Member profile - Henrick Michael

Citizen science projects are very human endeavours, but are supported by computers and algorithms. Such projects are never successfully driven by the machines. In everyday life we see such algorithms at work everywhere, from social media to insurance premiums, as we live in a world of artificial intelligence (AI), digital modelling, efficiency and automation. In the waters of New Zealand and Australia, very little is truly computer driven. It is refreshing to see projects like Australasia Fishes (AF), admittedly using a digital platform like iNaturalist as a collection tool, but behind the data, it is very much driven by the participants, and their love of our regional waters and their willingness to get wet. This may not be the way forever as remote sensing and increased computer processing speeds approximate the functionality of the human brain. But for now, that is in the future and the hard yards are still achieved through human effort and dedication.
Today’s engine of AF remains its people and their passion. The majority of the project requires the actions of people dedicated to a goal. It requires people to leave the comfort of their homes and security of their digital screens to venture out in to raw nature. For projects like AF to succeed, people need to take risks and go into or upon the water. Such people need to take cameras and record the natural environment as they experience it. They need to capture their recorded images and load them to the technology, providing information about name and species. Other people, most of whom have never actually met, are needed to verify identification of each fish and point out new discoveries and range extensions. Finally, people will be needed to find the current and future scientific gold in the data generated.
Henrick Michael is one of those people who has greatly contributed a lion’s share of the substantial human energy needed to keep a citizen science project like AF afloat (pun intended). His name will be familiar to those working on the project as he has provided fuel and momentum, not only by virtue of his individual scientific curiosity, but also through the raw “horsepower” of his passions and interests in advancing knowledge. Henrick’s rise in the project has been meteoric, as he’s quickly cemented his position as a significant contributor to science and as a motivator to other participants. At the time of this writing, Henrick is ranked 18th on the project’s Observations Leader Board, contributing well over 400 observations of for the project of 109 different fish species. Very impressive for someone who only joined the project in March 2017. What is even more impressive is his record of fish identifications. On the Leader Board he is now ranked at #3 with a total of 6,913 fish identifications. His identifications cover a wide range of fish, demonstrating a surprisingly extensive knowledge of fish taxonomy. In addition, his comments to participants have been both wise and supportive to contributors. When he sees an image he likes, he often takes the time to include words of encouragement and support for fellow participants, recognising their contribution, while making his own simultaneously. It is all very impressive, however, what is MOST impressive, is that he is only 18 years old! That’s a lot of project horsepower from one of our youngest contributors.
Henrick grew up in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, developing a fondness for the coastal heathlands and aquatic world. Enjoying fishing, swimming and diving in that unique fish hot spot. Throughout much of his high school years he frequently swam in the ocean as practice for regional relay swimming comps, but this sport focus later evolved into a scientific interest in freediving, exploring both Botany Bay and Sydney harbour as well as the numerous bays between. Along with this also developed an interest in nature photography of various birds and other animals, however, fish have become his primary interest. Most of his knowledge of temperate & tropical species comes from personal observations and from buying referencing material to assist in identifying all the species he observes. Two favourites of his collection include R.H.Kuiter’s ‘Guide to Sea Fishes of Australia’ and ‘Tropical Marine Fishes of Australia’ by fellow Australasian Fishes Project member @ralfmagee, and others. Both should be on all participant’s bookshelves. While AF has benefited from his interests he also is involved in other citizen science projects, joining RedMap Australia in 2016, who suggested he should join the Australasian Fishes Project. Henrick comments that he feels he owes a great deal of his knowledge of fish taxonomy not only to reference books, but also to project participants such as @markmcg & @sascha_schulz, who helped him with his IDs since he first joined the Australasian Fishes Project. Learning the skills of fish identification, he recalls that quantitative features including the dorsal spine number, scale, fin size and number are often quite difficult to commit to memory so he tends to look for alternate qualitative features as well, any striking morphological features e.g. caudal keel plates, tubercles, appendages. Also, spacing of dots and markings, proportions and orientation of these features as well as colours of course to help him tell fishes apart.
When asked, he considers himself a freediver, although snorkelling in shallower waters also provides many opportunities to capture great shots of seldom seen or cryptic species which interest him. Although, currently studying Architecture at UNSW he makes a once a week or fortnightly trip to sea. He has developed his own techniques, for example, taking wrasse photos. His personal method includes simply tapping the seafloor a couple times, spiking their interest towards the vicinity of the camera, as most likely invertebrates may have been stirred up from the substrate. He reports that Gunther’s, Senator, Moon & Southern Maori Wrasse align with this behaviour most accurately.
While he considers himself a novice underwater photograph his volume of output contradicts his self-confessed view as a hobbyist. He bought his first 5mp waterproof camera in 2014. Then, a 10mp waterproof Kodak camera in 2016. Nowadays, he uses a 16mp Panasonic waterproof camera, preferring to keep his camera a small, easily portable camera attached to his dive belt. This has proven quite effective in keeping his hands free until reaching the seafloor, enabling deeper dives.
Unusual for his cohort, Henrick is not a fan of computer games, as studying architecture keeps him very busy. It is clear from his developing body of work that nature photography holds a fascination for Henrick. As he is a digital native, he utilises social media for some of his imagery. Visiting is Flickr site https://www.flickr.com/photos/161149194@N04/ you can easily see the groundwork he is laying for a long-lasting interest in nature photography. This has greatly benefited the project and he courteously reminds us that all photos should be credited when due. Finally, he encourages all participants to keep up the good work, as he is aware of scientific value in the images we collect. His approach to fish is also to occasionally try to be unusual in his photography and encourages us to record clarity, colours or unusual angles which can make for a wonderful image. He summarises by saying, “Simply recognising one’s efforts provides the photographer with possible newfound interest, increased passion and ambition to get out there again!!!”
Getting out there again, in nature, where computers, algorithms and processing speeds take a distant second place to camera skills, passion for the sea and a love of nature is what Henrick reminds us. Age is no barrier, nor is time. When driven by curiosity and a willingness to contribute to science and to support others in the same quest, projects like AF will continue to grow and have an impact on our knowledge.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member Harry Rosenthal.
Posted by markmcg markmcg, June 03, 2018 08:51

Comments

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Thank you for your very kind words and writing it up! :D @harryrosenthal

Posted by henrick over 2 years ago (Flag)
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Henrick, it was a real pleasure getting to know you better. I am very grateful for everything you do for the project.

Posted by harryrosenthal over 2 years ago (Flag)
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Well done Henrick

Posted by fiftygrit over 2 years ago (Flag)
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Cheers :D @fiftygrit

Posted by henrick over 2 years ago (Flag)
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@henrick keep up the excellent work - great profile post

Posted by johnsear over 2 years ago (Flag)
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Thank you :D @johnsear

Posted by henrick over 2 years ago (Flag)

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