May 26, 2017
News Release

Scientists Study Under-appreciated Fish with Special Tag

PNNL leads first field test of its tiny tag for juvenile lamprey


PNNL researchers recently collected snake-like lamprey fish at a local dam and tagged them with PNNL's super-small tracking tag designed just for juvenile lamprey. A PNNL researcher is shown here releasing some of the tagged fish in a river so she can track their movements.

Most people think of salmon jumping upriver to spawn when they consider wild fish in the American Northwest. But another, lesser-known species — the Pacific Lamprey — is also culturally and historically important to the region. Lamprey have been on Earth at least 400 million years, which is significantly longer than salmon and even dinosaurs.

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are striving to learn more about the snake-like lamprey and its East Coast cousin, the American eel.

This spring, researchers tagged fish collected at a local dam with PNNL's super-small acoustic tag designed just for juvenile lamprey. Tagged fish have been released and researchers will track their movements so we can better understand how man-made structures such as dams affect them. This marks the first time PNNL's lamprey tag has been tested in the field.

PNNL's special lamprey tag weighs just 0.08 grams — less than a paperclip — and is designed to be injected with a syringe under a young fish's skin. It's the smallest fish tag that's part of PNNL's larger Juvenile Salmon Acoustic Telemetry System, which PNNL has been developing since 2001 to improve fish-tracking technologies.

For more information, see DOE's blog post on the lamprey tag.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a super-small acoustic tracking tag designed just for juvenile lamprey. In this video, PNNL researcher Alison Colotelo describes how she and her colleague Kate Deters inject young lamprey with the PNNL tag. For more information about PNNL’s acoustic tags, contact PNNL researcher Daniel Deng or PNNL commercialization manager Sara Hunt.

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About PNNL

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory draws on its distinguishing strengths in chemistry, Earth sciences, biology and data science to advance scientific knowledge and address challenges in sustainable energy and national security. Founded in 1965, PNNL is operated by Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit For more information on PNNL, visit PNNL's News Center. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.