Week 4: Living Oceans > Topic 4e - Biodiversity - Monitoring ecosystems

Satellite technology is not just about imagery. Satellites also provide ways of monitoring things that are moving around the oceans – ships, data buoys, even animals.

By fitting them with tags, scientists can see where animals travel. The tags can have miniature instruments added to provide data on their environment as well. This can be a new source for satellite validation, and is particularly useful in inhospitable regions where it is dangerous for scientists to work.

Combining the information that these tagged animals gather with satellite data can provide more information about both the animals behaviour and the validity of the satellite data products. This sort of information can be used to manage our impacts on these animals, deciding where we should or shouldn’t fish, or where we should protect areas for their benefit and conservation.

Featured Educators:

Optional further reading

Explore the data

EUMETSAT Oceans MOOC Data Viewer

To download the video above please click the ‘Download video’ button located on the top-right.

You can download the video transcript pdf below onto your computer by opening the document, right-clicking and selecting the save option.

View featured imagery, animations and external links below


The smaller seal is an adult female and the much larger one with the trunk-like nose is an adult male

Transmitters tagged to Elephant seals using a resin that can fall off naturally, usually when the seals moults.

Temperature profiles generated by seven elephant seals travelling across the North Pacific

Tracks of 19 southern elephant seals tagged with FCTDSRDLs
over austral summers from 2009 to 2013 in black. The general
positions of the subantarctic front and the polar front are shown
in green and blue, respectively. The incomplete
track seen off Marion Island is due to the FCTD-SRDL battery
failing after 55 days.

Sentinel-2 image of the very eastern part of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh

The Great Barrier Reef, Australia, as captured by ESA astronaut André Kuipers during his long duration mission to the ISS, PromISSe.

Mangrove swamps along the coast of New Caledonia in the southwest Pacific Ocean are pictured in this false-colour satellite image. The heart-shaped formation – known as the ‘Heart of Voh’ for its proximity to the Voh commune – is a natural structure caused by changes in vegetation cover. This image was captured by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s Kompsat-2 satellite on 1 April 2009.

This Envisat image features the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s Queensland coast. It is the world’s most protected marine area, one of its natural wonders and a World Heritage site. Spanning more than 2000 km and covering an area of some 350 000 sq km, it is the largest living structure on Earth and the only one visible from space. This image was acquired by Envisat’s Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) on 8 November 2010 at a resolution of 300 m.