AB-825 Biotelemetric Methods (10 ECTS)

Bearded seal in front of a calving glacier in Svalbard. Photo: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNISPhoto: Eva Therese Jenssen/UNIS

How to apply

April 2019
May 2019
Spring semester (April–May), every second year. Next course: Spring 2019
10 ECTS with AB-325
Letter grade (A through F)
Curriculum/reading list ca. 350 pages (30–35 scientific articles)
Excursions, NOK 600–800 (3–4 days x NOK 200 per day)
10/20 students (AB-325/825 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
15 October 2018


Kit Kovacs. Foto: Christian Lydersen/Norsk Polarinstitutt
Kit M. Kovacs
Adjunct professor, Marine Biology

Course requirements:

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

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 fieldwork 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 and oral reports from course activities and literature critiques. The PhD students will also draft research proposals.

Topics include:

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

Learning activities:

The course extends over 4 weeks including compulsory safety training, and is run in combination with AB-325.

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.


Percentage of final grade
Research proposal 10%
Oral exam  90%

All assessments must be passed in order to pass the course. Only the final grade will be reported, based on the weighted average of the grades from the examination parts.

Application deadline: 15 October 2018


AB-325/825 students on excursion to Tempelfjorden. Photo: Kit Kovacs/UNIS

Ringed seal witth satellite sender

Ringed seal with satellite sender. Photo: Kit Kovacs/UNIS

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Fax: +47 79 02 33 01
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