Novel insight: StFX professor publishes research on global trends in aquatic animal tracking

StFX aquatic resources professor Dr. Jordan Matley is pictured here in the field, tagging and releasing walleye in the Great Lakes.

In a new study, a StFX aquatic resources professor is providing novel insight into where to focus research to optimize relevance to management within the growing field of movement ecology of aquatic animals. 

Dr. Jordan Matley is the lead author of the research paper, ‘Global trends in aquatic animal tracking with acoustic telemetry,’ released today in the journal, Trends in Evolution and Ecology (TREE). The article, he says, is a comprehensive review of research studying movement ecology of aquatic animals and was designed to help direct similar research in the future.

“Along with my co-authors, I was thrilled to have this work published in a high-impact journal like TREE. We put a lot of effort in comprehensively reviewing over 1,800 articles and incorporating a global perspective, so it is rewarding knowing that our findings will reach a broad readership,” Dr. Matley says. 


 Dr. Jordan Matley

The researchers conducted a literature review of studies that used acoustic telemetry (AT)—a technique to track the movements of fishes, sharks, and sea turtles, among other aquatic animals—to investigate global trends in its use and how well emerging research addresses pertinent questions relating to management. 

Dr. Matley says considering the growing interest in technological advancements to study aquatic animals, AT is at the forefront of research. 

“Still, to be most effective, AT research should be directed to address issues that pose particular concern for both humans and ecosystems. Our research highlights areas where research can be best implemented to meet global objectives.”

He says as aquatic environments continue to face troubling scenarios of biodiversity and habitat loss, being able to focus research resources in a collaborative and cost-effective manner is instrumental to enhance research output and rationalize ongoing research efforts. 

Their goal, he says, was to provide actionable steps to guide future research so that findings are transferable to management organizations such as regional and national governments. 

“We highlight six themes that need to be better developed to achieve this goal; and greater collaborative efforts are at the forefront of each theme.”

Dr. Matley says movement ecology is a burgeoning field in science and he and his main co-author, Natalie Klinard, were interested in knowing how well research objectives meet the management needs of aquatic animals. 

“Ultimately, we wanted to identify where this type of research should be directed to facilitate greater understanding of the aquatic realm globally.”    

Dr. Matley has spent over a decade tracking the movements of aquatic animals, such as fish, sharks, and sea turtles, including within the Canadian Arctic, the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean, and the Great Lakes. “I always try to formulate my research to provide novel insight that can inform conservation or management practices and promote the sustainability of aquatic resources. However, there is often a disconnect between researchers and policy makers and uptake of research requires all parties to have similar goals. As such, my interest stemmed from trying to bridge this gap so my future research, and others, could have greater relevance to decision making processes.”      

Dr. Matley joined the StFX faculty this past July. He currently teaches a fourth year aquatic resources seminar course, concentrating on the ecological, social, political, and economic impacts of marine litter and debris. He is also developing a new third year course called ‘Sustainability of Aquatic Resources,’ which he will teach next semester, and he is developing two first year introductory courses for the summer semester.  

This research is, in part, made possible by the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.