Determining Forward Speed from Accelerometer Jiggle in Aquatic Environments

How fast animals move is critical to understanding their energetic requirements, locomotor capacity, and foraging performance, yet current methods for measuring speed via animal-attached devices are not universally applicable. Here we present and evaluate a new method that relates forward speed to the stochastic motion of biologging devices since tag jiggle, the amplitude of the tag vibrations as measured by high sample rate accelerometers, increases exponentially with increasing speed. We successfully tested this method in a flow tank using two types of biologging devices and tested the method in situ on wild cetaceans spanning ∼3 to >20 m in length using two types of suction cup-attached and two types of dart-attached tag. This technique provides some advantages over other approaches for determining speed as it is device-orientation independent and relies only on a pressure sensor and a high sample rate accelerometer, sensors that are nearly universal across biologging device types.


Cade, D.E., K.R. Barr, J. Calambokidis, A.S. Friedlaender, and  J.A. Goldbogen, 2017. Determining Forward Speed from Accelerometer Jiggle in Aquatic Environments. Journal of Experimental Biology 221(2): jeb170449. doi: 10.1242/jeb.170449

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