Analysis of data from high-resolution animal-borne tags workshop

Mary Woodcock Kroble
Sunday 1 January 2017
Start date: 7 August 2017 - End date: 9 August 2017
Time: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

This 3-day workshop introduces participants to a new open-source tool kit for processing data from tags with movement sensors (such as pressure, accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope).


Bio-logging studies with high-resolution movement-sensors offer opportunities to observe animal behavior in unprecedented detail, but analysis of the resulting data is often complex, and there is a need for freely available, easy-to-use, flexible software tools along with appropriate training to facilitate analysis and interpretation. This 3-day workshop introduces participants to a new open-source tool kit for processing data from tags with movement sensors (such as pressure, accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope). The tool kit has Matlab, Octave, and R versions, and includes tools to read/write, calibrate, process, visualize, and carry out statistical analysis of datasets from multiple tag types. The goal of the workshop is to enable high-quality, reproducible, sophisticated analyses of tag data, while also facilitating comparison of results between studies, tag-types and computational software.


The workshop will take place at the Centre for Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM), University of St Andrews in St Andrews, Scotland, from 7-9 August 2017.


This workshop is aimed at postgraduate and professional researchers working with high-resolution movement data (accelerometry, for example) from animal-borne tags.

Software and Data

The tag tool kit is available for Matlab, Octave, and R software. Octave and R are freely available for download. Course materials will address all three software options and workshop participants are encouraged to focus on the one they prefer or are most familiar with. At least one of these software packages should be installed on participants’ computers before arriving at the workshop, and a basic familiarity with the program will be assumed. Some tools may also be available in Python, with limited support available at the workshop for the Python version. While sample datasets will be available for multiple tag types, workshop participants are encouraged to bring their own data to work on. There will be “clinic” time at the end of the workshop where participants can work on their own data with advice and support from workshop staff.


High-resolution movement-sensor tags typically include accelerometers to measure body posture and sudden movements or changes in speed, magnetometers to measure direction of travel, and pressure sensors to measure dive depth in aquatic or marine animals. A subset of tags include sensors for speed, turning rate (gyroscopes), and sound, increasing the array of inferences that can be drawn about the context and energetic cost of responses to disturbance. This workshop will cover several tag types, according to participant preferences. Examples include:

The software tools presented during the workshop will build upon the suite of tools developed by Mark Johnson’s group for the DTAG; the new tool kit has additional functions and documentation, and works in matlab, octave or R software. Tools are provided for:

  • Data Import/export
  • Calibration (from raw data to calibrated data in scientific units)
  • Visualization (e.g., multi-panel time-series plots, plots of multiple events overlaid)
  • Data Processing (e.g., event detection, derived metrics like jerk and dynamic acceleration, dive detection and dive parameter calculation, integrating movement data with other sensors e.g. acoustic or camera, integrating position data from onboard GPS, visual observations, etc. with movement data)
  • Statistical Analysis (e.g., track reconstruction, Mahalanobis distance analysis, state-switching models)

Note: This workshop is focused on processing data from fine-scale movement sensors (as described above) rather than tags designed to track animal positions only (e.g. Argos tags, GPS position-only tags).


The workshop will be led by a team including Mark Johnson, Tiago Marques, and René Swift (University of St Andrews), and Stacy DeRuiter (Calvin College).

Computing Facilities

The course will be held in a purpose-built facility at the Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling (CREEM) at the University of St Andrews, which combines a classroom and computer laboratory. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops if possible, although lab computers will be available if needed.


Participants are responsible for organising and paying for their own room and board (except for lunches and coffees, which will be provided during the workshop). Further information about accommodation in St Andrews is available online. University accommodation may be a convenient choice, with some options in very close walking distance to CREEM.


Enquiries can be sent to Stacy DeRuiter ([email protected]).

Registration and Payment Information

This workshop will be offered at very low cost (£75) to participants thanks to the support of the US Office of Naval Research, who funded the development of the tool kit and the workshop. These fees cover the cost of instruction and course materials, as well as lunch and coffee during the workshop. Future workshops will be presented as demand requires, on a self-sustaining basis. Registration will be limited to a maximum of 30 participants. Travel support may be available for participants in exceptional circumstances – please contact the organizers for further information.