To study the movements, habitats and health of lake sturgeon in the Niagara River, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, research biologists from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium recently returned from the field where, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they successfully tagged 40 of the big fish netted above and below Niagara Falls.

According to a release, the pop-off satellite (PSAT) tags will record real-time data on the routes the fish travel, and the types of habitats they frequent. The tags will also measure the temperature as well as depth of the water in which the fish swim. That information will then be used to better inform conservation efforts.

“Little is known about the migration pattern of the iconic lake sturgeon following their spring spawning season,” says Phillip Willink, Shedd Aquarium’s senior research biologist. “The more we know about the region’s lake sturgeon habitats and migratory patterns, the better we can manage, protect and potentially restore critical areas.”

In addition, the team conducted ultrasounds and collected blood and tissue samples for analysis. Willink says many of the fish they tagged were six to seven feet long and well over 100 pounds. Researchers will return to the area in mid-August to collect the tags, which automatically release from the fish and float to the surface of the water.  At the surface, the tags immediately start beaming their location and their data via a satellite network.

“While attached to the fish, PSAT tags will gather data every minute and store those data on its internal memory,” says Greg Jacobs, a fish biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Once the tags pop off at the end of their deployment and transmit their data back to us, we will relate measurements of light, magnetic field, depth and temperature to environmental conditions in the Great Lakes over the duration of the tags’ deployment to infer location, movement and habitat preferences.” The research findings will provide critical information about lake sturgeon that will help identify ways to better protect the species and their habitat.

For more on Shedd Aquarium, and its efforts to preserve and protect Great Lakes wildlife and habitats through conservation science, education and awareness programs, click here.

Sturgeon Tagging 5C9A3656 Researchers attach a tag near the bottom of the dorsal fin, where the tag trails behind the fish like a tether. This ensures natural movement is not affected