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

Summer/autumn semester (June–July), every second year. Next course: 2023.
10 ECTS with AB-325
Letter grade (A through F)
Curriculum/reading list ca. 350 pages (approx. 40 scientific articles)
10/20 students (AB-325/825 in total)
Bilingual dictionary between English and mother tongue
February 15, 2023


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

UNIS contact person: Janne Søreide

Course requirements:

Students should be enrolled in a relevant PhD programme in biology. Basic knowledge of statistics and computing are required. Students that can document that they are going to employ biologging or telemetric instrumentation in field studies within their current PhD studies will be given preference for admission.

Academic content:

The course includes seminars, lectures, demonstrations, surgery techniques lab, computer (data analyses) labs, guided reading (discussions) and practical exercises in the field that introduce students to a selection of the most relevant techniques for biotelemetry and biologging studies. This includes VHF-telemetry, satellite-based tracking including ARGOS, GPS and “phone-tag” technologies, GLS tags, transponders, acoustic sensing systems and selected physiological and behavioural telemetric sampling methods. Relevant technologies and analytical tools for environmental remote sensing will also be introduced.

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 relevant research projects within the time frame of the course. The students will present research seminars, oral reports from course activities and literature critiques. The course will include data processing labs to deal with learning analytical methods and becoming more familiar with R script.

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 basic telemetric methods – transponders, photographic tools, VHF-based telemetry and GPS-positioning systems in biotelemetry- transmitters applications and limitations (ARGOS, GPS, GLS, GSM +)
  • Telemetry & biologging equipment – a manufacturer’s perspective
  • User “issues” – another manufacturer’s perspective – trouble shooting
  • Maps, mapping and GPS technology – Practical applications
  • Acoustic telemetry – Active and Passive Acoustics, 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 fauna – case studies involving mammals and birds
  • Linking telemetry & the environment
  • Fish tracking
  • Physiological telemetry – applications and potential
  • Looking into the future….


Learning outcomes:

Upon completing the course, the students will:

  • have a thorough knowledge base regarding a wide array of biologging and biotelemetry techniques (and equipment) 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
    • operate VHF receivers and track animals in the wild using this technology
    • operate active underwater acoustic recording systems and remote sampling devices such as camera-monitoring systems
    • download 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 a variety of types of map co-ordinate systems and GPS tracking and mapping
  • operate safely in the field using small boats
  • be able to select data logging or telemetry tools appropriate to given research questions/hypotheses
  • have a firm understanding of ethical treatment of wild animals the research community engages in telemetry studies.


Learning activities:

The course extends over 5 weeks including compulsory safety training and is run in combination with AB-325.

Total lecture hours: Ca. 35 hours.
Total demonstration and exercises hours: 25 hours.
Guided reading/seminars: Ca. 25 hours.
Excursions: 3–4 days.

Compulsory learning activities:

Lectures, seminars, computer workshops, demonstrations, field exercises, laboratory work and one assigment.
All compulsory learning activities must be approved in order to sit the exam.
Lectures/seminars missed due to illness can be replaced by written assignments that demonstrate self-learning covering the missed topic(s).


Percentage of final grade
Seminar 20%
Oral exam  80%

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

Each assessment is graded, and subsequently combined into a single grade. Partial grades for each assessment will be available. 

Application deadline: 15 February 2023


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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The University Centre in Svalbard
Telephone: +47 79 02 33 00
Student inquiries: study@unis.no
E-mail: post@unis.no / webmaster@unis.no
Address: P.O. Box 156 N-9171 Longyearbyen
Org. no. 985 204 454


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