January 31, 2019

Peter Barfod - Member profile

Peter joined Australasian Fishes in October 2016, lending his expertise and passion, resulting in substantial contributions to the project to date. His professional background is in complex project management, working in industries such as satellite systems, telecommunications, road intelligent traffic systems and rail. While this may appear to be a long way from the natural world of fish and the marine environment, Peter’s professional training, attention to detail and comfort with complex environments has contributed to his passionate appreciation of the undersea world. There can be no more complex environment than our project’s venue, underwater. It is three-dimensional puzzle of complexity and Peter is working to help identify pieces of that puzzle for the benefit of science and to advance the project.
Peter’s interest in the natural environment began as a youngster, joining a minerals club at a young age and travelling to places in the northeast USA that were known for gems. While he spent his share of time digging for gems in the dirt, looking for unique samples, such as Herkimer diamonds, his specialty was simply to walk around search areas, looking down, and finding interesting pieces that others missed. The practice of simply “looking down” was to be excellent training for Australasian Fishes.
Along with being a rock-hound, swimming has been a part of his life since his early teens, when he joined a swimming club at his local YMCA. He quickly took to competition with great seriousness, and when he migrated to Australia in 2009, he competed in the World Masters Games in Sydney. At the Masters he finished up as 16th in the world in a couple of water events. His conversion from pool swimmer to ocean swimmer came as a result of walking his dog and meeting another swimmer who suggested Peter might enjoy looking at the bottom of the sea, rather than a black line on the bottom of a pool. Intrigued with the suggestion, he gave it a try at Manly in Sydney. This opened a new chapter where initially Peter found ocean swimming demanding and not as much fun as pool swimming, until the day a semi-tame dolphin (‘Silky’) swam under him in 2m water. He was so chuffed about this experience that he immediately bought GoPro Hero 3+ camera. This led to more ocean swimming and more videos and photographs. Like others in the project, he soon became addicted to swimming and photographing underwater stuff.
Peter recalls one instance which helped spark his conversion from distance swimmer to citizen scientist. He recalls, “One particular time when swimming near the point at South Steyne (Manly), I noticed a loose mass of string near the surface about the size of a shopping bag. Being a conscientious swimmer, I attempted to grab it to dispose of on shore. In doing so, it/ they swam away, in the formation of an arc and then deeper. At the time, I reckoned they were alien craft here to study earth. It took me a moment to take out my camera to photograph the phenomenon that I had witnessed. My images weren’t great but three objects with long tailing tendrils could be seen. I was so excited at my discovery. I was sure that I had discovered a new species. From previous experience I knew folks at Australian Museum. I eventually was put in contact with Mark McGrouther. He ID-ed them as Pennantfish.” This started a close relationship between Peter and the Museum, resulting in many of his imagers featured on the Museum’s website. This, of course, was the catalyst for more swimming, more photography, more posting, etc.
It is clear that Peter enjoys logging observations. While he confesses this aspect of the project is a bit “nerdy” he feels that he personally gains a great deal from the experience. At the time of this writing he’s recorded 1,509 observations for Australasian Fishes, of 379 different species. This gives him the position of Number 8 on the project leader board, but is only part of the story of his work for citizen science. He has also contributed an additional 466 observations to other iNaturalist projects featuring 166 additional species.
Like others in the project he values the social media aspect of the software, which facilitates interaction amongst participates. It does so without the “Facebook” approach of embedding advertising, photographs of plates of food, etc. From our conversation, Peter strongly believes in the implied social contract of the iNaturalist platform, whereby, there is an agreement to both give and receive support. Like many in the project, he is delighted when someone, in some part of the world, offers an identification of an observation he’d submitted, but could not classify. He is also grateful for the occasional comments people make about his images. In particular, he enjoys it when someone with a more attentive eye identifies some feature of the observation which had escaped his notice. He realises that in this community of people, each with different opinions and views, there is an agreement to assist and support each other. This is done through mutual education and encouragement, as well as continually contributing to the general body of knowledge the project is creating. Peter also enjoys being part of the scientific aspects of the project, and as we all do, takes his rare gentle scolding with a good nature when being caught out making a poor identification. He reminds us that that it is a learning experience and along with the corrections come compliments when making a challenging observation. He is very grateful to henrick and sascha_schulz for their support and education since starting the project. As a result, Peter is an avid fish identifier, assisting participants with 3,530 identifications, to date. He says, ”In INat, we are blessed with a learning experience supported by several very knowledgeable people and because of this I have learned so much.”
You can still find Peter swimming with a small group of people within the Bold & Beautiful Manly (B&B) group every weekend and holiday. When oceans conditions are favourable, he will snorkel, photographing marine life between 8 to 14 m depth. To facilitate these photos, he took a course in freediving which he recommends to everyone. He warns us, however, to take an actual course with a qualified instructor, rather than learn the skill on YouTube or from books, as freediving is risky and you must learn from a freediving master how to deal with the risks. I recently learned that Peter has been introduced to SCUBA diving, and his initial response has been favourable, in spite of his lifelong commitment to breath-holding. We may be seeing a whole new range of observations from him as he expands his exploration using compressed air.
Given that he both swims and snorkels, he only uses compact-type cameras. Starting off with the GoPro as it suited his needs, fitting in his wetsuit. Noticing that some members of his swimming group were fond of the Olympus TG4, he purchased a TG5 just prior to his first trip to Lady Elliot Island. The result was 12,000 photos taken around the Island, with both the Olympus and the GoPro. To complete his swimming ensemble, he has a specially built bum-bag that holds both cameras, torches for night snorkels and other things as required, allowing for free hand swimming.
For post processing, Peter uses two applications:
  • Microsoft Photos application is easy to use and usually does an adequate job, and
  • Forever Historian 4, which he claims is able to achieve a better result and improve photo quality.
Peter truly enjoys his time in the water and appreciates the diversity and complexity of this world he is documenting. Much of his swimming, and photography takes place at well-known fish “hot spots” such as Cabbage Tree Bay and Lady Elliot Island. The diversity and complexity of these environments when mixed with the sudden and unexpected observations appeals to him and promotes his significant contribution to Australasian fishes and citizen science.
In his own words, here are some parting thoughts to enhance our time spent underwater,
  • “Enjoy: there are times whilst snorkelling, I experience bliss. I really enjoy floating in 3-D space. You dive down and it is no effort, you see beauty all around, you are content. This is what it is about.
  • Most of the time, I dive when I see something from the surface. In less-clear or deeper water, you will tend not see anything near the bottom. Dive down anyways. You may happen on some bioluminescent Mysid shrimp or a lion fish.
  • There are lessons to be learned from each dive. What could go better? Progressively solve problems.
  • I have a pet theory that sea creatures can sense your intent or nature and react accordingly. I know that certain fish recognise me and will cautiously approach.
  • Whilst swimming, I pick up rubbish to dispose of back on shore. Another pet theory is that the more rubbish that you pick up, the more interesting sightings you will encounter. This is often the case though is probably a measure of observation capability.”
Postscript: It might interest you to know that for the past two years, Peter has produced an A3 flip calendar using the photos that he’s taken in Cabbage Tree Bay and Lady Elliot Island. The result is very attractive and each year he does a small print run and gives them to friends and sells them to other B&B swimmers at cost. It is a fitting reminder of the opportunities which he sees in each dive and swim, and of the contributions he has made to our project and citizen science.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member Harry Rosenthal. Thank you Harry!
Posted on January 31, 2019 02:20 AM by markmcg markmcg | 3 comments | Leave a comment

December 10, 2018

Impact of Australasian Fishes - November 2018

Australasian Fishes went online in October 2016. Since then, over 40,000 observations (2079 species) uploaded by 1287 people have resulted in over 250 discoveries.

A selection of the recent discoveries:

Observation summary:
Subject Number of observations
Range extension / first record 105
Diet / feeding 20
Parasite / fungus 16
New species / newly described     7
Colour pattern 21
Damage / injuries 12
Courtship / reproduction 22
Behavioural information 12
For more details contact Mark McGrouther.
Posted on December 10, 2018 01:32 AM by markmcg markmcg | 0 comments | Leave a comment

November 13, 2018

Ken Flanagan- Member profile

If you watch any movie made in the 1950’s about air force pilots, you will inevitably hear the line, “There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. There are no old, bold pilots”. While this sounds like a bit of lazy screen writing, it does accurately reflect what the world was like in the early days of some risky activities such as flying, and diving. It would be hard for those starting either activity today to envision a world without clear sets of rules, certifications, policies, procedures, protocols, logs, manuals and computers covering almost every possible underwater/airborne situation. Years ago, this was the reality of all divers who learned their skills prior to certification programs. Compared to many of us old-timers, today’s newly-minted sport divers are extremely well educated in the science, physiology and physics of the sport/profession. That said, today’s divers may not realise how all that knowledge was gained to fill those manuals and computers. The information was developed by the less educated, but more experienced divers who came before them. In those early days we learned by trial and error and, and if we survived the errors, we shared our experiences with others through oral advice which at the time, we called “true stories”.
Talking with Flanagan, is a reminder of those earlier days. He generously is willing to share his experiences in the early days of the profession. While project participants may know Ken as he occupies place #8 on the project leader board with 1,388 observations. That’s an impressive total and is even more impressive when you learn that he came very late to the practice of capturing underwater images, not starting until he’d retired from a career as a professional commercial diver.
Ken now lives near a place called Green Point, in Brighton, Vic. He recalls years ago, on one nice summer day, he grabbed an old mask and fins and had a look around his local underwater area. He was amazed at what he found, so many fish, eagle rays, stingarees and of course his beloved seahorses which captivated him almost instantly. The next step was to buy a little digital camera and to start taking a couple of photos. Soon after sharing his images, he was a little surprised to discover that people said they liked the photos, but fortunately for us and the project, he reports that he became a bit obsessed with this new hobby and would go everyday weather permitted and he ended up with thousands of photos. Apart from putting them in Australasian Fishes & iSeahorse, he has done a couple of books that he gives away to local schools, councils and to interested people so other people who can’t get in water can seem how wonderful his former workplace is.
Ken grew up in Sydney where he first learned to dive as a 20 year old. At the time he was in the Police Force where he heard the Diving Unit paid more money so one morning he found himself at the Water Police Facility at Dawes Point. Ken said what followed was the most miserable 8 weeks of his life. He was issued and old jumper and jeans, told that would be their diving attire for the 8 weeks. In the beginning his class was taken on a run to Pyrmont then told to jump in the harbour and swim back to Dawes Point, with fins. This would be the start to everyday. Ken confessed, at that time he was a shocking swimmer, but with fins he was OK. Shortly afterwards they were issued a facemask, with the twist that the glass was replaced by plywood. The explanation was that most of the diving would be in terrible visibility so we might as well get used to it. They were instructed in the use of a set of twin 40 Siebe Gorman tanks & Mistral demand valve (you know, the old twin hoses). His first encounter with marine life was getting zapped by an electric ray (obviously he never saw it), in Balmoral baths which was where first dives took place. The instructors knew you’d get zapped, but wanted to see what students would do and used the experience to cull anyone the instructors thought weren’t up to it. The instructors were all ex-Navy divers, so the training was unconventional. Most days were spent at Dawes Point performing tasks, often using a hookah, which meant the instructors could sit up top & turn your air off for periods of time. Other options had them throw flares down near you, or to come down and rip your mask off & give you a few punches & kicks hoping you'd freak out & head for the surface, definite cull material.
Typical training included responding to the signals on the line attached to you (2 tugs go right, 3 tugs go left, etc.). Another job was cutting a piece off a section of railway line placed on the bottom with a hacksaw, the only problem was you got given one hacksaw blade & that was it. If you broke it you were out. They dove all over the harbour where depended on the instructors whim as where would be the most unpleasant. Ken once managed to run out of air on the bottom near Shark Island but made it to the surface. He thought this was going to be a course ender but no. You can imagine the course had a high failure rate and of Ken’s initial class of 20, only he and one other graduated as “certified” Police divers with a career in such exotic locations as the Bondi sewer outfall, Leyland motors effluent pond, the Gap, several flooded rivers all over N.S.W including the Mitchell River (the worst on Northern N.S.W.) and, of course, in the Harbour. By the way, he learned the extra money definitely wasn’t worth it!
Still associating money with diving, Ken worked on his days off with a local contractor, cleaning oil tanker hulls in Botany Bay, with a garden spade with a hole cut in the middle of the blade to reduce the drag. He did jobs in the Parramatta River, installed the first boat mooring pontoon at the Opera House and installed sea baths at Brighton-le-sands.
Finally he inquired about working on oil platforms and eventually took holidays from the Police and proceeded to show his talents on a drill ship in the Great Australian Bight. As typical in those days, they gave him a job even though he hadn’t done any of that type of diving before. Commercial diving training was strictly on the job, which was sometimes a bit traumatic but he got to meet a lot of very interesting people, ex-SAS after the Vietnam War, Yanks, and New Zealanders etc. No one had any documented qualifications but they managed to get by from learning off older more experienced blokes on the crew. A far cry from today. Ken worked in Western Australia, Singapore, India, Malaysia, Borneo, New Zealand on many & varied Platforms, drill ships, semi-subs., jack-ups & barges. He did all types of diving including deep mixed gas with his deepest dive to 603 ft. and air with a dive to 230ft. He reports he’s done some incredibly hairy dives and came back to Australia after years overseas getting a job with Esso Australia as their Co-ordinator of diving operations in Bass Strait. That’s where he stayed until retirement. Diving as a career and learning the ropes, the old fashion way. Perhaps more than a little bold.
Fortunately for Australasian fishes, Ken now spends his underwater time with a camera. His scuba and hookah now sit on the shelf, as he takes all his photos just breathe hold diving. He says, “If I never put on a set of tanks again I'll be happy.”
He is willing to give advice to project participants, however, he feels the best advice is to try to get to sites where you choose to take photos more than once. It helps to get to know the marine life there, and to spend time just “hanging out” to see what types of fish occupy the area and how they use the landscape. When Ken sees something he wants to photograph, he’ll just lay on the surface and watch his subject for a while. Once he works out where he thinks the fish will be for the best picture, he dives down a little away from it, grabs onto something to steady himself, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, waiting for a good shot. He feels the more times you can go back to a site you get to notice how territorial fish are, the more they get to know you and the easier the photo taking gets. In his experience eagle rays and stingarees are generally easier as they tend to be more inquisitive and relaxed than the fish. If you look at the breadth of Ken’s work, you will quickly discover his favourites though are seahorses. He finds great a joy to discover them during his diving. They are very photogenic and obliging. Like many projects participants he greatly enjoys putting up an observation and waiting for the interaction with the other citizen scientists like Sascha, Mark, Clinton & Henrick to name a few, waiting to see if they will either agree or not with his description of the observation. Like many of us he greatly values and looks forward to their comments.
Also, like many who are active in the project, Ken gets great deal of pleasure from doing this, taking photos and submitting them on Australasian Fishes & iSeahorse. It gives a type of feeling of reward that he didn’t get from all his previous years of diving. Like many of us, he feels like he’s contributing to something very worthwhile. I can only strongly echo his views.
His favourite camera is the Olympus TG-4 as it is easy to use, needs no housing (for his needs anyway). He feels they give a great quality picture and has a good size screen for composition. He is currently on hiatus from his project work but hopes to be back in the water soon. We look forward to his ongoing contributions.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on November 13, 2018 02:59 AM by markmcg markmcg | 5 comments | Leave a comment

October 31, 2018

Impact of Australasian Fishes - October 2018

Australasian Fishes went online in October 2016. Since then, over 38,000 observations (2033 species) uploaded by members have resulted in over 240 discoveries. For more details contact Mark McGrouther.

October 2018 stats                                                                      
New observations 1409
'New' species added 16
New contributors 32
New Project members 14


A selection of recent discoveries:
Findings from Australasian Fishes:
Subject Number of observations
Range extension / first record 102
Diet / feeding 20
Parasite / fungus 16
New species / newly described     7
Colour pattern 19
Damage / injuries 10
Courtship / reproduction 21
Behavioural information 12
Posted on October 31, 2018 04:48 AM by markmcg markmcg | 3 comments | Leave a comment

October 24, 2018

Vote for Australia's favourite fish

In a national poll, Lateral Magazine, in collaboration with the Australian Society for Fish Biology, hope to crown Australia’s most popular fish. The choices have been whittled down to a 51-species shortlist (no easy task) for voting purposes.
Voting ends at midnight on October 31 AEST.
Posted on October 24, 2018 03:56 AM by markmcg markmcg | 12 comments | Leave a comment

October 17, 2018

Member profile -Tony Strazzari

The underwater world offers visitors many options and never complains which option you select. For some, the relationship is strictly casual, only visited on personal holidays to waterside destinations such as the South Pacific Islands or the Great Barrier Reef. Most of us would be familiar with these quick visitors who pay their excursion fees, hop in the water and leave with fond memories of their time underwater. They have one perspective of the ocean. There are also those of us who are weekend visitors, leaving dry land when our terrestrial work is done, using our spare time to sharpen our underwater skills in a series of frequent visits. We too develop a perspective on life in the sea. On the other end of spectrum, there are those who are quickly and completely smitten by their early underwater experiences. They transcend the casual and weekend visitor experience, to a professional life, working in the underwater environment. Sometimes they hop back and forth as the situation requires, but they still retain a lifelong passion for their aquatic profession. This month’s bio blurb is about someone who’s made the transition from visitor to almost underwater native. Tony Strazzari is such a person, as evidenced by his recent joining of the project in May 2018. He is already top of the project leader board with 2,509 observations for the project of 242 different species. This is from his total contributions to iNaturalist of 5,606 observations of 872 different species. Tony is also ranked 30th in identifications, offering great support to the project. In this bio blurb, we meet Tony and better understand what drove his meteoric risk in the project.
Tony grew up in an outer suburb of Newcastle, like many, loving the Australian landscapes. As a boy he avidly explored local bushland at the end of his street and later bushwalking and the beach: bodysurfing, swimming and snorkelling. Still not yet bitten by the ocean bug, he followed a career path working at BHP Steelworks as a cadet engineer becoming a Chemical Engineer for 13 years. During this time, he developed a love of travel both nationally and internationally and finally in 1991; after a local dive shop had a free “pool experience” he followed his intuition, stopped procrastinating and did an Open Water course. In his own words, “… an addiction started”. From his first dives he quickly realised that he could see and interact with more animals and much closer in a 45 minute dive than I could in a year’s bushwalking.
Within 3 years he had made around 250 dives; with new friends exploring most of the coast from Port Stephens to Catherine Hill Bay as well as being familiar with all the “standard” local sites at Nelson Bay and Swansea. Taking advantage of redundancy offers to leave BHP; he further developed his water skills completing his maritime coxswain and divemaster qualifications and started a dive boat business, Divercity. In addition, he completed a Diploma of Education and started a new (money paying) career as a science teacher. While working during the week as a casual teacher he continued to run Divercity on the weekends and holiday periods in the Newcastle/Swansea areas and through exploration dives developed a pretty good knowledge of local reefs and wrecks and a love of Moon Island off Swansea. The 90s was a turbulent time in Newcastle for dive shops with shops opening and closing all over the place and that certainly didn’t help an independent boat operator so after 4 years persevering, he sold the boat. It wasn’t a major financial success, but he says, “I didn’t lose money and gained huge amounts of experience. I also was privileged to do an “underwater naturalist” course with the late (and very great) Neville Coleman – diving with him was an education for me; how to dive to observe so many tiny animals.”
Having children, his underwater career slowed down over the next few years but when he could, he assisted with courses at a local shop and introducing Scuba Diving (Open Water course) as a sport option at the school where he worked. As a lifelong learner, he also gained some technical and cave diving qualifications.
In 2007 a freak injury whist playing sport with the kids at school left Tony with a snapped peroneal nerve (and partial paralysis) in his left leg, ruling out teaching or any job on his feet for extended periods. A total of 3 years of operations and rehab left him without a job. An online enquiry to a Port Stephens dive shop (‘any work for a DM/Coxswain”) resulted in a “can you start Saturday” and 5 years of working there – driving boats, leading dives and becoming an instructor.
Of his memories of those years, he says that he certainly enjoyed his experience diving from Nelson Bay in particular diving with Grey Nurse Sharks at Broughton Island. The experience increased his knowledge of the local seas but in search of greater variation, he left the bay with another staff member and started his current business Grey Nurse Charters – an ex-Victoria Police tactical response boat and the fastest dive boat in Australia. This new venture allows Tony to operate a dive business as he’s always wanted …a boat light enough to trailer between Swansea, Newcastle and Port Stephens but big enough to carry 12 people; pick and choose the gear he wanted to sell; teach diving properly (no rushed 2 day courses) and to offer one of the greatest ranges of dive sites of any dive operation in the world without the burden of a shop. The best part OD, of course, now he dives full-time.
Anyone looking at Tony’s photos in the project quickly realises he is an accomplished underwater photographer, who takes this skill very seriously. We asked him to condense his years of experience in underwater photography in to advice for the project participants, and he replied, “I try to get some images most times I dive … when I lead dives I try and get shots of customers with sharks and the other animals they see. I sometimes like just poking around by myself with a macro lens looking for weird little stuff. Photography promotes diving and the business. Since 2011, I probably average about 400-450 dives per year. I also have a side project diving river ports, harbours and other sites looking for old relics – bottles, pots, brass and copper. This is often in brackish or freshwater, with little to no visibility but now due to a new camera I am able to take shots in these environments when conditions allow.
Photography and teaching diving allow me to share my passion for diving with others – the amazing things I see: creatures, ship wrecks, scenery – despite diving for 27 years I can still see something I’ve never seen before at a site I’ve dived hundreds of times. Dive sites change with the seasons and the ocean currents. I have seen the population of grey nurse sharks increase dramatically from critically endangers over these years. Travel to overseas dive destinations no only gives me the chance to see and photograph different marine life but also lets me meet fellow divers from all over the world – Philippines, Vanuatu, Thailand, Indonesia, Fiji, Chuuk, PNG, Solomons and other places. Underwater photography has also allowed me to become friends with people from many other countries. Diving knows no borders, no religions but the respect for the forces of the ocean and nature and no skin colour.
My main camera system is a Canon 55D (I have 3 bodies – not the most expensive camera but certainly a high-resolution image and ability to use Canon lenses) with a range of lenses – 10-22 mm zoom, 60 mm and 100 mm macro-lenses and a 17-75 multipurpose lens. I wanted a tough housing that would handle rough treatment and didn’t need kid glove handling so got a Hugyfot aluminium housing. I have Sea and Sea strobes but have recently been experimenting with two 2000 lumen video lights. I find this gives a softer image than the flash and is also good for wide angle shots – wrecks etc.
A recent present of a Nikon Coolpix allows me to carry a small camera when I’m doing other stuff and can’t lug a big housing (such as in rivers) and on dives I do carry a housing for macro when I’m set up with wide-angle and vice versa. So expect more freshwater brown shaded photos of different fish. The greatest thing that happened to underwater photography and all photography for that matter is the digital camera … from the best SLR to the cheapest point and shoot …. Results are instant! No waiting for a couple of days for expensive developing and printing to know what happened. No being limited to 24 (or 36) shots with no feedback until after the dive. We can take hundreds of pictures during a dive and if using a bit of thought and adjustment can find out what works and what doesn’t at no cost – errors can be deleted. With editing programs such as Photoshop (which I use) we have all the control over our photos that wasn’t possible without a huge financial investment and costly dark room trial and error. With diving images it’s mainly colour correction (for the blueness underwater causes), removing back-scatter from suspended particles and other evidence of particles in the water and cropping for best composition.
My advice to any new underwater photographer would be take lots of photos …. practise, get some real critique (not just everyone telling you they’re lovely shots) and learn to use an editing program – bring out the colour! Don’t ever post crappy shots! Don’t post shots that haven’t been cleaned up.
When underwater taking photos take things SLOW! Don’t chase fish; they can swim faster than you can. Be PATIENT. Wait. Take lots of shots … they don’t cost you anything. Delete the crappy ones! For macro practise on nudibranchs … they are very patient too and let you improve your technique. Get as close as possible, make the subject BIG in your shot, try face on for dramatic type shots or side on for identification.”
The Australasia Fishes Projects is very grateful to Tony for the numerous contributions he has made to the project, and we wish him success with his latest underwater venture. We enjoy the underwater world with him, regardless of whether we are casual, weekend or professional visitors, and look forward to his ongoing support and contributions to Australian citizen science.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal. Thank you Harry!! :)
Posted on October 17, 2018 02:55 AM by markmcg markmcg | 8 comments | Leave a comment

September 27, 2018

Impact of Australasian Fishes - Sept 2018

Australasian Fishes went online in October 2016. Since then, over 36,000 observations (>2000 species) uploaded by members have resulted in over 200 discoveries. For more details contact Mark McGrouther.

A selection of the recent discoveries:

Observation summary:
Subject Number of observations
Range extension / first record 100
Diet / feeding 19
Parasite / fungus 14
New species / newly described     7
Colour pattern 19
Damage / injuries 10
Courtship / reproduction 20
Behavioural information 10
Posted on September 27, 2018 12:32 AM by markmcg markmcg | 7 comments | Leave a comment

September 18, 2018

Woohoo! 2000 species and counting!

Some of you may have noticed that Australasian Fishes recently passed a significant milestone.
The project now contains observations of more than 2000 species. Thank you everyone!
The lucky 2000th species is the Bartailed Flathead, Platycephalus australis. This observation was uploaded by Gordon Black (rick-ludd)
When the project went online, we never dreamed that in just under 2 years we'd have amassed observations of 2000 species. Again, thanks all!
Posted on September 18, 2018 06:47 AM by markmcg markmcg | 7 comments | Leave a comment

September 13, 2018

Another new record for Sydney Harbour!

Henrick's observation of a juvenile Magpie Perch, Cheilodactylus nigripes, provides us with both a northern range extension (previously known to Kiama) and also a new record for Sydney Harbour!
This observation brings the Sydney Harbour species count to 596 and the number of morwong species to seven. View the Sydney Harbour species list on the Australian Museum website.
Magpie Perch occur in Australia and New Zealand. Prior to this observation the Australian distribution of the species extended through temperate southern waters from to Albany, Western Australia to Kiama, New South Wales plus northern Tasmania.
Well done Henrick!
Posted on September 13, 2018 04:24 AM by markmcg markmcg | 6 comments | Leave a comment

August 28, 2018

Member profile -Georgia Poyner

Marvel comics has Wonder woman. Star Wars has Rey, Tomb Raider has Laura Croft and Australasian Fishes has Georgia Poyner. While Marvel Comics, Star Wars and computer games are only imitations of life, Georgia is the real thing, as her YouTube Chanel illustrates. Georgia is ranked in the project, at this time at 39th place, with 133 observations of 83 different species. Readers will note that this is a very high rate of species per submission, but Georgia is unique. Firstly she is only 17 years old. Secondly, she is a sponsored sportsperson, in the process of creating her own image and brand based upon her passion for the ocean environment. Finally, she feels she is not that gifted in the use of technology, but I will let the viewer reach their own conclusions regarding how she shares her underwater adventures so effectively with project participants and the world.
Her personal YouTube channel features over a dozen videos, each introducing the viewer to the amazing underwater world of the New South Wales South Coast. Be warned, her films are often set to adrenaline pumping music paired with blood pumping images. A typical video would feature cameos of whales, sharks, turtles, seals, various fishes and even the occasional terrestrial plastic sea life models. A typical Georgia video will feature not only the familiar species we are accustomed to seeing as observations in the Australasian Fishes Project, but also gives us a first-person view of someone freediving, spearfishing, stalking gamefish and even enjoying encounters with species we rarely see such as crays, billfish and the occasional whale. Each video shows us, in high definition, the amazing world which appears to be her playground. They show viewers small samples of how the Year 12 student experiences the joy and wonder of spending time underwater. After watching a few of her short films, it is clear she plans to show her viewers a world of adventure, with fast action, sudden surprises and slickly edited videos of some of the things which makes underwater Australia unique and amazing.
Yes, some of the views may seem familiar, and you can see similar images in places like the Discovery Channel or in ocean documentaries. While the sea life may seem familiar, none of them adequately broadcast the pure joy and excitement which come from personally interacting with this amazing environment. Her videos clearly illustrate the raw joy which comes from being surrounded by those truly “golden moments” which can only be experienced through diving, snorkelling or otherwise being a temporary visitor of the ocean environment. Some of us in the project may have shared similar underwater moments such as interacting with seals, communing with an inquisitive octopus or being enveloped by a large school of fish. Those are fond memories, where we suddenly change from observer and citizen scientists to become, briefly, an honorary member of the underwater community. On the other hand, those of us who also have had those moments of awe, also recognise that for each such moment, when we suddenly witness nature’s majesty, there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours where, we were wet, cold and “not much happened”. But we recognise that for all those “not much happened dives” there will come the sudden, unexpected events where it all seems so worthwhile. Gerogia has captured, distilled, edited, provided soundtrack and posted on her channel, some of those moments for all of us to enjoy.
Like many participants in the project, Georgia started her underwater adventures at a very early age. As soon as she was born her father had her in a back pack, taking her fishing where ever he went. Being fortunate to live in the small coastal NSW town of Narooma, on the Pacific Ocean she learned to take every opportunity possible to be in or on it. This access to the sea eventually coupled with her natural passion for animals developed in to a strong attraction for fishes and all things marine. As she grew older and spent more time in the ocean, she found them to be amazing creatures that are also fun to catch and taste good as well.
Her parents introduced her early to the serious side of marine science as well, taking her and her siblings to marine science forums, where her interests in the ocean continued to develop, but more importantly she found an outlet to share her passion with other cool “fishy people” (aka marine biologists and researchers). For example, when she was only 15 one of the people she met at a forum (who is now a good friend) convinced her to become involved with tropical fish survey work for Dr David Booth (UTS, Sydney). This started a whole new obsession with tropical fishes! It also highlighted for her the impact of changes in the water which has resulted in her seeing that some of those tropical species are now turning up on her southern coastline. The out of range reports in the project clearly illustrate this as well, as seen in past Journal postings. Georgia is seeing, for the first time many topicals which have never been sighted as far south as Narooma. Of course, this adds to her already apparent passion for the sea, never knowing if you are going to meet up with a fish which is truly far from home. Like many of the Project’s participants she finds this dimension of ocean exploration extremely addictive. Never knowing what she might find during each encounter is a force which has been driving her to the sea. I would suggest many in the project can relate to this feeling. The idea that no matter how many times you swim over the same piece of underwater real estate, there is always a chance of seeing something new and unusual, which was not there before.
Like most of her generation, the collection of images is a part of her normal activity. She collects fish images as often as she can and sometimes the result is shared with the public through the videos we see on her channel. Georgia also enters her images in competition and has had several submissions make it to the Top 10 finals in the ANZANG Australian Geographic photographic competition. She swims with a camera most of the time and it is usually ready in case an opportunity arises. As a result, she has a large collection of images which she promises to upload to the Australasian Fishes project sometime soon.
One of Georgia's favourite cameras for underwater photography is her Canon Powershot D30. Being small It fits into her wetsuit pocket perfectly making it easy to carry. From the channel it is clear she also truly enjoys using GoPros and the Sony RX Mark 1 in a Recsea Housing. These are also relatively small cameras; however, the Sony has a much larger sensor than most compact cameras, making the overall image quality very good. When Georgia is scuba diving she’ll use UW video lights or strobes. She encourages other participants to try using lights at night too.
Her advice to project participants is to get out in the marine environment as much as possible as more time in the water is handy in gathering a good understanding of that environment. She found that by hunting fish whilst fishing or spearfishing an individual can learn a great deal about fish behaviour as well as covering large areas, therefore, learning a lot about what environments species prefer. For example, she noted that while her and her father have been cray hunting in shallow surgy water, black cod, Epinephelus daemelii also inhabit the same terrain. When seeing one, look for the other.
I too have learned many lessons from Georgia’s YouTube channel and from the way she assembles her images and collects her thoughts. It would be impossible to capture, in brief bio blubs like this how participants really feel about their time underwater, as it is a very personal and often profound thing. Many of the project participants spend endless hours underwater, not only seeking images for science but also, perhaps, visiting one of their places of contemplation and enjoyment. You need not take my word for it. To learn more about this gifted Australasian Fishes participant I would suggest you first listen to the opening lines of her film, Heywire . In the video’s early segments, set against views of schools of fish and various marine creatures, she reminds us that few people realise that so many amazing things can be found right on our doorsteps. In her case, the Pacific Ocean is on that doorstep and she views this amazing world as something truly of value to her and her family. Her videos back up this view, providing us with brief glimpses of the “shock and awe” which can be encounter by those who are willing to invest time in exploring the nature found so close to home.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on August 28, 2018 06:26 AM by markmcg markmcg | 9 comments | Leave a comment