May 15, 2019

How you can contribute to World Oceans Week

Last year, a group in Halifax, Nova Scotia set up an iNaturalist project, World Oceans Week 2018, and is issuing a challenge once again to divers and others to contribute to the count for 2019.
This year, World Oceans Week runs from June 1-9. A new iNaturalist project, World Oceans Week 2019, has been set up to document a snapshot of the world’s ocean life during the days surrounding the U.N. Oceans Day (June 8).
The Australasian Fishes community can play our part to make this initiative a success. I strongly encourage you all to make a big effort to record new observations during the first week of June. As always, please upload your observations to Australasian Fishes but in addition, add them to the World Oceans Week 2019 project. Your observations will then be included in the World Oceans Week 2019 count. We can provide excellent information on our part of the world and showcase the strength of our Australasian Fishes community. The information below has been copied from the World Oceans Week 2019 project page.
Thanks everyone,
Mark 🙂

World Oceans Week project overview

In recognition of Oceans Week, a group from Halifax, Nova Scotia would like to once again challenge the global iNaturalist community to make this an opportunity to explore our coastal areas, our oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes. Observations of marine flora and fauna shared through iNaturalist will help fill gaps in temporal, spatial and taxonomic coverage around the world.
The objective of the World Oceans Week 2019 iNaturalist project is simple – we wish to encourage people to accept the challenge to record and share their own personal observations. From June 1-9 set aside time to explore our coastal areas, oceans and seas. If you don’t have an opportunity to visit these areas perhaps explore a local river or lake or use this opportunity to go through old photos and select images of plants and animals taken when on vacation at the beach.
On June 8th each year, we celebrate the ocean, its importance in our lives, and how we can protect it - World Oceans Day helps raise the profile of the ocean and inspire more involvement in helping to conserve this amazing resource we all depend on. During Oceans Week all around the globe events and activities are organized and all are encouraged to participate as it is up to each one of us to help ensure that our ocean is healthy for future generations.
For those of us who are lucky to live/play along the coast or work at sea or have opportunities to partake in ecotourism on the high seas we would like to encourage getting out and exploring nature. Recording and sharing our observations will help create research grade data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature. This is the vision of iNaturalist.
It is fitting that this Oceans Week challenge to share coastal and marine observations originates from Atlantic Canada as it was a group located in Nova Scotia, the Oceans Institute of Canada (OIC), located at Dalhousie University and led by its Director, Dr. Judith Swan, and supported and counseled by Haligonian, Elisabeth Mann Borgese, the founder of the International Ocean Institute, who first introduced at the United Nations (UN) Earth Summit in 1992, the concept of World Oceans Day (WOD) on behalf of the Government of Canada.
Oceans Week this year is June 1-9th.
For more information on the history of WOD see http://www.worldoceansday.org/history
Posted on May 15, 2019 02:53 by markmcg markmcg | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 07, 2019

Behind the power of iNaturalist

In past bio-blurbs we introduced project participants to individuals who are assisting in the Australasian Fishes project. In this edition, we introduce, not a person, but a key element in the success of the project, the software used to collect the research data, iNaturalist.
Imagine that NASA contacted you for advice. They said they were launching a space probe, designed to travel beyond the Solar System, and wanted to include data which illustrated all natural life on Earth. Assuming that once you were over the initial surprise that NASA had your contact details, you might ponder the options available before giving them advice. Perhaps many of you would suggest launching a complete, digitised, set of David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries, which would provide a beautiful and amazing cross section of our planet’s natural environment. On the other hand, you might suggest storing aboard the spacecraft, a digitised set of all National Geographic (NatGeo) issues, since its founding in 1888, as a way to provide a photo collection of some of the best wildlife images on our planet. Both would provide any interested extra-terrestrial with a broad view of the diversity of natural wildlife found on Earth, however, we know that both views would be limited. In spite of the fact that both David Attenborough’s work and the entire NatGeo collection have given mankind an excellent perspective of the planet over the years, we know there are still a lot of images of our rich natural life, laying on the cutting room floor at both institutions. Each entity recording the natural environment exists not only to provide documentary evidence of life on the planet, but must also entertain and enthral their respective audiences. The view they give us is heavily edited, designed to interest as well as document. Although graphic and attractive, both sources have gone through the filter of numerous editors, who have shaped the final product we are viewing.
I would suggest you should nominate the iNaturalist database. iNaturalist is the software used by Australasian Fishes, and would provide as a truer representation of what our planet has to offer in terms of flora and fauna diversity and uniqueness. A copy of the iNaturalist database, destined to travel beyond the Void, if downloaded today, would contain 19.7 million observations of life on Earth, covering more than 210,000 different species. The alien viewers would learn that over 1,4 million Earthlings have contributed to this project, submitting millions of images with quality ranging from amateur to NatGeo cover, in richness and colour.
The view provided would be an unvarnished, scientific database of what life looks like at a particular point in time, across the entire planet, collected by people with passion for their subjects and without the need to meet any commercial objectives. It is quite a collection as iNaturalist is the leading citizen science software in the world and worthy of the space flight.
That’s quite an accomplishment for an 11 year old piece of software, but as participants in Australasian Fishes know, this is not a regular piece of software. iNaturalist was first developed in 2008, placing it’s founding between the birth of Facebook (2004) and the release UBER (2009). It started life as a group Master’s Degree project at the University of California’s Berkley School of Information. Three Berkley students, Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline and Ken-ichi Ueda worked together to create the earliest version of this citizen science software. Once it was produced, both Agrin and Ueda continued working on the platform, collaborating, and seeking help from others along the way. By 2014, the project merged with the California Academy of Sciences, and since 2017, it has been a joint initiative between the Academy and the National Geographic Society.
iNaturalist needs no real introduction as all of us in the project are aware of the features of the software and how its design and utility has been a strong catalyst for growth of the Australasian Fishes (AF) project. You are using the software to read this article. It serves the project, free of charge, as a very serious and robust platform for crowdsourcing information on individual organisms (like a fish) at a particular time and place. Once recorded the observation becomes part of a global network of data on Nature, incorporated in to other online databases such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Biodiversity_Information_Facility). We have seen this process in Australasian Fishes, and the software has been a catalyst for project growth and engagement.
Participants would be encouraged by the growth in iNaturalist powered projects as illustrated by the amazing growth of observations in our project. We have over 50,000 observations of 2,194 different species. This growth is driven by our project’s 1,500+ observers submitting their images and geolocating their fish photos. The software makes creating research grade observations easy and fun because of the unique design of the platform. It is far more than just a database of life on the planet. There is also another dimension to its growth and that is “spin-off” projects or other initiatives which are using iNaturalist for their own research. Since established, iNaturalist has been the backbone of numerous citizen science initiatives such Bio Blitz’s, school projects, wildlife surveys and special interest groups. An example would be the City Nature Challenge (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Nature_Challenge) which annually focuses on urban, biodiversity. There are projects for subjects like roadkill, animal tracks and fish catches, as well as the type of data collected by Australasian Fishes. The software can handle all such varied uses, creating a diverse but comprehensive picture of natural life on this planet. Frequent users of Australasian Fishes will know of the growth in projects founded by project participants. To illustrate, you have read in the Journal section, for example, about Shelly Ocean Swimmers (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/australasian-fishes/journal/16962-member-profile-lucy-smiechura) which began as an ocean swimming group, but using the power of iNaturalist, its members have grown to be avid citizen scientists, recording almost 4,000 observations the diverse marine life in their area for all. There are other projects, which are dedicated to singular locations such as Shiprock in Sutherland Shire (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/shiprock) collects images of the diversity of marine life at one local area. There are also projects dedicated to individual classes of flora and fauna, such as Sea Slugs of the World (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/seaslugs-of-the-world) which was set up by Sascha Schultz in 2017, to carry on the earlier work of the Sea slug Forum. So, from a very local focus to the global collection of data, iNaturalist has been the successful engine of this scientific endeavour. I would guess many participants in AF belong to more than one iNaturalist projects.
What has made iNaturalist so successful is its fusion of two elements of citizen science: the citizen and the science. To support the science the software is well designed with artificial intelligence supported scientific tools including automated species identification (providing either genus or family, if the AI cannot decide on a species), easy to use geolocation software, easy data downloading, taxa guides, video tutorials, a comprehensive app, and even Teacher’s Guides on how to use the software for education. It is what you’d expect from advanced scientific software.
It is the “citizen” component which has driven its current success. Aside from its scientific grunt, the true power of the iNaturalist, however, is its integration of social medial tools for the purpose of advancing knowledge. Everyone knows the power of social media. Its power to capture (or addict?) the attention and time of people has occupied much space in the media, which has focused on the downside of social media. Research has shown it does have negative impacts such as its addictive qualities, anxiety issues resulting from fear of missing out, sleep deprivation and the decrease in communication skills for those who seem to reside in the cyber-verse for much of their waking hours. iNaturalist, however, illustrates how the addictive tools of social media can be used for positive outcomes. The social media components of the program works to connect people who share common interests, motivating and inspiring people who wish to learn and creating a virtual community of like-minded citizens, all focusing on achieving a scientific outcome or objective. There are several ways to communicate in the project, allowing group and private discussions on observations. There are leader boards recognising the contribution of project leaders in numbers of observations and identifications, a strong motivation which work to put you in contact with experts, at the touch of a button.
In summary, the iNaturalist data base would make an excellent record of life on Earth, because of people like you and the software upon which we operate. Our database is gaining notoriety in the scientific community and through your assistance and the iNaturalist platform we are helping to create to facilitate future research on the natural environment.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Thank you as always Harry! :).
Posted on May 07, 2019 10:25 by markmcg markmcg | 14 comments | Leave a comment

April 11, 2019

Ralph Foster faces the media about Sunfish

On 16 March 2019 Jacob Jones and Craig Tarry photographed a sunfish washed up on the beach near the mouth of the Murray River, South Australia.
Word got out about the fish and Ralph Foster the local expert who works at the South Australian Museum was swamped with calls. View article on the ABC News site.
The fish was identified as an Ocean Sunfish, Mola mola. Ralph stated ""I've had a good look at it, we get three species here and this is actually the rarest one in South Australian waters," The other two are the Bump-head Sunfish, Mola alexandrini and the Hoodwinker Sunfish, Mola tecta. Ralph estimated that the fish was about 1.8 metres long. He stated, "this particular sunfish was on the smaller end of the scale in terms of size".
In her comment on the page, world Sunfish expert Marianne Nyegaard stated, "This is definitely Mola mola. Eye-balling it my guess is that it would cluster with the Pacific clade genetically, however there is at present no documented, official way of morphologically distinguishing the two genetic clades of Mola mola (Atlantic/Indian Ocean and Pacific)."
Thank you all for your contributions to this important observation.
Posted on April 11, 2019 06:03 by markmcg markmcg | 4 comments | Leave a comment

April 09, 2019

Australasian Fishes findings: Feb - March 2019

Australasian Fishes now contains over 49,000 observations (>2100 species) uploaded by more than 1500 people. The table below shows some interesting observations uploaded during February and March 2019. For more details contact Mark McGrouther.

Total observation summary:
Subject Number of observations
Range extension / first record 117
Diet / feeding 27
Parasite / fungus 22
New species / newly described     11
Colour pattern 26
Damage / injuries 18
Courtship / reproduction 28
Behavioural information 15
Posted on April 09, 2019 04:56 by markmcg markmcg | 2 comments | Leave a comment

March 20, 2019

Identifying a fish

Australasian Fishes is closing in on its 50,000th observation. Of those, more than 95% have been identified to species by more than 1400 people. This is an extraordinary effort; thank you all!
Why, you might ask, aren’t they all identified to species? There are a number of answers to that question, more than one of which may apply to a single observation.
Let’s start with a couple of obvious reasons, image quality and size of the fish in the image. If the photo is poor, or the fish only occupies a tiny part of the image, it may be difficult to see the diagnostic features. In addition, the angle at which the photo is taken sometimes results in diagnostic features not being visible.
For some observations, the shape and colour pattern of the fish may not be enough to identify it. In the case of beach washups, the colour pattern of the fish may be lost entirely. Sometimes, the photo may be fine but closeups are required. In other cases, counts of fin elements, gill rakers or even internal morphology is required to make an accurate identification. And don’t get me started on identifying hybrids! Of course, the fish faunas of Australia and New Zealand aren’t fully discovered. Sometimes observations of potential new species are uploaded, such as the two above.
So well done everyone! Who would have thought when the project started in October 2016, that in less than 2.5 years we’d be looking at nearly 50,000 observations, the majority of which are identified to species.
Posted on March 20, 2019 03:20 by markmcg markmcg | 6 comments | Leave a comment

February 28, 2019

Impact of Australasian Fishes - Dec 2018 /Jan 2019

Australasian Fishes went online in October 2016. Since then, over 45,000 observations (2100 species) uploaded by 1400 people have resulted in hundreds of discoveries.
The table, below, shows a selection of interesting observations for December 2018 and January 2019.
Summary of all observations:
Subject Number of observations
Range extension / first record 110
Diet / feeding 24
Parasite / fungus 22
New species / newly described     9
Colour pattern 22
Damage / injuries 16
Courtship / reproduction 28
Behavioural information 15
Publications, requests etc. 12
For more details contact Mark McGrouther.
Posted on February 28, 2019 04:20 by markmcg markmcg | 1 comments | Leave a comment

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 by markmcg markmcg | 4 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 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 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 by markmcg markmcg | 3 comments | Leave a comment