Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Data Buoy Science

Acoustic Tagging Project


Education

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is home to hundreds of invertebrate and vertebrate species. Among these are commercially important fish like snapper, grouper, tuna, cobia, or mackerel. Scientists are studying these species to help better manage the sanctuary in a way that benefits these fish, along with everything else that lives in the sanctuary. Currently, scientists are concerned with snapper and grouper species. Many are overfished or experiencing overfishing, meaning we are pulling more fish out of the water than they can produce. Scientists, staff and volunteers from universities and state and federal agencies, are trying to determine how these fish use the sanctuary so we can better manage the area. Why would we need to know how they use the area? Would it be important to know what time of year they are in the sanctuary? How would you go about trying to learn these answers and figuring out where the fish are?

To answer these questions, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary is conducting an acoustic tagging project to determine the movement patterns of red snapper Lutjanus campechanus, gag grouper Mycteroperca microlepis, and scamp grouper Mycteroperca phenax within particular areas of the sanctuary. This project began in May of 2008 with eight fish being tagged and four receivers deployed to track the fish inside the sanctuary. Scientists at Gray's Reef have already downloaded available data and all eight of these fish have been present and active in the reef at some point in the past year.

In June 2009, eight more fish were tagged, and ten more receivers were deployed. During the third year of this project, in May of 2010, four additional receivers were deployed, and twenty-five more fish were tagged. As of May 2010 the total number of tagged fish in Gray's Reef is forty-one (one - red grouper, six - red snapper, eleven - scamp, and twenty-three gag). These fish are being tracked with eighteen deployed receivers within the sanctuary.

Fish are tagged with a small internal transmitter that is surgically implanted into the abdomen. The transmitters, or tags, send out a signal every two minutes that can be picked up by a receiver. When the receivers detect a signal, the signal, time, and date are recorded. Scientists can then retrieve the receiver and download the recordings onto a computer. These recordings help scientists understand when the fish are present or absent from a study area.

The fish being tagged and tracked by the sanctuary are currently being referred to by the number on their tags. Since fish have more personality than just the number, Gray's Reef staff wants to give them names and so are enlisting help from students to name the fish. So far, Thunderbolt Elementary has named four of the first eight that were captured: one red snapper, two scamp, and one gag. Students offered ideas of different names for the fish and then voted on the most popular. The selected names will be adopted as the name of that particular fish. The names so far are: "Sergio Snapper" the red snapper, "Snapper Striper" the scamp, "Killer Grouper" the scamp and "Rare Treat" the gag. More fish will need to be named in the near future.

Elementary School Activities

    Receiver and Tag Acitvity

This activity is to help students understand the technology used by scientists at Gray's Reef. The actual equipment used at Gray's Reef for the acoustic tagging project does not work in air, so here is an activity to demonstrate how the equipment works. Some children can pretend to be a "tagged fish", while others pretend to be a "receiver". This activity requires that there be no more than five "tagged fish" per one "receiver". "Tagged" students will walk randomly around a classroom. The "receiver" students will sit still and write down the number of a "tagged" student that walks by. The needed supplies include construction paper, markers, string, notebook paper, pencil, and divider of some kind (can be a large cardboard box, cubicle divider, book shelf, or anything that is taller than a sitting child and can be easily moved around.)

At the end of the exercise, students can count how many times they were detected by the receiver. For older students or teachers who want to join, the receivers can write down the number of the "tagged fish" and the time it was seen. This can then be used to track the path the "tagged fish" took around the room.

Activity Download - Elementary School: Tagging in the Classroom
Elementary Georgia Performance Standards for Receiver and Tag Activity


Middle School Activities

    Make a Model of Gray's Reef and include a Receiver Array

Receiver array

Receiver array

This activity is to help students understand the habitat found at Gray's Reef. Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary consists of four different habitat types: flat sand, rippled sand, sparsely colonized live bottom, and densely colonized live bottom. Densely colonized live bottom is an area of reef that has a lot of benthic organisms attached to the rock and ledges to the point that most of the bottom is covered. Sparsely colonized live bottom is an area of reef that has some benthic organisms attached to the rock and ledges but the area is not completely covered. Flat sand and rippled sand are areas that do not have a lot of hard bottom for benthic organisms to attach to, so there are even fewer organisms here. The two types of sand are different in how they appear, flat sand being flat and rippled sand looking like waves. The sand in the picture of the receiver is of rippled sand.

The receivers are located on either, flat sand or rippled sand, but are within a few meters of a densely colonized live bottom area. Research what the different habitats are and make a model of what the habitat looks like around the receivers. Remember to signify where the receiver is in your model by building a receiver of your own.

Activity Download - Middle School: Discover Gray's Reef Habitats
Middle School Georgia Performance Standards for Discover Gray's Reef Habitat Activity

    Interpretation of Data and Graphs

This exercise is to help students understand data that can be collected in the field and to increase their ability to look up information on the Internet. The table below represents the fish captured and tagged by Gray's Reef in May 2008.

Fish captured and tagged in Gray's Reef - May 2008

Fish captured and tagged in Gray's Reef - May 2008

These fish have been monitored by the deployed receivers to determine if they are present or absent in the detection area of the receivers. The two graphs are the number of times a fish has been detected by a receiver per day. Detection is when a tag is in the range of a receiver and its signal has been picked up and recorded. Detections can be made from as far as 200 meters away from the receiver. As you will be able to see in downloads for middle school and high school activities below, some fish can be detected 500 or more times a day. All graphs have a scale of 720 detections on the y-axis because the transmitters will send about 720 "pings" in one day.

Activity Download - Middle School: Intrepretation of Data and Graphs
Middle School Georgia Performance Standards for Interpretation of Data and Graphs Activity
Teacher's Guide - Middle School: Intrepretation of Data and Graphs


High School Activities

    Implanting "Tags" and Dissecting Fish

Red snapper, gag and scamp are all considered to be commercially and recreationally important species. This makes purchasing these fish extremely easy. An in-class project for students can be to make and implant tags similar to the ones used by Gray's Reef. Students can then dissect the fish to learn about its anatomy. Note that any species of snapper or grouper can be used to complete this exercise.

Activity Download - High School: Implanting "Tags" and Dissecting Fish
High School Georgia Performance Standards for Implanting Tags and Dissecting Fish Activity

    Interpretation of Data and Graphs

This exercise is to help students understand real data that can be collected and how to interpret graphs of this data. The following four graphs are the number of times a fish has been detected by a receiver per day. Detection is when a tag is in the range of a receiver and its signal has been picked up and recorded. Detections can be made from as far as 200 meters away from the receiver. All graphs have a scale of 720 detections on the y-axis because the transmitters will send about 720 "pings" in one day.

Activity Download - High School: Intrepretation of Data and Graphs
High School Georgia Performance Standards for Interpretation of Data and Graphs Activity
Teacher's Guide - High School: Intrepretation of Data and Graphs


NOAA Logo

leaving site Indicates a link leaves the web site; Please view our Link Disclaimer for more information | Privacy Policy | Contact Us
Revised by Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Webmaster | User Survey
National Marine Sanctuaries | National Ocean Service | National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration | U S Dept of Commerce
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service