September 21, 2023

Princess Damsel way out of range

What the heck! John Sear has developed quite a habit of observing and documenting fishes south of their 'official' distributions. The southern limit to the distribution of the Princess Damsel, Pomacentrus vaiuli, is Moreton Bay, Queensland. This fish was observed more than 700km further south.
When asked about this remarkable observation John stated, "Re the P. vaiuli observation, last summer was an especially exciting one as far as species being observed outside their normal distribution ranges. Cabbage tree Bay aquatic reserve is a particularly good refuge for species that have had a ride down the eastern coast on the EAC, and last summer was particularly good for spotting damselfish species. This one was in close proximity to several other species that are not commonly spotted in the area, hiding amongst the rocky reef. It's colouration differentiated it from the more commonly found species, though identification required participation of more experienced fish gurus on iNat. Spotting new arrivals is easy, but confirmation of identification often requires expert input as was the case with this one."
As John said, there was some uncertainty about the identity of the fish, in particular whether the fish was P. vaiuli or P. bankanensis. We consulted the damselfish expert, Dr Gerald Allen who confirmed that the fish was indeed P. vaiuli. Thank you to Gerry for sharing his expertise and to John for another great contribution!
Posted on September 21, 2023 04:22 AM by markmcg markmcg | 4 comments | Leave a comment

September 12, 2023

Japanese Threadfin Bream sighting at Fairy Bower

A juvenile Japanese Threadfin Bream, Pentapodus nagasakiensis, was recently photographed at Fairy Bower, Cabbage Tree Bay, Sydney. The sighting was made by John Sear on March 28, 2023.
This observation was made more than 1300km south of the recognised southern limit to the distribution of the species, which is Swain Reefs, Queensland (21°16'S). View the Australian Faunal Directory factsheet.
John stated, "This fish was at 9m depth. Being familiar with a couple of Pentapodus species that we find in the Aquatic reserve, I knew this one was a different species and one I haven't encountered before. A quick search through some reference books found it but I was quite surprised to see so few observations on iNat, and the range extension."
Thank you John for uploading this important observation. Thanks also to Threadfin Bream expert Dr Barry Russell (@ichthysau) for confirming the identification of the fish.
Posted on September 12, 2023 10:24 AM by markmcg markmcg | 1 comment | Leave a comment

September 07, 2023

Scientist Member Profile - Dr Anthony Gill

Collecting fish for aquariums was a popular hobby for many living near oceans, streams or lakes. Learning how to catch, transport and support wild fish in enclosed tanks in your living room was a challenging and educational exercise, especially for the young hobbyist. The first bed I learned to make was the seabed, in my aquarium. Other lessons as a hobbyist included learning about fish habitat, avoiding fish stress but most importantly, how to clean up the living room floor when the bottom fell out of my large tank one evening. Holding the dog back was a key step.
Even today, I have friends who collect marine tropicals, washed down the coast by currents, which will not survive the winter in their new, more temperate waters. I hear that most them, while in captivity, do survive and adopt to a new life, living in a tank, far south of their normal homes on the Great Barrier Reef. I do look back fondly on my days as a boy, collecting fish for display in my home aquarium, and believe that it must have played a role in developing my interest in fish today. It was a nostalgic pleasure to learn that the subject of this edition of our Bio Blurbs, Dr Anthony Gill, (@anthonygill), had similar experiences with fish as a youth. Unlike me, however, having a fish collection inspired Tony (as he is known by most colleagues) to study the world of fish taxonomy, launching a career which had him working in some of the world’s great museums, such as the Smithsonian and the British Museum.
He tells us of his early days, “I grew up in Muswellbrook in the Upper Hunter. I guess my interest in nature was initially through fishing with my dad in the Hunter River. My dad used to get annoyed with my strategy of slowly retrieving my line back through the shallows so I could catch "rubbish fish" (mostly eleotrids, a group that I would later publish on). These often ended up in my fish tanks, which I started keeping when I was about five, and I soon had a bunch of aquariums and a (still) growing library of fish books. I loved fishing on the coast (mostly at Pelican, Swansea Channel), but being a country boy, was terrified of sharks! On my 14th birthday I joined the Newcastle branch of a marine aquarium society (M.A.R.I.A. - Marine Aquarium Research Institute of Australia). That night, after the society's monthly meeting, I did my first snorkel ... ironically, in Swansea Channel. It was terrifying for me (not helped by a makeshift dive light that kept going out), but I was amazed by the diversity of fishes. Members of the society used to hold regular field trips, where they would collect fishes for their aquariums, mostly juveniles of tropical species that would not survive in the wild beyond mid-winter. At that time (mid 70s) there were few identification resources, particularly for juvenile fishes, so we often didn’t know the species until they had grown a little in our tanks.”
Tony has been involved in Australasian Fishes since the project first kicked off. He tells us, “I’ve known Mark ever since I had an internship at the Australian Museum over 40 years ago. We’ve also conducted fieldwork throughout NSW. My taxonomic research is mostly on Indo-Pacific fishes with much of my effort concentrated on Australian fishes. Aside from that research, I have a fair knowledge of live identification of most groups thanks also to fieldwork with Jeff Johnson in Queensland and Barry Hutchins in Western Australia. I enjoy contributing to the project, and more generally to iNaturalist fish identifications.”
Tony has made almost 10,000 identifications on iNatrualist, of that total, almost 4,000 are for the Australasian Fishes project. As one of the project’s experts in fish taxonomy, he is someone to whom the project owes a great deal. I asked Tony how he goes about identifying a rather difficult fish to classify. How does he start and what process does he follow? He responded, “It depends a bit on the species involved, but the first step is always to get it to a broader category such as genus or family. That can be very difficult for someone starting out, as it’s something that mostly relies on experience. There are characteristics of course for distinguishing genera and families, but often these aren’t visible in photographs. Instead, you rely on the “gist” of the fish, things that you probably can’t list or recall … “that’s a wrasse because it looks like a wrasse.” Probably things like scale size, fin shapes and positions, mouth size, and body shape play a large role in getting through that first step. Beyond that, it’s a case of matching colour patterns, fin-ray counts, scale counts or whatever to get past family or genus to species identification. All these characteristics are best viewed from a lateral perspective, which means photos that show fishes in other positions (or with bits obscured) are more difficult to identify. Shots where the fins are erect will often allow fin-ray counts to be checked. Coloration often varies, depending on whether the fish is photographed at night or during the day, or whether it’s stressed, alive or dead, or in courtship colours, or a juvenile versus an adult. Sometimes a dead fish is easier to identify because that’s how that species is always depicted in identification resources; other times stress coloration can make identification difficult or impossible. Above all, accurate species identification is possible only if the taxonomy is reasonably well-resolved, and there has been appropriate linking of studies of museum specimens to live ones.”
To those of us familiar with fish identification, it appears a lot of taxonomy has gone down the genetic route, rather than the traditional physical inspection process. As Tony has a passion for fish identification, I was curious how he is dealing with the change in scientific techniques. He tells us, “Yes, molecular techniques have become the mainstay in taxonomy, with fewer and fewer people being trained in morphological methods. This is unfortunate, as we live in a morphological world, and don’t experience it through those kinds of methods. I’m very much in favour of these techniques as tools in taxonomy, but they need to be coupled with proper morphological work. Unfortunately, morphological taxonomy is often slow and painstaking, and dependent on slowly acquired taxonomic understanding of a given group. This contrasts with the emphasis on technological expertise, which allows molecular taxonomists to switch rapidly from one taxonomic group to another and to deliver quick results without any particular need for morphological knowledge of the species in question. Aside from the obvious need for greater support for morphologists, this problem also highlights the importance of citizen scientists in contributing to biodiversity research. There are many amateur contributors on the Australasian Fishes project that are very proficient at identifying fishes. The iNaturalist platform is not only important for citizen scientists to express their skills, but also a venue to improve them.”
Currently, Tony is the Natural History Curator, Macleay Collections, at Sydney University’s Chau Chak Wing Museum where he busily looks after the museum’s natural history collection as well as develops new exhibitions. He tells us, “Currently I’m working on a display on pigeon and dove taxonomy, which will be installed in a few months. As a spin off from that, I’m going through historical records trying to develop a database of first nation names for our bird collection. My fish research is done mostly in my spare time and vacation time. For the past few years it’s concentrated on the taxonomy of anthiadine seaperches, but I’m also continuing work on dottybacks and gobioids that I began decades ago.”
Among the reasons Tony contributes to the project is not only to keep his personal taxonomy skills razor sharp, but also because he strongly believes in citizen science and the work of Australasian Fishes. In his own words, he tells us, “ (Australasian Fishes) is making an enormous contribution to our understanding of our fish fauna. The obvious contribution is in our understanding of species distributions. Perhaps even more important from my perspective as a taxonomist is the information that the photos provide in terms of colour variation. Often this leads to the need for taxonomic re-evaluation of species because the photos draw attention to geographic variation that suggests currently recognised species may be complexes of similar species. Moreover, even the most field-active scientists don’t get to see fishes alive all that much; citizen scientists provide more eyes in the water.”
Tony reminds me of the importance of having “more eyes in the water”, which is better than more eyes on my fish collection flopping around on the living room floor. By family majority vote, I gave up having large aquariums, as it was only me and the dog who thought trying again would be a worthwhile effort. Australasian Fishes is grateful for Tony’s long running support and it is pleasing to meet someone who’s career was fueled by their experience with aquariums, using them as a stepping stone to a rewarding career in the natural sciences.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on September 07, 2023 02:25 AM by markmcg markmcg | 3 comments | Leave a comment

August 29, 2023

Quarter of a million observations!

We are excited to announce that the Australasian Fishes Project has reached 250,000 observations! This is a major milestone for the project, and we are grateful to all of the contributors who have helped us reach this point.
The milestone observation was posted by Mick Green (@driftmedia). Mick captured the image of a Reef Manta Ray on a recent trip to Dirk Hartog Island in WA. He said, "It was an incredible day on the water. We were so fortunate to be approached by a few humpback whales, observe dolphins, long neck turtles and dugongs up close, and then had some manta rays zoom past us. The manta was on the surface and quite unperturbed by our presence."
In the comments below a journal post in early April entitled We've raced past two milestones, users were invited to suggest the date on which Australasian Fishes would reach 250,000 observations. The person with the closest suggestion was @susanprior who cleverly stated "I reckon around 1 August (cos the weather is cooling, so maybe less people will be making observations)." Well done Susan. We'll send you an Australasian Fishes Project t-shirt as a prize.
With contributions from more than 7600 people, the project is going from strength to strength. As you can see from the graph, the number of observations is steadily increasing over time. Huge thanks to everyone who has contributed. Next stop will be a cool half million!
PS. Mick, feel free to PM me with your details and we'll also send you an Australasian Fishes Project t-shirt. :)
Posted on August 29, 2023 01:16 AM by markmcg markmcg | 2 comments | Leave a comment

August 14, 2023

Member profile - Bob Jacobs

Looking back at most of my communications with other participants in the project, I note the most common topic of conversation regards fish identification. Without a doubt, one of the most significant characteristics of the project is the accuracy of the identification of fish images and it has helped to make Australasian Fishes a highly trusted and valuable resource for scientific research. There is a high level of integrity in correct identification of the 3404 species our project has recorded in our waters so far, and we owe a great debt to those 3,594 people who have aided with fish identification to date.
Some of the discussions of fish identification may sound a bit over the top, especially if you follow some of the rare “disagreements” regarding the identification of challenging taxa. This is how science works however, and fish identification is an imperfect science. The iNaturalist Computer Vision (see the journal post) helps a great deal, but new details of fish morphology are constantly added to the global knowledge base and keeping up to date is difficult as well as rewarding.
That said, many participants tell me that fish identification is one of the most rewarding aspects of this citizen science project. I too find it a pleasure when a species I post, with some uncertainty. is later correctly identified by someone. I greatly admire their skill but recognise that it comes from long periods of study and experience. It is a type of virtuosity I will never possess, but for which I am frequently grateful.
It is even more delightfully surprising when I discover that experts making the identifications for fish from my backyard are doing so from far away. I have written about other project participants who are not based in Australia or New Zealand, but I was quite surprised to recently learn that the project’s current 10th ranked participant in fish identification, @uconnbirdfish, lives the northeastern United States. His name is Bob Jacobs. Bob is a retired Fisheries Biologist having worked 39 years for the State of Connecticut, where he was Supervisor of Connecticut's Inland Fisheries Warmwater Management Program.
I asked him some questions.
Tell us a little about the origins of your interest in nature and fish.
When I was 11 years old, we moved from an urban/suburban area (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania) to a suburban/rural one (North Branford, Connecticut). My brothers and I were suddenly transported into a natural playground, which we explored with gusto. For the first time we had woods, fields, and swamps to explore. We lived in a neighborhood that was part of a lake association that gave us access to a 22-acre pond with swimming beach. We became adept at swimming and later scuba diving, but the pond was the catalyst for my biggest love – fishing. I got a B.S. in Biology at UConn. My advisors always said I should have a general background to keep my job prospects wide. After graduating I looked for a job related to my field and concluded that being a generalist sort of translates to “good at nothing”. So, I hunkered down and went for a Masters in Fishery Biology (again at UConn) even though I was aware that job prospects were much more limited than in many other fields.
You seem interested in many different aspects of nature; now that you are retired, how do you divide your time amongst so many interests?
You’re right that I am interested in all of nature. I was always interested in animals. In recent years my wife Peggy has gotten me more interested in plants (but I still have to ask her what most of them are). After retirement, I vowed to simply have fun and enjoy nature wherever and whenever I can. However, my favorite pastime has lately become lifelist fishing (Author Note: catching of as many fish species as possible). I have always kept records of the different fish species I’ve caught but am now much less interested in catching big fish, rather I want to “collect” new fish species.
We are grateful for your species identification. How often do you examine iNat fish images?
I go onto iNat most days for at least a half hour. On my job I became pretty expert at identifying fishes from northeast U.S., but now that I’m retired, I have no reason to limit my scope. One of the challenges of lifelist fishing is the probability of observing animals you’ve never seen before. Taking a photo and trying to figure out what it is after the fact often results in ID uncertainty. So, getting as broad as possible a knowledge of taxonomy reduces this uncertainty. Lifelist fishing is probably my biggest impetus in trying to actively increase my identification expertise.
I visited the Sydney area once a few years back and was thrilled at the uniqueness of the biota of Australia, but I guess I would say I’m trying to broaden my skills over all areas of the world in both fresh and saltwater. That said, Australia has some pretty cool fish. One thing I noticed was that fish common names elsewhere tend to be more descriptive, but those in Australia are often more playful and irreverent. Example, one of my favorites is the Old Wife which is indeed a bizarre looking animal!
What advice would you offer to people new to the software and the iNat system?
My advice to people getting started in iNat is, “Just do it!” iNat has broadened my taxonomy skills immensely. Simply start with species you are pretty familiar with and practice identifying them. Don’t be afraid to post a wrong answer because the other people will set you straight. That’s where the greatest learning occurs – study what others say about why you were wrong. Then browse the plethora of photos of that species and try to tune into the trait that you overlooked so you won’t make the mistake again.
I know from my previous field work that getting really good at taxonomy comes from looking at hundreds, sometimes thousands, of specimens to get a feel for the range of characteristics each species has. Looking at many photographs on iNat accomplishes this almost as well as seeing the animals in person.
I would be interested to know more about your wife’s photography.
Peggy is the photographer. I took most of the fish photos for my field guide, “Pictorial Guide to Freshwater Fishes of Connecticut”. These took very limited skill because the conditions for each photo were standardized. Camping is one of our favorite means of exploring new areas. Peggy is constantly toting a heavy camera with telephoto lens and snapping pictures of birds, plants, whatever gets in the way of her aim! A lot of the closeup shots are done with her cell phone (some phones take pretty good photos now). When we return home, we post the best of her photos on iNat or we post bad ones in hopes someone will be able to ID the subject.
As a retired scientist, what advice would you give to our more novice Australasian Fishes naturalists?
One of my pet peeves on the site is when people argue that an ID must be correct because some professional said so. Well, I’ve met plenty of biologists who had pretty limited taxonomy skills. This doesn’t mean that they weren’t good at their jobs – it just isn’t necessary for a biologist to know lots of fish species unless they are doing some kind of general survey work. On the other hand, I have observed that there are many anglers and divers on iNat whose careers are not fish related, but they know their fish really well likely because that’s their passion.
I have reminded more than a few on iNat that it’s not a person’s title that makes them expert, but their skill - besides trying to win an argument by stating ‘a professional said so’ is one of the classic fallacies of logic.
I find people like Bob and Peggy very inspirational, and intrigued about the idea of lifefishing, and the recording in iNaturalist of the species they catch. It reminds me of a Birding friend I recently talked to about the data they’ve accumulated. Taking this lifetime of experience and putting it in a database which allows others around the world to access and will be properly maintained for many years to come is a valuable, personal contribution to science and is the hallmark of both a professional and citizen scientist.
Bob has made 247,319 identifications for iNaturalist to date, 11,874 for Australasian Fishes alone. We are grateful to Bob and Peggy for supporting an initiative, on the other side of the planet from their home.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on August 14, 2023 02:22 AM by markmcg markmcg | 1 comment | Leave a comment

August 03, 2023

Lord Howe Moray at Narooma

The Lord Howe Moray, Gymnothorax annasona, is an Australian endemic species that occurs at Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island as well as Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs. It has also been recorded from Swansea, New South Wales. View the Australian Faunal Directory species page.
Back in March 2014, @percha photographed an individual at Narooma, New South Wales, about 400km south of Swansea. Moray expert @johnpog stated, "From memory there was another sighting of this species at Narooma about 5-10 years ago". It is possible that @percha's observation is the same sighting.
Thank you @percha for uploading this 'historic observation', @johnpog for your comment and @dentrock for bringing this observation to my attention.
Posted on August 03, 2023 03:41 AM by markmcg markmcg | 0 comments | Leave a comment

July 27, 2023

Bicolour Goatfish photographed well south of its 'official range'

Bill Barker (@billspud) informed me that "Transport NSW is going to replace the Narooma Wharf in the Wagonga Inlet sometime this year or next and it is anticipated there will be serious negative impacts on the marine life of the area, at least in the short term. Local conservationists are concerned that the work and the design should minimise the harm and facilitate the quickest possible return to its present richness."
He further stated that, "In order to establish a baseline and to underscore the environmental value of the wharf and its surroundings, divers and snorkelers from the Nature Coast Marine Group, a local conservation organisation, have carried out a series of surveys, which have so far recorded the presence of more than 200 marine species, of which around 100 are fishes, including many tropicals. The results are recorded on NatureMapr."
One tropical fish that caught Bill's attention was a Bicolour Goatfish, Parupeneus barberinoides. Andrew Green, (@dentrock), brought the observation to my attention, pointing out that the fish seemed well south of its recognised range. He was correct. The 'official' southerly distribution of the species is to Sydney, approximately 280 km to the north (view the Australian Faunal Directory species page).
Thank you Bill for uploading this interesting observation. Good luck with your surveys. Baseline surveys are essential for documenting the impacts of human activities on marine ecosystems.
Incidentally, you may want to contact Amanda Hay (@amandahay), the manager of the Australian Museum's Ichthyology Collection. You could ask her for a list of fish that have been collected in the area. I don't know if the collection contains specimens from the region, but it's worth asking. The list may contain historic records that could be of interest.
Posted on July 27, 2023 02:25 AM by markmcg markmcg | 1 comment | Leave a comment

July 20, 2023

Parasite on Seadragon

Karolyn Landat, @diverk (left image below), took this wonderful photo (above, left) of a Leafy Seadragon under a jetty in South Australia. Attached to the 'neck' of the fish is a parasitic isopod, Creniola laticauda.
Karolyn stated, "With regards to seeing the Leafy (or any critter underwater) with an isopod on it, you wonder how they feel with it stuck to them, especially when it's as big as that one! It must bother them surely. There is the urge to pick them off and relieve the fish of the burden, but of course we don't touch anything and it's obviously a natural occurrence (well, not man-made or induced at least), so you let it take its course and don't interfere. I've read somewhere that they do drop off eventually, which is reassuring. With regards to the dive in general, it's always a delight to see Leafies, we never got tired of seeing/watching and shooting them (with the camera). We hadn't seen a lot of them at that particular site/jetty, so it was a pleasure to find him.
Janine Baker, @marinejanine (right image above), is the founder and manager of the marine citizen science group South Australian Conservation Research Divers (SACReD), which has been active in South Australia for 15 years
Janine stated that "One of the seadragons I have identified in our Dragon Search SA project has been carrying the same female Creniola parasite for at least 1 year, in the same position. For some other identified animals in our set, the parasite is present at one time and then gone a few months later. One diver has observed several large female Creniola clustered at the head end on one seadragon, and that is uncommon. When there are multiple Creniola on a single animal, usually one large female is attached, plus some small males (which reportedly move from host to host)."
Janine sent the list, below, of links to seadragon records from South Australia that contain images of Creniola laticauda. - This observation shows a seadragon which has had a Creniola in same position for 12 months.
Thank you Karolyn and Janine for your observations and comments.
Posted on July 20, 2023 02:48 AM by markmcg markmcg | 0 comments | Leave a comment

June 22, 2023

Scientist Member profile - Dr Joseph Dibattista

At a recent evening lecture at the Australian Museum celebrating the 50th anniversary of the creation of their Lizard Island Research Station, an Australasian Fishes member and supporter participated in a panel discussion following an address by Dr Anne Hoggett AM, the island’s co-Director who has lived and worked on the island for many years along with her co-director husband, Dr Lyle Vail, AM. Of course, the address was excellent, and it reinforced the needs for remote research stations across the Great Barrier Reef.
It was always a pleasure to see an Australasian Fishes Project participant contributing to public discussion, and an even further delight to see someone promoting not only traditional marine research, but also, delivering a powerful message in support of citizen science. The professional researcher on the stage was Dr Joseph Dibattista, who joined the AFP project in 2017 after joining the staff of the Australian Museum. On his iNaturalist page he tells us, “I am interested in coastal ecosystems, understanding the effects of tropicalisation on Australian fish species and identifying those that may act as indicators of change, and exploring new ways to track and monitor environmental shifts in our oceans with environmental DNA (eDNA).”
Here are a few questions, answered by Joey about his research, his work at the Australian Museum and Australasian Fishes. He tells us, “I grew up on the “island” of Montreal in Canada, but really only experienced the ocean after the age of 9 or 10 on overseas trips. My interest in science began with now very out of date chemistry kits, microscopes, and observing the behaviour of animals in our neighbourhood.”
Why the interest in the Australasian Fishes and how did you get involved with our project?
“My now retired colleague, Mark McGrouther, introduced me to the project while he was still Collection Manager of the Ichthyology Section at the Australian Museum. I saw value in this project as a citizen to identify fishes and provide permanent verifiable records of biodiversity in my own backyard, and I saw value as a scientist for sourcing biodiversity data around Australia and New Zealand to validate our species detections using DNA-based approaches. In the past few years, I’ve also learned how big a role these verifiable records can play in advancing protection or conservation of sites of importance."
Could you tell us a little about your typical, fish identification process?
“I usually start with body shape or form, colouration, fin placement, and then any other distinguishing morphological features or behaviours (i.e., solitary versus schooling, etc.). The holy grail for fish taxonomists would be an in-focus (up close) photo of the side profile of the fish with all fins displayed.”
Do you go into the water much these days. Scuba, snorkel, etc.?
“As part of my community-focused project funded by Blue World on “Marine Biodiversity in Southern Sydney Harbour”, I get to snorkel regularly at Parsley Bay in Vaucluse, a wonderful hidden gem both on land and in the sea. My best advice is to be one with the fishes and do not chase them around. The moment they sense your intention to approach them, they are likely to be gone for quite some time. Also, be sure to take your time and look for fish big and small. If focused entirely on larger predatory fishes you tend not to have your eye in for the smaller cryptic fishes, which get missed.”
What was the most difficult fish you had to identify? Why was it difficult?
“I suspect many taxonomists would agree, mullet are very difficult to identify from photographs based on many species sharing characters.”
It appears a lot of taxonomy has gone down the genetic route, rather than the traditional physical inspection process.
“I would consider genetics simply another “character” that can and should be used for taxonomic descriptions of fishes. Additionally, no species can and should be described solely based on genetics. I think the biggest advantage to genetics is the ability to quickly match unknown tissues, specimens, or even weird and wacky fish larvae to adult species based on their DNA sequences, or at least guide someone in that process.”
What are your personal, current areas of research? How long have you been engaged in these areas? International collaborations?
“My current areas of research have shifted to coastal ecosystems, understanding the effects of tropicalisation on Australian fish species and identifying those that may act as indicators of change, and exploring new ways to track and monitor environmental shifts in our oceans with environmental DNA (eDNA). In our field, you must be collaborative and inventive, and so I work with dozens of researchers (domestic and international) and stakeholders at any given time on a number of different projects. Diversity in your collaborators and research topics allow you to extend your “shelf life” in science. Engaging with the general community is just as important for me.
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? What advice would you give our participants or words of encouragement would you offer?
I was fortunate enough to put together two scientific publications in the past two years with colleagues (including Mark McGrouther) that used Australasian Fishes records to 1) generate an up-to-date annotated checklist of fishes recorded from Sydney Harbour (we observed a 15% increase in species since 2013), and 2) demonstrate that quality-filtered citizen science data can in fact be used to improve taxonomic representation and the geographic breadth of species monitoring in Australia.”
One of the most important roles of citizen scientists is not only to collect data for future scientific research and discovery, but is to work with the professional scientific community in ways which benefit both. Scientists like Dr Dibattista are among a growing legion of science professionals who recognise the importance of community engagement and how to utilise the vast store of volunteer labour which is the citizen science community. We are grateful for his work on the Australasian Fishes Project and hope his research continues to prove productive in the advancement of our knowledge of the Australian marine environment.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on June 22, 2023 02:22 AM by markmcg markmcg | 1 comment | Leave a comment

June 17, 2023

Whitebarred Goby out of range

An oldie but a goodie!
An interesting observation was made by Andrew Green (@dentrock) in Jervis Bay, New South Wales, back in April 2016. This observation occurred five months before the Australasian Fishes Project went online. Andrew spotted a Whitebarred Goby, Amblygobius phalaena, which expanded the known distribution of the species approximately 150 kilometers south of its previously recognized southern limit of Sydney. You can find more information about the distribution of this species at the Australian Faunal Directory.
Andrew expressed his surprise at encountering the fish, considering his familiarity with it from tropical and Lord Howe Island surveys. He mentioned that identifying the species is relatively easy, thanks to its distinctive shape and demeanor or "vibe," making it unlikely to be confused with other species. He also mentioned that photographing it posed no challenges, as the Whitebarred Goby is not a shy species and can be easily approached. Andrew further noted that he hasn't seen a Whitebarred Goby in Jervis Bay since 2016. That particular year might have been favorable for tropical vagrants.
Posted on June 17, 2023 03:04 AM by markmcg markmcg | 2 comments | Leave a comment