Efforts to build a network for Gulf of Mexico scientists tracking aquatic animals began at a 2014 workshop, where more than 50 scientists and vendors worked together to develop an Integrated Tracking of Aquatic Animals in the Gulf of Mexico (iTAG) network. The over-arching goal is to improve our understanding of animal migration and residency to assess stock resilience to spatially-explicit disturbances and provide important information needed for management. Shorter-term goals set at this first meeting were to: inventory existing telemetry investment in the Gulf, develop the means to exchange “orphan” detections (i.e., detections on receivers from fish other than the target species), continue to hold semi-annual meetings, finalize membership by-laws, and develop telemetry research at the large marine ecosystem scale to demonstrate the need and benefits of understanding how habitat context affects fish movements, as well as movements at this large spatial scale, especially between the Gulf and the Atlantic.
Since that first 2014 meeting, iTAG has held two additional meetings in October 2015 and May 2017 and has grown to 90 members who have a total of ~2,200 animals tagged with 1,118 receivers in 40 discrete receiver arrays throughout the Gulf (iTAG Receiver Map). A comprehensive report from the 2017 iTAG conference details meeting accomplishments as well as objectives and goals for iTAG’s growth and development. iTAG is led by Dr. Sue Lowerre-Barbieri (FWRI/University of Florida) working with a steering committee made up of: Dr. Jay Rooker (Texas A&M, Galveston), Dr. Will Patterson (University of Florida), Dr. Behzad Mahmoudi (FWRI), and Dr. Clay Porch (NOAA/NMFS), working closely with Dr. Fred Whoriskey from the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN). Dr. Lowerre-Barbieri is collaborating with Dr. Jay Rooker and Dr. Will Patterson on a study assessing red snapper movements and how they are affected by habitat context, made possible through OTN’s generous investment in acoustic receivers.
The mission of the iTAG community is to increase the capability in the Gulf of Mexico to assess movement and spatial ecology of aquatic animals through improved networking, increased infrastructure, and sharing of acoustic transmitter detection data. To facilitate meeting these goals, FWRI has developed an integrative map to show the location of arrays throughout the Gulf and also an orphan data exchange so that data can be shared when a scientist’s animal is detected on another’s array.
The responsibilities and benefits of becoming an iTAG member are outlined in the iTAG membership agreement. If you are a scientist using telemetry in the Gulf of Mexico and are interested in learning more or want to join the iTAG community, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.