October 12, 2020

Member profile - Michal Biniek

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by every Australian and, in fact, by almost everyone in the world. For many, it has become a life changing event, compounding the fear of illness with separation from family and community. There is no doubt that it has created a nostalgia for the old “normal” times, which looks good to many of us today.
For some, the ocean has provided a refuge from pandemic, as it is clear the virus seems to avoid the salt water. While not encouraged to congregate on the shore, many have become solitary divers/snorkellers, practicing isolation in the sea, and exploring the environment close to their homes, as travel has also been discouraged. Our project numbers have grown over the months of the pandemic, where some fortunate participants have been exploring their close local locations, and other have been supportive with identifications and encouragement. This bio’s subject Michal Biniek (on the right in the photo, above) clearly illustrates this response to isolation, as much of his body of work has been observed in the waters surrounding his residential neighbourhood of Manly, in Sydney.
Michal’s contribution reminds me another aspect of exploration as well, the exploration of a new country and culture. He reminds me of my past travels, working overseas in countries where a different language is spoken and is located far from family. Many project participants have worked overseas during their careers, and most will tell interesting stories about their adventures and misadventures, however, I would guess that their experience was not always a bed of roses. There were times when the distance from home, from family and from a native language created a challenging set of circumstances. In some ways, Michal reminds me of the additional challenges which must encountered when a pandemic and travel restrictions are added to the mix of overseas employment. Michal is a relative newcomer to our country, far away from his roots in his native Poland, however, it is clear he has quickly built himself a community, both physical and a virtual, in a very short period of time, during a global pandemic.
Michal came to Australia, from Poland three years ago. The purpose of the move was to join an Australian-owned software company, as a software engineer. He resides in Manly, NSW, where his odyssey in underwater photography started. Michal tells us, “Photography is my long running hobby. I started taking photos on film when I was a kid. Nature photography brings another level of difficulty as it requires many different factors to go well - it takes proper timing, light and composition to take a “good photo”. That’s especially challenging to achieve when chasing moving objects like animals.”
Michal did not do much underwater exploration in Europe but that changed after he moved to Sydney. Introduced to the underwater richness of the Sydney area by friends from the company’s scuba social club, (hello @kopper!), he learned that Sydney is an amazing place to discover underwater life. Not only that, but the place where he lives, was the perfect taking-off point for this underwater adventure. And take-off, he certainly has done, compiling an impressive record for the Australasian Fishes project. Since joining in April 2019, he has recorded 1,442 observations of which 1,288 have been for Australasian Fishes. His impressive list of observations encompass 262 species to date. In addition, in such a short time, he also helped in over 2,463 identifications. Michal has truly jumped in with both flippers! It is important to note that at least a third of his time in the project, was during a global pandemic (so far). When many others were looking for toilet paper, Michal was looking at his underwater neighbours.
Having a background in nature photography, he quickly wanted to know the names of the fish he recorded. He says, “iNat was recommended to me by friends in a company scuba social club as a great place to learn and seek for help identifying underwater species. @markmcg does a great job recruiting people to this amazing project. I’m impressed by the community around Australasian Fishes - great specialists, so when in doubt, we can get really precise expertise - as well as plenty of members submitting new interesting observations every day. I'm a huge fan of underwater photography, I take a camera with me on every snorkelling session. I have made a routine to process photos the same day as they were taken, or at least these with uncommon findings, so I can post them to iNat.”
He explains that “Manly has been my home for the last few years - that’s why most of my observations are done around there. Thankfully, I live really close to the water so I can get to the water pretty often! Additionally, due to COVID and travel lockdown I couldn’t really explore much further, so I took the opportunity to explore local waters even more carefully. Both sides of water offer great, yet different conditions and species. Shelly Beach - definitely better to “catch” big fish - like sharks or bull rays, but it can get busy. The Harbour side is a less common choice to swim, but that’s where I saw my first turtle in Sydney, hey!”
Michal prefers a lightweight set-up as much as possible, so his exploration is snorkel/shallow freediving only. This allows him quick trips to the water during the day. His current schedule allows from 2 to 3 trips a week, of course, depending on the weather and visibility. He reports any conditions with 15m visibility makes him simply take his fins and go straight to the water.
Michal discusses his preferred photography equipment, “I use Canon G7X mk II with Fantasea underwater housing - I shot photos with natural, ambient light - it takes a while to find out how to take better photos with that setup, but even with such minimalistic equipment it is possible to take “good photos”. I have found Manly-local Ian Donato’s guide a great start for beginners (https://www.housingcamera.com/blog/underwater-photography/on-being-an-underwater-photographer-who-favours-the-shallow-end). I wish I had read it earlier. My personal hints (for snorkelers) are usually specific:
• Chasing fish is usually a lost cause - is never ends with good photo; my tricks to get better angle of the fish is to swim parallel to it (works well with dusky whalers) to hide and surprise fish from behind a rock (juvenile butterflyfish) or simply wait - they may turn around and actually get curious.
• Some fish may get used to humans around - e.g. I observed some tropicals like brown tang which tend to ignore me after few minutes of me diving up and down.
• When without light/strobe, I set the shutter to fixed 1/250 - that helps with sharp pictures when diving “deeper” or during not-sunny weather when auto mode switches to 1/80 (sigh).
Nature photography, thanks to its challenges, is very rewarding. When moving to the opposite side of the globe, everything around is new and exciting. I wanted to learn more about them - taking pictures and identifying them helps and can be fun too. I also felt that the harbour deserves a little bit more attention, however it is hard to compete with Cabbage Tree Bay. As I live nearby Manly Cove, I have decided to scan that area with more attention - turns out that you can find such interesting critters like keyhole angelfish or a green sea turtle in the harbour as well!”
Finally, Michal’s engagement in the underwater community has been impressive, even while in isolation when the pandemic was in full swing. He is a strong supporter and contributor of the Facebook group VIZ, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/sydviz/) which is a private group dedicated to reports of underwater visibility conditions across the Sydney metropolitan area, focusing on conditions for divers. Like Australasian Fishes, it is volunteer site, with individuals and groups reporting water conditions, temperature and abundance of marine life across the regional area. The reporters are extremely enthusiastic, and their passion is almost infectious, as they report on conditions at famous and less famous dive spots. There is a good mixture of shore dive and boat dive reports, so the site is useful as a condition guide and motivator for getting off the couch, where many are waiting out the pandemic, and into the water. Another advantage, like Australasian Fishes, it creates a sense of instant community for all, including the newly arrived, COVID isolated individuals and those passionate about exploring the local marine environment. Michal quickly became a highly valued member of this Facebook community, as his reports have been on the lesser explored areas of Manly in Sydney. It seems like every few days, during the pandemic, Michel has been contributing photos, videos and water condition reports of the Manly area, harbour side and ocean side. This useful service has been appreciated by fellow members of the VIZ group, many of the observations he has made for our project have been featured in his reports on water conditions.
In summary, the pandemic has created an interesting challenge for many people in the world. For some it has been isolating, both physically and emotionally. A difficult time to overcome. Projects like Australasian Fishes and VIZ have help some to bridge the barriers of physical isolation, by allowing us to feel engaged with others in interesting and meaningful projects. When looking at these citizen-driven initiatives it is clear to see the dedication and passion reflected in the written reports and observations. There are often notes of encouragement and support which come through exchanges found in these online initiatives as well. Such camaraderie is important during periods of isolation and pandemic. Michal Biniek has reminded me that family and community can be found in many places on Earth, and online projects play an important role not only in the science of our times, but also in the human engagement of our times.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on October 12, 2020 06:05 by markmcg markmcg | 7 comments | Leave a comment

September 18, 2020

Spider eats fish!

The image on the left is from an excellent observation posted by @wingspanner. It shows an Eastern Osprey holding a Yellowfin Bream in its talons. The right image shows a close-up view of the fish.
Seeing these observations prompted me to take stock of the observations that show fish as prey. I'm sure here are many! The list below shows a single observation of 6 different predator types 'in action'.
Posted on September 18, 2020 02:47 by markmcg markmcg | 21 comments | Leave a comment

August 18, 2020

Member profile - Matt Tank

Writing an Australasian Fishes bio blurb in COVID-19 Australia is an interesting experience. As I write, the country is experiencing the inevitable second wave, during the normal winter flu season. Parts of the country have entered stringent lockdowns, while others have closed borders, sealing in their healthy citizens. Other states are somewhere in between, putting out viral spot fires, in hopes of keeping the pandemic under control, for a second time. Another defining aspect of the country’s response has been the widespread practice of working/studying from home. We now see the most widespread use of this practice in history where never before has such a large percentage of the Australian workforce has been working remotely. In some ways, this is not unexpected, as most futurists have predicted that working/studying/shopping from home will be a wave of the future. That wave has arrived a decade earlier than predicted.
In my past, I was responsible for writing pandemic plans, and have always regarded “working from home” as the weakest link in pandemic response. At the time, it was a frequently cited work-around, however, it was a logistical impossibility. Limited internet bandwidth, application licensing restrictions, a dependence on corporate portals to access corporate applications are among several technical reasons limiting user’s access.
In 2020, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of these problems were solved before the arrival of COVID-19. Thanks to broadband, we now have the capacity for more users to simultaneously access the internet. Many corporate applications have moved from internal servers, to the cloud, allowing almost universal, unlimited staff access. The reason I bring this up is that our ability to work from home, as a nation, is the result of IT professionals, who skilfully migrated us to these new platforms, allowing numerous government and business operations to continue to function, even though the entire staff are working from their respective homes. Upon reflection, I realise this capability was given to us as a result of IT experts who paved the way for this transition. The subject of this bio blurb is one such IT expert, Matt Tank, an IT consultant by profession, based in the Southern suburbs of Adelaide. Matt explains, “I specialise in Cloud Technologies, mostly this is about adapting existing business systems to be Internet-based for cost savings and flexibility. However, more and more I’m being asked about ways to make these systems better, using technologies that are much easier to implement in the cloud.” I doubt if Matt would have thought his work in implementing this technology would save the bacon of so many companies and perhaps change the fundamental office working relationship for many years to come.
Matt’s introduction to our program, was, of course, the result of his pursuit of alternative, online technologies. He explains that some of the technologies he implements are things we might recognise as iNaturalist users. Examples include Computer Vision and geospatial reporting (those great observation maps we see), are related to the technologies he implements. He notes, “In fact, it was professional curiosity that brought me to iNaturalist. I was fielding questions for clients about Microsoft Custom Vision, and I decided to build a Fish ID solution as a side-project. Image searches for testing images brought me to iNat, and the rest is history. I started posting my own images, and like so many others, was approached by @markmcg to join the project. Unlike most of the regular contributors to the Project. I discovered iNaturalist while working on a Computer Vision proof-of-concept, and realised not only that I could use the site to help me ID the things I didn't recognise, but I could also help others with what I know.”
Matt says that he is neither a scientist nor a photographer, but like most in the project, his love for marine life started early. He recalls, “TV was an inspiration, but not documentaries at first. It was actually the movie Jaws that sparked my interest. I was way too young to be watching it, but also probably too young to be scared by it but became interested in sharks from virtually that day. The documentaries came later, and my interest widened to fish and other marine life. In the 80s and early 90s, most marine documentaries covered the tropics, which shaped a lot of my early knowledge.”
His early passion for marine life has remained as part of his character and he joined Australasian Fishes in February 2018. Matt’s contribution to Australasian Fishes has placed him in 22nd place in observations, with a total of 771. However, many project participants have benefited from his numerous identifications. For our project he has assisted in 6,505 identifications for us, ranking him 7th in that category. Matt has not only assisted us, but has contributed over 2,736 observations to iNaturalist projects, making a remarkable 21,258 identifications for the benefit of citizen science.
This passion for the marine world, however, did not result in a career in science. He says, “Over the years, my future career as a Marine Biologist slipped out of reach (you have to work hard at school, who knew?), and I was only diving sporadically. I wasn’t really interested in joining a dive club, and my friends were starting to move away and get busy (so was I for that matter). A trip to the Cook Islands in 2016 changed all that. I didn’t (SCUBA) dive, but went snorkelling every day, mostly alone, with a GoPro to record what I saw. I realised again how much I enjoyed it, and living 10 mins away from Port Noarlunga Reef, a world-class diving location, I made the decision that I was going to make sure I was in the water as often as possible, even if it was alone with a snorkel (maybe that’s even preferable – not many people want to wait around for 10 mins while you get the perfect shot of a sponge). I usually get into the water about 20-30 times a year now, and mostly in warmer months. With a huge increase in local experience, my interests expanded to include local fish species, and with less fish diversity than in the tropics, I also started to pay more attention to the hugely diverse invertebrate populations of Southern Australia. Ascidians in particular are of interest, because there are so many unknowns, and of course many of them look spectacular. I don’t really have a favourite location for diving in SA, because there is such a great variety of environments, but I always come back to Port Noarlunga, an excellent reef and jetty dive. Myponga Beach is a mix of huge tidal pools and an underwater wall that quickly drops down to about 6m, and the seagrass meadows of Kingston Park are great for weed whiting and leatherjackets.”
Developing his interest in underwater photography was based on a need to feed his thirst for undersea creature identification. Like other leading project participants, he is driven by a desire to know and identify the creatures he sees while underwater. He recalls, “Being the first time I snorkelled with a camera, another thing that Cook Islands trip showed me is how much more you remember individual dives when you can identify what you are looking at, and how much value that knowledge adds to future dives. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a photographer, so for me a camera is really just a tool for identification. Recently though, I’ve realised that when you’re looking at something really small, a GoPro won’t cut it, so I’ve recently purchased a new underwater camera, an Olympus TG-6 with the flash diffuser attachment. While acknowledging my limited experience with it so far, I would definitely recommend the product if you don’t want to lug around a lot of equipment or are on a smaller budget. Its microscope mode is really handy, for observations like this little guy here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/51192339.”
Looking back, he feels that using iNaturalist has been very rewarding, in a number of respects. “If you’re willing to put in the effort, it’s a great learning tool. Professionally, I haven’t seen a better resource for building a repository of images about particular species. The AI aspect of it is really coming along too, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. I think in the medium-term, we’ll get to a point where a single model based on all life won’t cut it, and that these systems will start to think in a more hierarchical way like we do. Instead of one model, it will iterate through multiple models; first of all, to decide what type of organism it’s looking at, then a more specialised model based on its decision. It’s going to be a lot more accurate if the system first decides it’s a fish, then used its knowledge of fish to identify the observation, rather than just comparing to the 250K+ list of (current) species. Combine this with technologies that can analyse the description field to work out the submitters intent, and other similar functionality, and we could end up with a system that can do a lot of the heavy-lifting, and leave the experts freer to fine tune IDs rather than constantly fix mistakes. That’s not even talking about the ways that researchers could plug the data into reporting and/or machine learning solutions to make their own findings. This is where a project like Australasian Fishes could really come into its own, and the groundwork starts right here, where we all contribute to building that repository of knowledge.”
In conclusion, Matt wanted to use this bio blurb to express his appreciation to other project members. He says, “This is also an opportunity for me to reflect on the help I’ve received over the years, so in regard to Australasian Fishes specifically, I’d like to thank (in no particular order) - @maractwin, @sascha_schulz, @joe_fish, @davemmdave, @marinejanine, @kendallclements, @rfoster, @clinton and @markmcg… And everyone who contributes the observations that help so much in building my knowledge - and our collective knowledge.”
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on August 18, 2020 02:53 by markmcg markmcg | 6 comments | Leave a comment

July 26, 2020

Spring BioBlitz

Hi Australasian Fishes Project members.
I thought I would take a moment to direct you to a journal post by thebeachcomber.
The post, https://inaturalist.ala.org.au/posts/38711-spring-bioblitz, is an invitation to participate in the upcoming Spring Bioblitz which is being run from September 25th to 28th.
I encourage you to get involved in this worthy project. Mark it in your calendars!
Posted on July 26, 2020 06:43 by markmcg markmcg | 2 comments | Leave a comment

July 16, 2020

Scientist Member Profile - Jeff Johnson

The Australasian Fishes project is extremely fortunate to have the support of many professional scientists, who assist not only with fish identification, but also in maintaining the integrity of the rapidly growing database. This article is the second in our series of profiles of scientists who are kind enough to participate in and support Australasian Fishes. In this article we meet Jeff Johnson, Ichthyologist and fish collections manager at Queensland Museum (QM), Brisbane.
Jeff has been employed in Ichthyology at Queensland Museum since 1977, arriving under their cadetship system and then working as a museum technician. When the former Curator of Fishes retired in 1995, he took on the dual role of Senior Collection Manager and Research Ichthyologist. His aim was to maintain research output and promote Ichthyology at QM as best he could through individual and collaborative taxonomic research. Most will know Jeff from his project support, he had helped with over 4,000 identifications (see: https://www.inaturalist.org/people/jeffwj). At the time of writing this article, Jeff was mostly working from home because the QM was right in the middle of major renovations, and at the same time the entire collection of alcohol preserved specimens was being prepped for a move to a new facility 12 km away. He said, "This move involves lots of planning and meetings with architects, engineers and factoring in OH&S concerns with all that alcohol!"
Question: Our Members would be interested in the origins of your interest in nature, especially fish. Did your interest in science begin at a young age?
Jeff: Over many years my extended family maintained a long tradition of taking vacations to fish throughout northern Australia, often in far-away places. This often involved very long drives and rough roads, towing and launching boats to explore renowned marine and freshwaters hotspots, from Windorah in far western Qld to Princess Charlotte Bay on Cape York. I became more involved in underwater pursuits and in the 1970s, the Queensland government had a cadetship program whereby successful appointees worked in particular departments during the day, while attaining academic qualifications at university 3 or 4 nights per week. In 1977 I was shortlisted for such a vacancy. I was asked if I had any experience in camping in remote areas, had spent time at sea, in the maintenance and operation of boats, outboard motors and 4WD vehicles, or an interest in fishes. It seemed like the job was designed especially for me! My response must have been acceptable as the museum’s deputy director advised that I had the job that afternoon.
Question: Why the interest in the Australasian Fishes project? How did you get involved with our iNaturalist project?
Jeff: I have been very pleased to be involved in the Australasian Fishes Project. As the number and diversity of logged species escalate, they prove increasingly valuable for research, providing a variety of information such as locality records, colour variation within and between species, and basically what fish was where on temporal scales. On a personal level, the project also provides an excellent opportunity to give back to the community by sharing my expertise in either confirming or correcting IDs, and by adding comments or details that may assist others with future identifications.
Question: Could you tell us a little about your typical, fish identification process using photos?
Jeff: Only with experience can an observer instantly recognise the features that signal broad groups of fishes. The identification process is so much easier if you can say that’s a tropical snapper, a wrasse, a mullet, or a goby, without resorting to long involved taxonomic keys to families! For professionals or newcomers alike, The Fishes of Australia site (https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/) is an invaluable resource, with multiple images of many Australian species at your fingertips, should you need to check that you’re on track. Once I have resolved the identity of a photographed species to the best level, I can be confident with, I will look for the features known to distinguish it from its closest relatives.
Question: Do you go into the water much these days. Scuba, snorkel, etc.?
Jeff: I have no skill in underwater photography worth mentioning, but still snorkel at every available opportunity, especially in Moreton Bay near my home, to keep an eye on the fish populations. Most trips incorporate destinations that have diving opportunities, even if that is only a secondary objective of the trip. In the last decade I have snorkelled or dived in Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands (my favourite), Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, as well as Western Australia, Tasmania and NSW. Over the last 20 years in Qld I have spent 3 to 6 weeks every year based at the same two locations investigating inner and outer reefs on the northern section of the GBR.

You always see more fish if you take it slowly, pause, and avoid jerky movements or splashing at the surface. I’d like a dollar for every spearfisherman that has relayed his frustration to me at seeing only a couple of decent fish during an hour or mores swim, when I have observed many times more in virtually the same time and area. To some extent fish are able to sense whether you present a serious threat, based on how you look and behave. I have a few favourite snorkelling spots only a few hundred metres away from home where I can take a breath, sit motionless on the bottom and have several large rockcod, a bunch of sweetlips, bream and other species gradually come closer and closer until they are milling around curiously within only a metre or so. Fish can be more intelligent than many people give them credit for. I like to recall my experience in 2015 with a large Spangled Emperor at Ned’s Beach on Lord Howe Island, easily recognised by a small scar on its flank and an imperfection to its lower caudal fin lobe. After a few days, this individual would recognise me, swim straight over, take food from my hand and follow me around, whereas the other half dozen or so of the same size and species would show little interest, keep their distance at all times and not follow me away from the shallow sandy area where tourists are permitted to feed the fish. Three years later in 2018 I returned to the island and was surprised to find the same individual (but no others) immediately swam over and followed me around, even in the absence of food.
Question: What was the most difficult fish you had to identify? Why was it difficult?
Jeff: At the museum we get a huge range of public enquiries about fishes from anglers, commercial fishers, beachcombers and naturalists. Many requests for ids are quite easy as they are species that simply look odd and hence repeatedly pique the interest of many people. The most difficult fish items to identify tend to be skeletal remains washed up on beaches. Many consist only of fragments, often eroded by wave action. The skulls, jaws and otoliths of many species gradually become familiar and we have a large reference collection to draw comparison, but there are always odd ones that take a lot of trial and error to determine. For some reason many members of the public imagine the skull of large snapper complete with swollen hyperostosis to be that of a cassowary, and the rotting cartilaginous skulls and vertebral columns of sharks and rays are of course bound to be the remains of mysterious deep sea creatures!

Several fish spring to mind when I think of those most difficult to identify. The first is a juvenile sweetlips that we collected in a large rockpool on Sweers Island, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It was clearly among the group of Plectorhinchus that have striped juvenile phases, but some of the counts, or meristic data, did not quite match any of the likely suspects. I was very familiar with all the members of this group and the amazing transformation in colour pattern that they go through, having examined most available striped sweetlips specimens in Australian and many overseas collections, leading to a paper being published on the subject with Jack Randall some years earlier. For the purposes of a report Tony Gill and I published on the fishes of Sweers Island, we put it down as closest to P. albovittatus, and it remained on a museum shelf for a few years before things became clearer. A fly fisherman from Weipa later sent in great photos of two large fish that he had caught on the flats, one clearly a Painted Sweetlips, Diagramma pictum labiosum, and the other very similar in colour, but clearly an unidentified Plectorhinchus, based on the dorsal fin spine count. The second fish was known in the fly angling community in northern and north-western Australia as the Blue Bastard, due to it having a blue-grey sheen and being reluctant to take a fly, hence a bastard to catch. It had always been referred to as a northern colour form of the common Painted Sweetlips, but I was suspicious and had never had the opportunity to examine one or get an accurate dorsal spine count to validate whether that was true. The angler set about catching several more and arranged to have them sent to Brisbane for me. The search was then on for intermediate growth phases and in the ensuing year these were found variously misidentified as 3 other Plectorhinchus species in fish collections in Perth, Darwin and Hobart. Some of about 10 cm in length, misidentified as P. polytaenia, were collected during a fish survey from off the Kimberley in WA that I had been part of. The counts and proportional measurements were collated and the gradual changes in colouration from small juvenile through to large adult noted, but the clincher came with genetic samples of juveniles from Darwin, which turned out to be a perfect match to the adults from Weipa and distinct from all other sweetlips species. It was satisfying to finally get a positive id on that juvenile from Sweers Island, and to describe a new species that is quite common, is widespread, reaches a large size, and is of interest to anglers.
Question: What do you think about the project? Are we making a contribution, and if so, in what areas do you believe the data we are collecting will ultimately be useful, in a scientific context?
Jeff: I am impressed with the results and spirit of co-operation among the respondents of the project to date. As the number and variety of records increases, their value and significance grow exponentially. It is great to see many early and regular contributors maintaining their interest, as well as new people joining in and adding material when they get the chance. Detailed scientific surveys of fishes have not been conducted in all areas throughout the Australasian region, and of course those that have been are rarely repeated regularly to detect temporal changes. The project will help to fill in gaps, provide an ongoing record of occurrences over time and likely present good evidence to support expanding or contracting ranges due to climatic or other variables. I would like to see a continuation along similar lines. For each dive site, gradually accumulate all species that you can get, until it becomes increasingly hard to find anything new. In particular, try to capture the shot if you spot anything rare or out of the ordinary in your regular dive site. Photos of species do not have to be perfect, but in all cases, they should be of sufficient quality so that they have the potential to be identified. I will be pleased if I can help out with that task from time to time.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on July 16, 2020 02:05 by markmcg markmcg | 4 comments | Leave a comment

June 17, 2020

Member profile - John Turnbull

Perhaps one of the most famous stories used by motivational speakers is about a Persian farmer who’d heard of diamonds being discovered in remote parts of the land. They were so plentiful they could be picked up by anyone. The farmer wanted this instant wealth, so he sold his farm and used the money to travel the continent, looking for the elusive diamonds. His search was unsuccessful, and he died in misery and poverty, never having found his treasure. However, the person who’d bought his farm, one day was looking into the creek which watered his land and discovered, of course, it was filled with acres of diamonds. The story illustrates the wealth which is to be found in our own backyards.
In the not too distant past, much of the advanced science in Australia was a similar story. The idea that if you wanted to do real science, for example, study dinosaurs, you had to travel to another continent, as Australia did not have many dino fossils. Many did travel overseas for their study of palaeontology, believing all the diamonds were to be found elsewhere. Of course, today we realise this assumption was not true. In reality, there are acres of dino fossils in Australia, however, they are found in locations much different than in the rest of the world. We need not have travelled much further than our own backyards.
Our featured project leader, John Turnbull, who is ranked 15th in Australasian Fishes observations, often reminds us of treasures found in our own backyard, through his work for our project and other research endeavours. Looking at past Journal articles which feature his discoveries (see: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/australasian-fishes/journal/8560-new-species-record-for-sydney-harbour and https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/australasian-fishes/journal/11179-another-new-species-record-for-sydney-harbour ), illustrates his search to advance scientific knowledge of the Sydney Harbour area as well as find the hidden gems.
John developed his fascination with the ocean as young child exploring the rock pools of Sydney’s wonderful coastline, finding crabs and octopus, getting cut feet and sunburn, all with a grin on his face. His first diving experiences were typically away from home in the 1990s, as he thought (like many people) that you had to travel north or overseas to see anything interesting underwater. However, after taking a decade or so off to focus on family, he discovered the diversity and colour of Sydney’s marine life through joining a local dive club.
Even today, John has retained his boyish fascination with nature, and now regards Sydney Harbour as an entire new world to uncover, in his own backyard. Taking his nature photography passion underwater, he made it a personal goal to show others what he was discovering every week. This was the beginning of his web site, Marine Explorer (http://www.marineexplorer.org/ ) to share his photos, videos and stories, and when he found iNaturalist and the Australian Fishes project, he recognised a kindred spirit, so he made all his photos available to this citizen science platform.
To get an idea of the frequency of John’s observations he dives nearly every week, often more than once, and always take pictures, between 100 and 200 on every dive. He says, “We are so lucky in Sydney as the complex topography and intricate waterways mean there is nearly always somewhere sheltered enough for a dive. I’m certified as Self Reliant so I can do a solo dive for a couple of hours at places like Bare Island, Clifton Gardens in the Harbour or the sanctuary zone at Shelly Beach, and I’m never bored. Even if I just find my usual suspects, they are always doing something new or interesting, or the light is different. Then there’s the new arrivals, tropical species coming down on the East Australian Current. I do regular surveys too as part of the Reef Life Survey program, and these make you focus closely on a 50 m transect. This often means you’re poking around more closely than usual, and so you find new things.”
As you can tell, John’s contributions run beyond his personal website and he is engaged in several significant marine projects. They include:
1. Underwater Research Group (www.urgdiveclub.org.au ) - founded in the late 1950s by a group of pioneering SCUBA divers with a passion for citizen science. John is currently the President of the club and has been involved in sourcing a number of projects for club members over the years, bringing scientists and volunteers together for mutual benefit. They currently have two main projects; doing underwater clean-ups in the harbour and categorising debris to inform preventative strategies (UNSW research) and monitoring Weedy Seadragon populations on the east coast (UTS project). The group has their own dive boat and dive pretty much weekly in the Sydney region, and have some element of citizen science on most dives.
2. Reef Life Survey (www.reeflifesurvey.com) – John is also involved in Reef Life Survey as the East Coast coordinator. He regards this as the gold standard of citizen science programs as it requires you to train to a level equivalent to a marine scientist and conduct full scale underwater biodiversity surveys. This training can be very rewarding and incredibly important to large scale ecological studies. He encourages interested divers willing to offer the required time and commitment to register interest on the RLS web site.
3. As mentioned, Marine Explorer is his site which he developed around 2012 to bring pictures and stories of marine life to a wider audience. This is in addition to his personal projects John publishes in social media, which include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and sometimes Instagram. He also operates a large library of photos on Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/johnwturnbull/ ) and videos on Vimeo (https://vimeo.com/marineexplorer ). All of his content is creative commons non-commercial with attribution, to encourage people to share and use it. As you can imagine his images are used regularly in scientific articles, popular science articles, books and video programs and have been published in the book Underwater Sydney.
He says, “Although the Harbour and wider Sydney coastline have incredible diversity, we have settled for much less marine life than (we) would have after decades, centuries of overexploitation. You can see it when you dive Shelly and get twice the species richness and 4 or 5 times the fish biomass in this small sanctuary zone compared to other places. What we have now is incredible for Australia’s biggest city, but it could be so much more with better protection in place.”
“On land, you can see when a forest is deteriorating or animals are disappearing, but underwater this is often hidden. Scientists just don’t have the resources - time or money - to do enough monitoring to know what’s going on in any real depth in our marine ecosystems. Without citizen science, this “out of sight, out of mind” problem would continue. I think people taking pictures of underwater fish, invertebrates and plants and putting these online is incredibly important to us being able to manage and conserve our marine life. This was the impetus for me starting Marine Explorer, and after 8 years I still do a daily post on social media of an interesting animal or plant, with a sentence or two. When I last looked, Marine Explorer had over 5 million views on Flickr - so I think there is interest there. Every time someone takes a pic, shares it online and maybe influences another person to think about marine life, you’re adding to our collective consciousness.”
John has vast experience in marine photography and shares advice for those interested in capturing the marine environment. He says, “You can get some nice shots with a simple setup like the Olympus TG series, particularly close-ups in shallow water, however, on land most of my shots are aperture or shutter priority, sometimes manual, but underwater they’re nearly all on manual. I took most of my online library of 10,000 plus images on the Sony RX-100, a compact camera with good sensor and excellent manual controls. These days I use an A6500 so I can swap out the lenses, to get macro and fisheye, but honestly this has some upside and some downside. I have to sacrifice some depth of field and flexibility with the bigger setup.”
“In my view the camera is the second most important thing, though. Photography is all about light, so to me, unless you’re in a rockpool or on snorkel, I wouldn’t bother to take pics with any camera unless I had one strobe, preferably two. Get the lighting right, and just about any camera can capture the image. So for a beginner setup that you won’t outgrow, I’d go for the RX-100 (any model) in a good aluminium housing like Nautical with a TTL strobe like the YS-01.”
Perhaps the best thing about having diamonds in your own back yard is that they are so easy to find and are accessible to everyone. It might be a river, harbour or patch of ocean, all of which are accessible to most, and John believes that everyone can make a contribution. He says, “If you take a pic of something that’s not uncommon and ID it, then you’re adding to your knowledge and next time around you’ll notice something more interesting. Every time you share your data - in the form of pictures, videos, whatever, you’re adding to our global database of species, where they live, their habitat, etc. iNaturalist is a great tool because you hook up with others, who might help you do IDs and in return can appreciate you sharing your pictures, so it really is a community of like-minded people. I’m not much good at identifying insects, for example, but in recent weeks I’ve been photographing birds and insects in my local area due to coronavirus and iNaturalist people have helped me to identify most of them.”
So we don’t have to be like the Persian farmer, and seek success in our citizen science endeavours far from home. There are acres of diamonds close by, and with a simple camera, face mask and fins, and using Australasian Fishes, you can make lasting contributions to science, like John.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on June 17, 2020 05:56 by markmcg markmcg | 12 comments | Leave a comment

May 25, 2020

Scientist Member Profile - Dr Emma Kennedy

Members are aware that several of our project participants are themselves, professional scientists, who generously share their knowledge and expertise with our community. In addition, as highlighted in the previous journal entry, the professional scientific community is now accessing our growing database, to assist in their areas of research. Australasian Fishes participants are furthering research and our knowledge of our marine environment.
This bio blurb is about Dr Emma Kennedy, a research scientist based at the University of Queensland. Known in the project as reef_scientist, Emma grew up in the UK where she learned to dive in a gravel pit outside London. After completing a PhD in Caribbean coral reef ecology at University of Exeter, she moved to Australia where she worked with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to determine whether coralline algae can be used to track the impacts of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef.
She now works in the Remote Sensing Research Group, creating reef habitat maps that will be key in supporting coral reef science and conservation efforts more broadly. She is a strong advocate of citizen science, teaches diving regularly and sits on the science advisory committee for Reef Check Australia. Here she responds to our series of questions:
Question: Our Members would be interested in the origins of your interest in nature, especially fish. Did your interest in science begin at a young age?
Dr Kennedy: I grew up in central London, where there are not many tropical fish, but I used to visit the Natural History museum and see all the cabinets full of stuffed wildlife collected from all over the world. I loved looking at all the exotic animals. They had a coelacanth - a deep sea fish believed to be extinct for over 66 million years until one got dragged up in a net off the coast of Africa the 1930s - in a glass case. Seven-year old me just thought it was both the most terrifying and amazing thing ever!
Question: Why the interest in the Australasian Fishes project? How did you get involved with our iNaturalist project?
Dr Kennedy: Until recently most of my research was been based in the Caribbean, where I spent over ten years diving and working with coral reef species. When I moved to Australia, I needed to familiarise myself quickly with a very different system of reefs - the Great Barrier Reef - so I could continue to conduct field research. There are more species of fish on the Great Barrier Reef than in the whole Caribbean Sea - and there's no natural overlap so there were whole new families for me to learn like Siganids - so I needed to learn a lot and it was quite overwhelming! I use photos to help me with my ID as we're often too busy working underwater to be able to spend a lot of time looking around. Later I can look at the details in the photo to try and work out what I'd seen. iNaturalist was a great community for me to test my knowledge with a community of helpful experts to help check my ID for me!
Question: Could you tell us a little about your typical, fish identification process using photos?
Dr Kennedy: Tropical reef fish are often colourful, which can sometimes be a distraction! Many people's first thought is to use colour and markings, which are useful as a secondary method of identification but are not always reliable as some species can vary, and colour will appear different with depth changes (what looks red in a book will look brown or black at 10 m). Colours change throughout life, or in periods of stress or mating, as can patterns. I always begin by looking carefully at two things: the body shape of the fish, and how its moving in the water. The body shape can give you a really good indication of which family the fish belongs to - and what they do for a living! For example, predatory fish living in the open water (like a barracuda) tend to be more streamlined, with powerful tail fins and a thick caudal peduncle to provide rapid acceleration when hunting. Obviously, a set of sharp teeth is also a giveaway! Then there are heaps of smaller features related to body shape: how big is the eye? Does it have "eyebrows"? (cirri?). Look at the head shape and the mouth - parrotfish have amazing beaks! How many fins can you count? Check out the dorsal fin - is there one or two? And don't forget the caudal (tail) fin - is it forked, indicating a faster swimming fish like a tuna, does it have a curved (lunate) or flat (truncate) end? These things should be enough to get you to the family - then you can use patterns (angled "stripes", vertical "bars" or horizontal "bands", blotches, dots and spots) and finally colours to help refine your fish down to species. Another primary tool for identification is to observe how the fish is behaving. For example, the way they swim (which fins they use for propulsion), where on the reef they are (whether they are associated with a particular food source, are they hiding, are they on the ground). Is it "flapping" wing-like pectoral fins, or walking on "hands"? A photo can be a great tool, but it’s never a match for spending time underwater with an animal - which is why it can be hard to learn straight from a book.
Question: Do you go into the water much these days. Scuba, snorkel, etc.?
Dr Kennedy: You can't keep me out of the water! I'm lucky that for my main job, as a research scientist at University of Queensland I typically spend 3-4 months of the year on fieldwork, which means a lot of time living and diving in some very remote locations on the Great Barrier Reef. But it’s also my dream to get as many people onto a reef as possible - the Great Barrier Reef is something that everybody should get to experience - which is why I have a second job as a scuba instructor at Brisbane Dive Academy: introducing new divers to the wonderful underwater world is my favourite thing to do! I really enjoy underwater photography but I'm still learning. A recent project that I worked on, we used "Google Street View" style underwater camera-scooters to photograph kilometres of reef at a time. Using advanced Artificial Intelligence - like facial recognition technology - allowed us to identify the corals in 1000s of images in record-breaking time. I love how iNaturalist is making these kinds of technology available to help people ID species in their own backyards.
Question: What was the most difficult fish you had to identify? Why was it difficult?
Dr Kennedy: There are 5000 species of coral reef fishes in the Indo-Pacific: I still struggle every day! It can definitely be confusing the first time you see a fish you're very unfamiliar with. I was working at Heron Island Research Station once when I saw a very large shark-like fish, lying flat on the sand in the deep-water below the boat as I was returning from a dive. It was the strangest shape I'd ever seen - with two huge dorsal fins - and was black as night with white speckles that looked a star-filled sky. I was carrying a lot of equipment and needed to get back to the boat, so we didn't have time to get close and have a look. It took me and my buddy over a week to work out what it is we'd seen was Rhina ancylostoma, a rare type of Rhino Ray called a "Shark Ray". Even though it’s incredibly distinctive, it's very strange looking fish - our descriptions just confused everybody at the research station - and we didn't even know where to start looking in the identification guides!
Question: What are your personal, current areas of research? How long have you been engaged in these areas?
Dr Kennedy: I'm a benthic marine ecologist. This means I specialise in the communities of animals and plants found living on tropical coral reefs, how different species interact with each other and with the environment. In particular my research has focused on climate change - specifically ocean warming and ocean acidification - and how it affects these communities both in space and time. Sometimes it means my work is quite sad, as coral reefs are changing fast and it’s my job to go and see how things like coral bleaching are changing large areas of the Great Barrier Reef. But I've dipped into some really fun research areas too - including using underwater microphones to "listen" to noisy fish, Google Street View style data collection and I even worked in a seaweed lab. Currently I'm working on a project to create the first ever detailed map of the whole planet's coral reefs habitats from outer space! I completed my PhD in Caribbean reef ecology 7 years ago and moved to Australia where I've lived and worked ever since.
Question: What do you think about the project? Are we making a contribution?
Dr Kennedy: INaturalist gets me really excited as a spatial ecologist. I'm really interested in how animals use the environment, and crowd-sourced observations uploaded to the app could be invaluable data source for helping us understand more about species distributions and behaviour. The marine environment in particular can be challenging to work in, and often scientists like me don't have the resources to be able to visit lots of reefs to collect data on fish - but by working together as a community we can help share our data and improve our understanding of these fragile ecosystems! It’s also a lot of fun. There is a porcupine ray that I always see hiding under the jetty at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Now, when I log into iNaturalist I can see she's been spotted in lots of other places by other divers - even as far as the next coral reef along! And a pink anemonefish I found in Indonesia turned out to be a new record for that area! Finally, it's a fun way to test your knowledge, connect with experts and contribute to citizen science.
Australasian Fishes would like to thank Dr Kennedy for supporting our project with observations, identifications and for participating in the Question and Answer session. We are grateful for both her enthusiasm for marine research and for her willingness to support the citizen science community.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on May 25, 2020 06:14 by markmcg markmcg | 4 comments | Leave a comment

May 08, 2020

Clingfish image requested for publication

I love it when an image on Australasian Fishes is requested for use in a scientific paper. Recently Dr Kevin Conway, Associate Professor/Curator of Fishes at Texas A&M University, requested the use of one of Daan Hoffmann’s images.
The image (above left) shows an Orange Clingfish, Diplocrepis puniceus, a New Zealand endemic species that occurs in shallow temperate marine waters often in rockpools. It is usually observed under rocks or boulders in sheltered areas where it feeds on small crustaceans, molluscs and fishes.
Kevin requested the photo for use on a multi-species plate in a paper about the evolution and relationships of clingfishes of the world. View a video of Kevin collecting clingfishes.
Daan works as the Collections Photographer at the Auckland Museum (view an image of Daan at work). The photograph on the right, above, shows Daan diving with his camera setup. Daan now lives in New Zealand but was born in the Netherlands. He’s lived in a number of places, including Malaysia and Australia before landing in New Zealand.
Daan has been diving since 2013, when he undertook a marine studies course at the Bay of Plenty Polytechnic in an effort to inform/combine his photography with a fascination for underwater life. The course included a diving component, and before long Daan had acquired an underwater camera setup. Most of his diving since has been around Tauranga.
Daan has been working for Auckland Museum since October 2017, initially as Documentary Heritage Photographer digitizing the library's collections then into his current role in the main photography team which sees him working across all of the museum's collections.
As I said, I'm delighted to see Australasian Fishes Project members contributing to the advancement of science. I'm sure we'll see more if this in the future.
Posted on May 08, 2020 03:27 by markmcg markmcg | 7 comments | Leave a comment

April 23, 2020

Member profile - John Sear

Recently, while on a trip to the US, I noticed an unusual approach to rural road maintenance that was underway in several States. Called, “Adopt-a-Highway” it was common in those States to see a stretch of road, apparently sponsored by a corporation, church group etc. While this program is actually a marketing exercise, where companies pay to have their logo posted on a stretch of road, it did make me wonder about taking personal ownership over sections of the natural environment. While Australasian Fishes operates Australia and New Zealand-wide, it is clear that some participants have decided to implement “Adopt-a-Piece-of-Ocean”, as their approach to documenting the local fauna. This subject of this Member Profile, John Sear, has explored Australia and has adopted his own patch of the Pacific.
John grew up in a rural area of the Midlands in the UK, spending much of his spare time, as a youth, close to nature. Like many of us he recalls, watching broadcast nature shows, such as those of David Attenborough, however, he says, “The lure of the ocean was a seed sown by Jacques Cousteau. My piscine interest started with a freshwater aquarium and translated to a couple of marine tanks at one stage in Sydney.”
He graduated from Imperial College, London with a Biochemistry degree. Today John is working as a Program Manager delivering business transformation initiatives to large organisations. It is clear that diving and love of nature are his escape from the insanity of corporate life, and over the years he’s nurtured a continued interest in many aspects of life sciences. This is very fortunate for our project.
This early interest in the ocean grew for John, especially after taking a break after five years in the corporate world to travel. His journey eventually led him to Australia, while along the way he snorkelled in Tahiti and the Cook Islands. However, by the time he’d arrived in Fiji, he decided it was time to learn to dive, using SCUBA. He recounts that his sixth dive was on the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand back in 1991. He was hooked!
He says, “Manly soon became my new home in Sydney and Shelly Beach the local dive spot. In the early 90’s it was quite polluted, and overfished, but since the Cabbage Tree Bay Aquatic Reserve was introduced in 2002 things have changed dramatically. An increase in fish biomass has attracted larger predator species, and the reserve has become a popular snorkelling tourist attraction for juvenile Dusky Whaler sharks between Feb and June. One of the benefits of long-term observations is that with enough citizen contributions any changes in distributions of species can be identified. Fish species being found beyond their normal distribution range can also support scientific hypotheses such as climate change models. Increased numbers of tropical species from year to year is something we are noticing in Cabbage Tree Bay. Observations along the coast will also help validate the models, as temperate species themselves may be displaced farther south. Ultimately, it might provide an insight as to how quickly ecosystems can adapt, or do more sensitive, less mobile species disappear forever?”
Such insight comes from visiting an area often and helping to create records of the changes he observed. As a result, John has contributed 2,392 observations to iNaturalist, documenting an amazing 1,117 different species. For the Australasian Fishes project, he has contributed (coincidentally) 1,117 observations, which illustrate 501 different species. He is currently ranked in 17th place on the Australasia Fishes Leader board for project observations.
It is not surprising that many of his observations are from his Adopt-a-Piece-of-Ocean area of Cabbage Tree Bay. He is a Manly local who dives most weekends and over the years, participated in species surveys of the area. This sparked his interest in photography, which started with a Nikonos V. Like many of us, he reports, “Several camera floods later, I dive now with a Canon EOS 5D Mk 4, in a Subal Housing. I usually use a 100mm macro lens most of the year and wide angle if the visibility improves in the cooler months. Recently I bought an Olympus TG-6 camera, as a backup for those times when you just can’t pack all the gear. There are so many cameras and underwater setups available now, but a beginner just needs to start with a simple set-up.”
Having developed his own underwater photography skills he says, “Mastering the challenges that present themselves underwater can be frustrating at first but with practice you can improve results quickly. Lighting underwater is important, as fish often require faster shutter speeds, and there usually is less natural light available underwater to perfect an exposure unless you are in very shallow water.”
His images are used to help others interested in his patch of the ocean. He set up the “Fish of Cabbage Tree Bay” website to help people identify what they see underwater whilst swimming, diving, or snorkelling. He reports, “At the time I relied heavily on Mark McGrouther and all his fish expert contacts for identification of the fish I couldn’t find in my books. When Mark introduced me to iNaturalist and the Australasian Fishes project, it provided a fantastic opportunity to put all my images to good use and make them more accessible to a wider audience. The expertise available on this site exceeds that of most diver’s home libraries.”
His Adopt-a-Piece-of-Ocean philosophy has resulted in regularly diving in Cabbage Tree Bay and recording sightings since 2012. This insight has allowed him to observe many changes, new species arriving more regularly, and seeing some now capable of surviving winter months. He has recorded and photographed approximately 350 fish species in Cabbage Tree Bay and says that there are still many that he hasn’t captured yet that other divers have. He advises others who may want to “adopt a piece of local ocean” to realise that, “Sometimes you need a bit of luck with timing but many fish prefer specific habitats, so you can target specific species in typical habitats, many of which occur throughout the reserve. In particular the juvenile tropicals love rubble piles in shallow water, where you will find butterflyfish, and surgeonfish grazing on algae covered rocks. In recent years colonies of hard coral (Pocillopora aliciae) have moved into residence within Cabbage Tree Bay aquatic reserve. As well as providing habitat for many fish and invertebrates that never used to be seen in the reserve, the proliferation of the coral across barren rock platforms has now provided a climate change survey site for a team from the University of Technology, Sydney.”
While John mostly uses SCUBA, he sometimes will survey new areas with mask and snorkel. He recalls, “I enjoy my travelling and always take a camera, but in 2015 I took the family around Australia on a 13-month epic road trip. With limited space in our camper trailer I did manage to squirrel my housing, fins, snorkel and mask into a “secret” compartment in the trailer. That trip provided an excellent opportunity to capture some fish species in lots of different areas, usually snorkelling and freediving, though I did manage to dive Busselton Jetty and the SS Yongala, both magnificent dive locations.”
His” Adopt-a-Piece-of-Ocean” approach has yielded significant insight into not only his understanding of his local area of Cabbage Tree Bay, but has resulted in him supporting research projects and the benefit of intensively collecting data in a single area. For example, he says, “I think recent attempts to introduce crayweed arose from the fact it used to flourish in the area before sewage outfalls were introduced. In the years before the aquatic reserve was established the reef areas were thick with urchins and with higher pollution levels in the water meant the plant life in the bay was less diverse. Cleaner waters these days allow diversity of seaweed to rapidly flourish. Larger storms have stripped areas of vegetation on the reef as documented by David Booth in a recent paper, but they recover rapidly.
Cabbage Tree Bay supports many niche habitats for different species. The combination of reduced pollution and removal of fishing from the area, has resulted in significant increases in the biomass of vegetation and fish species within the aquatic reserve. The presence of large schools of yellowtail scad now attract larger predatory fish, and schools of tailor, bonito, and kingfish are common. Even regular sightings of the Grey Nurse Shark are a clear indication of the improvement of conditions. They were very rarely seen in Cabbage Tree Bay 30 years ago.”
“The species surveys commenced for me when discussing the diversity with other divers. Individuals always have a different eye and often follow habitual dive patterns. Consequently, the more people recording the more complete a picture you will capture. Surveys written on slates, led to debates over similar looking fish, and this could only be resolved with photos. Fortunately, the arrival of commonly available underwater cameras solved many debates. Diving with other divers too, teaches you to look in different ways, and as you find more you start looking for smaller things. It is only limited by your eyesight which is becoming an issue for me!”
John summarised this philosophy by saying, “There are some remarkable contributors to iNaturalist who I have been very privileged to dive with and learn from. Finding a new species, you haven’t encountered before can also reinvigorate your enthusiasm for a dive site. This can be done by diving with a new buddy, or breaking out from that regular dive pattern, or just picking a small area of habitat and looking more closely. I have recently started contributing data and observations to Chris Robert's (University of New South Wales) current survey, and provided some assistance to David Booth's team now surveying the Pocillopora corals, but would be keen to have a more active role, which is why I keep contributing to iNaturalist. I suspect in the near future scientists will find the available data can be effectively mined to support their studies.”
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on April 23, 2020 05:59 by markmcg markmcg | 3 comments | Leave a comment

April 12, 2020

Wow! 1000 members!

Australasian Fishes went online on 4 Oct 2016. Little did we know that in under 4 years, the project would grow to nearly 80,000 observations with contributions by more than 2,400 people.
I'm delighted to announce that we recently welcomed the 1000th member to the project. @kytes is an Australian zoologist with an interest in natural history and enjoys spending time in nature looking for and identifying animals. Kytes stated, "[I am] happy to contribute my observations to science". Kytes has uploaded observations of fishes from Burleigh Heads, Queensland and Port Phillip Bay, Victoria (Smooth Toadfish in the image above). Thank you kytes, we are delighted to welcome you to our community.
As you can see from the graph above (click it for a larger version), the growth in membership is encouraging. In fact, in the few weeks it has taken me to get my act into gear and write this short piece, another 17 iNaturalist users have joined Australasian Fishes.
"Why don't all contributors join?" I hear you ask. The reasons are many. Often observations are made by holidaymakers who only have an image or two of fishes to contribute. Sometimes the person has an interest in another group of animals and a fish happened to be photographed along with 'the animal of interest'. These observations can provide interesting information about the prey items of birds. I suspect that there are also quite a few people who upload an observation to 'test the water', but for one reason or another don't follow up.
So, to all of you 1000 people who have 'followed up', thank you. Together we have created a hugely valuable resource that continues to grow. :)
Posted on April 12, 2020 01:55 by markmcg markmcg | 6 comments | Leave a comment