The Fishing and Marine Industry Daily News Feed

Fish-tracking Network Grows Strong Under Leadership Of MSU Fisheries And Wildlife Professor

Chris Vandergoot is the director of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System (GLATOS), which brings together researchers and fishery managers alike who use sound to monitor fish.

By: Jack Falinski,

East Lansing, MI — When driving on turnpikes, some people mount E-ZPass transponders to their car windshields so they can use special lanes that allow drivers to pass through without stopping at traditional highway tollbooths. The car transponders are radio frequency devices that are detected by antennas underneath the E-ZPass signs vehicles travel under. As they enter and exit the lanes, travel information is recorded by the transponders.

In the Great Lakes, populations of fish are managed in a similar way. 

Chris Vandergoot, an associate professor in Michigan State University’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, is the director of the Great Lakes Acoustic Telemetry Observation System, or GLATOS.


He said acoustic telemetry allows fish to be tracked and monitored using sound. This process occurs using two pieces of equipment: acoustic transmitters surgically tagged within fish, and acoustic receivers stationed underwater. 

“We’re putting transmitters in these fish — some are as small as a Tic Tac, and some are as large as a double-A battery,” Vandergoot said. “The other component to acoustic telemetry, unlike other telemetry systems, is receivers are deployed underwater. Whether they’re in a river or a lake, they’re sitting there listening for fish to swim by and for that transmitter code to go off.” 

After tagged fish swim by the receivers, data is collected and stored by the receivers for researchers to analyze. 

Founded in 2010, GLATOS operates underneath the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. It’s a research collaborative made up of fishery organizations from the U.S. and Canada, including academic, First Nation, provincial and state sectors. 

Tracking fish movement allows researchers to better understand not only how fish behave in the Great Lakes, but also how to manage and stock their populations. 

The network of projects worked on through GLATOS allows for ample opportunity for data to be shared among members. If members have questions about their project or are interested in comparing data from other projects, they can use the data portal and obtain information from projects that’ve been previously uploaded. They can also connect with collaborators directly. 

“That’s another function of GLATOS — in addition to facilitating this online database, we also try to link researchers up,” Vandergoot said. “For example, if somebody is working with one type of fish population in a lake and somebody else is tracking a different type, one (population) may be a predator, and one may be a prey. So, our members can collaboratively work together to monitor how their fish interact.”

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Michigan State University AgBioResearch scientists discover dynamic solutions for food systems and the environment. More than 300 MSU faculty conduct leading-edge research on a variety of topics, from health and climate to agriculture and natural resources. Originally formed in 1888 as the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, MSU AgBioResearch oversees numerous on-campus research facilities, as well as 15 outlying centers throughout Michigan. To learn more, visit 

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