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The Movebank data model

The Movebank data model facilitates comparisons between animal movement data across a range of species, study designs, and tracking methods. The main concepts included in the model are the animal, the tag, the tag deployment, sensors and events. As shown in the diagram below, all data in Movebank are stored and managed within studies, which are created and managed by users.

An animal contains specific information about the individual of interest that was tracked, most importantly a unique identifier (Animal ID) and a taxon (Movebank uses the species and taxon names from the Integrated Taxonomic Information System ( An animal can also include descriptive information that does not change over time like sex and date of birth.

A tag represents a specific tag used to track an animal. A unique identifier (Tag ID) must be linked to every event in a study, and additional information can be added such as the tag manufacturer, model and mass.

A deployment represents the attachment of a tag on an animal. Deployment information can specify details such as how and when the tag was attached, whether the animal was manipulated, how data were retrieved and how the deployment ended. The use of deployments also allows for management of tags redeployed on multiple animals or animals that have had multiple tags deployed on them.

A sensor represents a specific sensor on a tag, for example a GPS or an accelerometer. A sensor type must be linked to every event in a study, and multiple sensors can be linked to the same tag.

An event is a measurement made by a sensor on a tag. All events must be linked to a tag and associated with a sensor type and timestamp, and each event in Movebank is assigned a unique Event ID. Events can include estimates of the location of an animal, other measurements such as temperature or acceleration, or other associated details provided by the tag (e.g. satellite count) or the data owner (e.g. behavioural classification).

For a current list of data terms used in Movebank, see the Movebank Attribute Dictionary. For more detailed description of the data model, see Kranstauber et al., 2011 (doi:10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.12.005).