Analysis and Interpretation of Freshwater Fisheries Data

14: Analysis of Movement and Habitat Use from Telemetry Data

Kevin B. Rogers and Gary C. White


Telemetry in freshwater environments began in the 1950s (Trefethen 1956; Stasko and Pincock 1977; Mitson 1978), and a fairly extensive body of literature has developed since then. Unfortunately, the literature contains very few rigorous treatments of telemetry data. The data sets generated during a telemetry project quickly become so massive that analyses could not really flourish until personal computers became widespread. Now that personal computers are pervasive, the absence of complex analyses that produce quantitative results cannot be blamed on a lack of processing power. Though fish telemetry projects continue to proliferate, the dearth of quantitative analyses used in them is perhaps due to the absence of a readily available synopsis of the various approaches that can be employed and exposure to the various software packages that have been developed to perform such analyses. Fortunately, sophisticated personal computer programs that run on a variety of platforms are available free of charge from a variety of sources (e.g., White and Garrott 1990; Kenward 1992; Larkin and Halkin 1994; Hooge et al. 2001). Our objective for this chapter is to help provide a foundation for synthesizing some of the many divergent approaches and software that can be used in the analysis of telemetry data.

While we recognize that the emphasis of this book lies with data analysis, tackling telemetry analyses without first carefully considering an adequate study design can lead to untrustworthy results. Perhaps the first question that should be asked regarding proposed telemetry-based research is whether telemetry is really necessary to answer the question of interest. Some have implemented costly and labor intensive telemetry studies because of the high-tech allure when a more mundane approach would have yielded better results and been considerably less labor intensive. For instance, course-scale movement and range extent can often be examined with conventional mark–recapture programs that allow for the tagging of thousands of individuals. However, there are certainly many situations in which telemetry is the only realistic option for addressing the questions of interest. Fine-scale movement and habitat use studies often fall into this latter category.