Mobile radio tracking is an important tool in fisheries research and management. Yet, the accuracy of location estimates can be highly variable across studies and within a given dataset. While some methods are available to deal with error, they generally assume a static value for error across all detections. We provide a novel method for making detection-specific error estimates using detections of recovered transmitters (i.e., mortalities or tag expulsion). These data are used to establish the relationship between received signal strength (RSS) and positional error, which can then be used to predict positional error of detections for fish at large. We then show how detection-specific estimates can be integrated into a Monte Carlo framework to analyze movement in ways robust to spatial uncertainty.
In a telemetry study in a large river (~ 90 m), we recovered 22 transmitters to estimate and model positional error. Error averaged 94 m (range = 1–727 m) for transmitters tracked by researchers on foot using a Yagi antenna, and 200 m (range = 1–1141 m) for transmitters tracked from vehicles using an omnidirectional whip antenna. Transmitters located near roads were tracked more accurately with both methods. Received signal strength was a strong predictor of positional error (r2 = 0.86, ground tracking; 0.65, tracking from truck) and was thus used to make detection-specific estimates of error for detections of fish at large. Monte Carlo analysis for a binary movement classification revealed that only 18% of location estimates could be confidently assigned to movement (p < 0.05); the remainder were associated with stasis or movement that was within the range of positional error. Ignoring positional error led to positive bias of up to 1300% in individual movement estimates and varied seasonally—it was highest when fish were inactive and lowest when fish were most active.
Using recovered transmitters and RSS models to estimate telemetry error is a viable alternative to staged ‘dummy transmitter’ trials and assuming error is a constant. Our proposed approaches to incorporate detection-specific error estimates into analysis are broadly applicable and can ‘make the most’ out of highly accurate detections while also cautiously extracting spatial information from less-accurate detections.
|Title||Using recovered radio transmitters to estimate positioning error and a generalized Monte Carlo simulation to incorporate error into animal telemetry analysis|
|Authors||Kurt C. Heim, W.C. Ardren, Theodore Castro-Santos|
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Series Title||Animal Biotelemetry|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Leetown Science Center; Eastern Ecological Science Center|