ACT History

“Great things have small beginnings.”

-         Sir Francis Drake

The collaboration that became the ACT Network can be traced back to September 27th, 2005 in Alexandria, VA. During an Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission - Atlantic Sturgeon Technical Committee meeting, it became apparent that several researchers were using acoustic telemetry, but their findings were spatially limited, bounded by their individual arrays. Tom Savoy (Connecticut Departmental of Energy and Environmental Protection) and Dewayne Fox (Delaware State University) volunteered to lead a data sharing effort. That evening, Savoy and Fox met to discuss how a collaboration of this nature would look – and what would they call it? Savoy and Fox settled on the Atlantic Cooperative Telemetry Network, or ACT for short.

At the start, ACT was a simple spreadsheet that Savoy sent out once or twice a year with a focus on Atlantic sturgeon. As word spread and more researchers wanted to reap the benefits of this collaboration, the complexity and workload for Savoy soared. Savoy and Fox decided that they could no longer handle things with a simple spreadsheet as the network kept growing. They solicited advice on data sharing and management from John Manderson (OpenOcean Research- retired NOAA-NMFS). Afterwards, they secured funding to support the development of the ACT Network through a NOAA-NMFS Section 6 award and hired Lori Brown as Network Manager. With Brown's help, ACT continued to grow. 

In April 2020, the MATOS data portal was launched through support from MARACOOS, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office, the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Animal Telemetry Network (ATN), Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC), and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC). MATOS is a web-based tool for researchers and natural resource professionals of the ACT Network to submit acoustic telemetry data for cross matching between projects. MATOS allows researchers to upload data and corresponding metadata to the password-protected ACT_MATOS node, which is compatible with the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) parent node. Data submitted to the ACT_MATOS node, through the MATOS data portal, are cross matched between other regional OTN-compatible nodes and data are subsequently shared with users (tag and array owners) who subscribe to the OTN-compatible database management system.

The ACT founders couldn’t imagine how great ACT would become over the next couple of decades. The ACT Network is currently composed of 186 members from 150 organizations who lead 148 projects tracking 10,176 individuals from 68 species. The network database has 2,300 receiver stations and hosts data from several glider missions. This collaborative receiver array has recorded over 33 million detections since its establishment in 2005. However, only about half of these detections have been matched to tag owners. If you deployed acoustic transmitters in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean and you are not a member one of the regional collaborative networks (FACT, ACT, or OTN), you could have detections waiting for you in the ACT database! Join us and contribute to the collaborative acoustic telemetry community.

Dewayne Fox

Tom Savoy

John Manderson

Lori Brown

Lori Brown was brought in to help standardize data sharing within ACT. She worked with Fox, Manderson, and Savoy to figure out what the researchers' needs were. It was their goal to maintain this grassroots effort and protect ownership of researchers’ data in the process. Brown helped transition the network from unmanageable spreadsheets to a shared Dropbox document. Brown then adapted the data sharing process to feed into a database that collected and standardized the incoming information. After that, the ACT team worked on data sharing and ownership guidelines that suited all researchers in the network. These guidelines included researcher responsibilities for sharing and using data, which held collaborators accountable in the event of data misuse.

Danielle Zaveta

Lori Brown passed the baton to Danielle Zaveta, who then took the lead in data management. Zaveta strengthened connections with the ACT Network membership ensuring that members’ needs were being met. Zaveta continued to update the ACT database with new data and worked closely with current and new members to ensure the standardization and quality of data collection, data integration, and data sharing.

Kim Richie

With the assistance of the ACT Network Steering Committee, the ACT Network management transitioned to the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) in 2020. SERC marine ecologist Matt Ogburn and Kim Richie operationalized MATOS, the ACT data portal, with funding from the US Animal Telemetry Network and support from the Ocean Tracking Network and regional partners. Richie supports users of the next generation ACT Network database tool by providing trainings, quality control and assurance, and database management. She continues to advance the work of Fox, Savoy, Manderson, Brown, and Zaveta as the ACT Network continues to grow.

Network Growth

The ACT Network has expanded extensively since it started in 2005. What started with several small arrays has expanded to arrays covering large expanses along the Atlantic coast.

Not only have the number of projects, receivers and extent of arrays increased, but the number of MATOS users has increased from 60 in 2020 to 161 in 2023.