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Self-Powered Fish Tags Make for Long-Lasting Research

Long-lasting transmitter uses fish swimming motion for power

September 2016
Self-Powered Fish Tags Make for Long-Lasting Research
Two prototypes, weighing only about 1 g or less, were sub-dermally implanted in two species of live fish. On the top, a 100-mm tag was implanted under the skin near the dorsal fin of a 53-cm-long rainbow trout. On the bottom, a 77-mm tag was implanted in the same area of a 38-cm-long juvenile white sturgeon.

Researchers can now study the behaviors and migration patterns of fish for longer periods of time thanks to new fish tag technology developed at PNNL. The self-powered transmitters use the swimming motion from the fish they are inserted in as an energy source. This technology will be especially useful in studying species such as white sturgeon, which have been recorded to live over 100 years. Because typical fish tags are only able to track fish for up to 120 days, the successful development of this technology may expand the capabilities of long-term fish tracking and behavior studies.

The self-powered transmitters come in two different models. One model includes a rechargeable battery that weighs between 1.10 and 0.85 grams, respectively. The other model is smaller, between 1.05 and 0.80 grams, and does not have a battery. Instead, the smaller model transmits signals as soon as enough energy is harvested from the fish's swimming motion. The two different models vary in length, based on the power requirements and fish characteristics. The self-powered transmitter only takes about 75 seconds to implant under the skin.

How JSATS Tags Work

Tags release quiet beeps that are picked up by receivers placed in rivers, lakes, and other water bodies as tagged fish swim by. Receiver data helps researchers map out the precise 3-D location of each fish and determine if fish are injured during their travels. The information helps make dams more fish-friendly by providing insight utilities can use to revise hydropower operations or alter structures. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of young fish have been studied with JSATS tags.

Since 2001, with funding from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Portland District, PNNL researchers have developed the Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System (JSATS) with the intent to create fish tags small enough for the smallest species of fish found in the Columbia River basin. Since then, PNNL researchers have increased the JSATS tag’s sophistication and decreased its size to create an overall more effective fish tracking tag. In June 2016, the Department of Energy’s Office of Technology Transitions awarded PNNL $150,000 to help commercialize the technology along with industry partners Advanced Telemetry Systems Inc., Idaho Power Company, and Grant County Public Utilities District in Washington State.

For more information about self-powered tag, see PNNL's latest press release.

PNNL Research Team: Zhiqun Deng, Huidong Li, Qiuyan Li, Jun Lu, Jayson Martinez, Mitchell Myjak, Chuan Tian, Yuxing Wang, and Jie Xiao.


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