Member profile - Ian Shaw

Participants in the Australasian Fishes project might wonder how long it takes to create a large portfolio of underwater photos and once started, how to keep the images organised as to be useful to the research community in the future. To achieve this is a special skill and members will note that several participants in the project have each contributed over a thousand images, which we suspect is only a small percentage of the images they have captured over the years.
A prolific contributor to the project is Ian Shaw, aka ralfmagee. Ian is our current leader in number of different species captured for the project, recording 755 different species. This diversity comes out of his impressive contribution of 1,697 observations submitted to date. This is in addition to his 259 fish identifications. When examined together, it is an impressively large body of work, which has contributed substantial volume and momentum to the project over our first year. The Australian Museum and all our partner institutions are extremely grateful.
Examining such a portfolio, one would imagine, Ian has been in the marine environment for a long time. This is true, as he began serious scuba diving shortly after moving to Coffs Harbour, NSW, becoming certified in 1986. In those early years, he blended his newly found love of diving with his interest in photography, by purchasing his first (of several) Nikonos 5 cameras. Armed with a fresh PADI certification and an iconic underwater camera, he added the keen interest of a passionate, enthusiastic amateur who sought to take his underwater experiences to new levels.
Like several other members of the project, Ian made a priority of exploring and better understanding the marine world in his own backyard, the Solitary Islands of NSW. Looking at his images of this remarkable fish “hot spot” it is easy to see that Ian often felt the need to stay close to home, as the local waters provide such diversity of rich marine life, which he has dutifully photographed and widely shared. Not satisfied with only the world of sport diving, Ian worked to transform himself from a casual hobbyist to a classic citizen scientist, making a serious impact on our knowledge of the seas. Shortly following his certification, Ian joined a group of likeminded individuals who’d established the Solitary Islands Underwater Research Group (SURG). We invite you to examine their website, which outlines the varied activities of this volunteer organisation which range from constructing and maintaining underwater trails to the scientific tracking of coral bleaching events. A quick glance at the website will show it is a group of underwater naturalists, photographers and divers who work for the benefit and ongoing management of the Solitary Islands Marine Park. SURG has created numerous resources for those interested in the region’s underwater environment, including booklets and CD of the rich marine life. Of course, Ian is curator of the collection of species, which has greatly assisted Australasian Fishes.
Ian’s marine science interests have not been limited to the Coffs area, although the majority of his diving is still done in his “backyard”. His interest in the ocean creatures has propelled him to membership on the Advisory Committee of Reef Life Survey, an organisation dedicated to charting the changes in today’s oceans. He recently spoke to groups about his Reef Life Survey project which took him from Thursday Island to Darwin, a project only for the hardiest and dedicated, but important in charting the changes in the marine environment. His work with Reef Life Survey also allowed him to co-author a book titled, A Field Guide to the Tropical Marine Fishes of Australia.
Ian has contributed photos to numerous organisations with an interest in underwater photography in addition to the Australian Museum website, where his images are prominently displayed. He has submitted data and images to the Atlas of Living Australia, RLS, Fishes of Australia, as well as supplying images for various scientific and educational publications. He reports that while there is very little money in contributing his imagery, his bookshelf has benefited with copies of the publications he receives in return for the photos. We too are grateful for his generosity and dedication to documenting the ocean, and its inhabitants.
From his extensive engagement in the marine research community, it is clear Ian’s extremely serious about the organising and storage of his underwater photographs. He uses Adobe’s Lightroom as a tool to sort and organise his images, which, thanks to digital technology, grows exponentially. How does he administer this avalanche of images? His rule is to try to name each digital image as soon as possible, after putting them in to his Lightroom catalogue. His naming procedure includes the subject’s common or scientific name, where taken, the date and his initials. A typical example of one image’s title would be: Platax teira Split Solitary Is 171209 IVS. While it is a bit of work in the beginning, from then on, the image is searchable and its details are quickly known. He points out that Lightroom also permits tagging with key words, such as Family and common name, giving him a method of locating the images he wants, long after they have been put in storage. Good advice!
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on November 21, 2017 02:56 AM by markmcg markmcg


Good stuff Ian @ralfmagee !!

Posted by sascha_schulz almost 6 years ago
Posted by ralfmagee almost 6 years ago

Incredible achievements! @ralfmagee
Also, I've got your book - has helped with numerous IDs 👍 😄

Posted by henrick almost 6 years ago

Excellent! @ralfmagee

Posted by andrewtrevor-jones almost 6 years ago

@ralfmagee - we spoke too soon... I noticed you are now top of both leader boards! @harryrosenthal

Posted by markmcg almost 6 years ago

Thanks @andrewtrevor-jones and @henrick for the comments, pleased the book helps!

Posted by ralfmagee almost 6 years ago

Thanks for the comments all, it was a pleasure to highlight the good work Ian has been/is doing. The numbers really change quickly in this project, which is half the fun.

Posted by harryrosenthal almost 6 years ago

Indeed they do. Nearly 400 images have been added in the last three days. I think it's going to be a big week. :)

Posted by markmcg almost 6 years ago

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