Award Gallery

Transfer of PNNL’s Suite of Fish/Wildlife Tracking Technologies to ATS

Award: Excellence in Technology Transfer

Year: 2020

Award Type: National

Laboratory:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL)

Tracking technology developed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) is now commercially available to help the operators of dams and wind turbines assess the effects of those structures on nearby fish and wildlife. 

Increasing demand for renewable energy sources like hydropower and wind power has increased concern about the potential impacts on fish and wildlife. In response, PNNL created a suite of tracking and sensing technologies for studying the environmental impacts of dams, wind turbines and other power-generating structures.  

The suite includes customizable tags, underwater sensing devices and software. The devices and tags are small, lightweight and long-lasting — improvements on previous technology. They can be employed in a range of ecosystems — rivers, oceans, land and air — and can be modified for a wide variety of species including birds, bats, fish and amphibians.  

Advanced Telemetry Systems (ATS) of Isanti, Minnesota, is the sole licensee of these technologies. ATS, which has a long history of providing environmental researchers and managers with tracking and monitoring technologies for commercial use, acquired four licenses for the PNNL products. 

In response, PNNL created a suite of tracking and sensing technologies for studying the environmental impacts of dams, wind turbines and other power-generating structures.

ATS has sold 20,000 units of PNNL’s Injectable Acoustic Tag, which lasts four times longer and weighs 30% less than other transmitters. Inserted with a simple needle injection that allows fish to heal quickly, the acoustic tag can be configured for a delayed start, temperature sensor and codes that create unique identifiers for each individual and the type of data being collected. In response, PNNL created a suite of tracking and sensing technologies for studying the environmental impacts of dams, wind turbines and other power-generating structures.  

This injectable tag facilitates migration research on fish that have never been studied because of their small size or age, including juvenile salmon. These studies can give researchers and dam operators information on how to keep fish populations thriving.  

Sensor Fish is an autonomous body double used to collect data on the physical stressors that fish experience during downstream passage at hydraulic structures. In less than a year after executing the Sensor Fish license, ATS sold 100 of the devices in Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States.  

The RF Tag had been commercially available for only a few weeks when the application for this award was submitted, but was already drawing interest. This tag is intended for use when acoustic systems are not practical or recommended, and is especially useful for tagging terrestrial animals. Its small size makes it suitable for tracking birds, bats, small mammals and amphibians. One potential application involves tracking and studying bat behavior around wind turbines. Because bats pollinate 700 plant species, some of which are used for food and medicine, use of the tags could benefit the agriculture industry as well as the bat population.

Please view their press release here.

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