We’ve all heard of tagging animals for catch and release programs, for tracking migrations and populations but what you may not have learned is that these tags have been getting smart, like scary smart. Over the past 20 years these electronic tags have gone from simply alerting researchers to the location of their subjects to doing so much more. Modern tags can track and log location, temperature and in the case of aquatic animals even depth and other characteristics of the water.
As these animals criss-cross the planet, sending data back about their environment they are essentially biologging the condition of the sea in a way which we never thought possible. By tagging the animals that migrate in the three dimensions of the sea we are now learning where the hotspots of biodiversity are, what routes these megafauna use and how they interact with their environment with a level of sophistication that delivers data which can be analyzed for decades. What is most amazing is that as we amass the data from tagging thousands of tuna, sharks, turtles and sea mammals we are not only learning about these animals and their habits, but that combined data starts shedding new light on huge swaths of marine ecosystems.
In Barbara Block’s recent TED presentation, she shows us what decades of tagging large migrating ocean creatures is telling us about the oceans. She begins with a focus on her tuna tagging studies but towards the end she presents a mountain of biologging data on what all this information is telling us about our planet. We encourage you to sit through the whole thing so you can learn something about your planet today, but if you’re pressed for time skip to the last five minutes to have your mind blown.