Methods for assessment of short-term coral reef fish movements within an acoustic array

Nicholas A. Farmer, Jerald S. Ault, Steven G. Smith, Erik C. Franklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: Arrays of passive receivers are a widely used tool for tracking the movements of acoustically-tagged fish in marine ecosystems; however, the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of coral reef environments pose challenges for the interpretation of tag detection data. To improve this situation for reef fishes, we introduced a novel response variable method that treats signal detections as proportions (i.e., percent transmissions detected or "detection rates") and compared this against prior approaches to examine the influence of array and transmitter performance, signal distance and environmental factors on detection rates. We applied this method to tagged snappers and groupers in the Florida reef ecosystem and controlled range-tests on static targets in Bayboro Harbor, Florida, to provide methodological guidance for the planning and evaluation of passive array studies for coral reef fishes. Results: Logistic regression analysis indicated detection rates were primarily a non-linear function of tag distance from receiver. A 'model-weighted' function was developed to incorporate the non-linear relationship between detection rate and distance to provide robust positioning estimates and allow for easy extension to tags with different ping rates. Conclusions: Optimal acoustic array design requires balancing the interplay between receiver spacing, detection rates, and positioning error. Spacing receivers at twice the distance of the modeled 50% detection rate may be appropriate when quantification of overall space use is a priority, and would provide a minimum of 75% detection rate. However, for research where missing detections within the array is unacceptable or time-at-arrival based fine-scale positioning is needed, tighter receiver spacing may be required to maintain signal detection probability near 100%.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7
JournalMovement Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2 2013


  • Acoustic array
  • Acoustic telemetry
  • Coral reef
  • Dry Tortugas
  • Fish movements
  • Marine reserves
  • Reef fish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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