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Unveiling the life of Arctic marine mammals through the use of satellite telemetry

Sep 24, 2018

Some of the most intriguing questions about migrations and natural behavior of marine mammals are focused around Arctic seals and whales. Animals that are widely dispersed in inaccessible areas and that only in brief seasons can be observed in their natural surroundings. Naturally these species have also been targeted by some of the largest efforts for data acquisition through satellite telemetry using Argos satellite telemetry, as Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen of the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources explains in his presentation at the European User Conference on Argos Wildlife (EUCAW)

Most of the 1990’s was spent on developing instruments that could meet the requirements for use on marine mammals, with the development of a very fast salt-water switch being a turning point for tracking animals that only briefly appear at the surface of the oceans. Major insight into critical biological questions were emerging after 2000 with successful instrumentations of large numbers of marine mammals with tags that provided data for months and sometimes years. Critical habitats and migratory corridors have been delineated, exposure to anthropogenic activities revealed and sensitivity to climate perturbations has been assessed. New possibilities for using instrumented animals for environmental sampling are emerging where data can be used for long-term monitoring of oceanic conditions.



Dr. Mads Peter Heide-Jørgensen

“We had one episode with bowhead whales a couple of years ago where we could not understand why the whale was transmitting from the same location on the east coast of Baffin Island for many months. We then had a film team that went out to the locality in spring and they were met with 32 polar bears that we hanging out around a dead bowhead whales that was washed ashore ! Clearly our work would not have been possible without the Argos system.”



Key figures

+1000 Argos tags deployed since 1988

30 years using the Argos system

+250 bowhead whales tracked with Argos (the largest animals that has ever lived on the planet)


Useful link

Greenland Institute of Natural Resources website


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