-load and analyze data from a variety of different instrument types including geolocators, passive and active acoustics systems, and advanced satellite-linked “tags” that sample location, environmental data and other biological data (such as physiological data).
  • Have hands-on experience in fish-telemetry surgical techniques and have acquired field skills via conducting tag deployments on other arctic animals (birds and/or mammals). 

General competences
Upon completing the course, the students will:

Be able to navigate with maps and GPS systems, operate safely in the field using snowmobiles and small boats, be able to select data logging or telemetry tools appropriate to given research questions/hypotheses and have a firm understanding of ethical treatment of wild animals the research community engages in telemetry studies.

Academic content:
The course includes lectures, demonstrations, computer labs and practical exercises that introduce students to a selection of the most relevant techniques for biotelemetry and biologging field studies. This includes VHF-telemetry, satellite-based tracking with GPS and “phone-tag” technologies, transponders, acoustic sensing systems and selected physiological and behavioural sampling telemetric methods. Relevant technologies and analytical tools for environmental remote sensing will also be introduced.

The course will include practical exercises and data processing methods. Laws and regulations pertaining to animal welfare and radio transmissions associated with the use of telemetric equipment and instrumentation of wild animals will be dealt with in lecture and discussion sessions.  Students will have the opportunity to join field work in on-going research programmes – the specifics of which will depend on the availability of such research projects within the time frame of the course. The students will present research seminars, oral reports from course activities and literature critiques, and draft research proposals.

Topics include:

  • Basic principles for radio signal transmission & antenna theory
  • Telemetric technology, regulations and management of frequencies
  • Ethics (animal welfare) in biotelemetry/biologging
  • Introduction to VHF-based telemetry and GPS-positioning systems in biotelemetry- transmitters applications and limitations
  • Telemetry & biologging equipment - a manufacturers perspective
  • User “issues” – another manufacturer’s perspective – trouble shooting
  • Maps, mapping and GPS technology - Practical applications
  • Acoustic telemetry - Methods & Science questions
  • Range size, habitat use etc. (Storage, and retrieval of data and the integration of animal tracks and terrestrial environmental data)
  • An introduction to GIS tools
  • Design considerations/limitations in marine mammal biotelemetry
  • Biotelemetry and biologging with Svalbard’s marine mammals – case studies
  • Linking marine mammal telemetry & the environment - MAMVIS & statistical tools
  • Remote methods in sea bird research – transponders, photographic & case studies
  • Fish tracking
  • Physiological telemetry - applications and potential
  • Looking into the future....

Learning activities:
The course extends over 4 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AB-825.

See “Academic content” for an overview of the learning activities.

Total lecture hours: ca. 35 hours.
Total demonstration and exercises hours:  25 hours.
Excursions:  3-4 days.

Compulsory learning activities:
Lectures, seminars, computer workshops, demonstrations, field exercises, laboratory work. All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.


Method Time
Percentage of final grade
Oral exam  

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course.

Application deadline: 1 December 2014




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