Member profile - Lachlan Fetterplace

Perhaps the most famous invention of the 15th century was the printing press. Much is known about the use of the device for the early printing of bibles and psalters from the Gutenberg Press; however, few people are aware that another group quickly saw potential in this revolutionary invention. They were the early “scientists” of the day. Working across the known world at the time, including India, China, Greece, France, Germany, England and Austria, there were many people engaged in what today we might call science. Even though separated by great distances, these individuals did not always work in a vacuum, and many were highly interested in sharing their knowledge and results with others, as they experimented in areas as varied as turning lead in to gold to mathematics and astronomy. Usually writing in Latin, this community quickly found that using the printing press, they could publicise and share their discoveries within their community of like-interested individuals across many countries, who previously had to wait for handwritten books or manuscripts to be circulated. Such papers contained the experience of their contemporaries or outcomes of experiments. The printing press rapidly improved communication through the mass production of books and papers. This acted as a revolutionary catalyst to the early science community, these early publications eventually developed into the many scientific journals we have today.
More than 500 years later, another communication revolution acted as a further catalyst to scientific disciplines, the Internet. Through the digital universe, scientists, both citizen scientists and professionals found a means of instantaneous communication for the sharing of ideas and experiences. With the tools of the digital age, it suddenly was easier to find people, from anywhere on the planet, who shared your particular interest and with whom you could easily exchange ideas and information. Such tools also allowed the birth of modern citizen science, providing forums and platforms for an army of individuals online, joined together in common interests in furthering research and providing a resource to the professional scientific community.
Current examples range from the “low-key” Facebook special interest groups to very specific scientific forums for high level sharing of information, research techniques and results. An example of one such forum or blog can be found on the Home Page of the Australasian Fishes project called Fish Thinkers (https://fishthinkers.wordpress.com/). This site describes itself as “a collaborative effort by a group of aquatic researchers who among other things have an interest in fishing, surfing and the marine and freshwater environment in general. The blog covers current research, but also short articles, reviews and pieces about anything vaguely related to the aquatic environment.” While there appears to be nothing about turning lead to gold on the site, it demonstrates the simplicity and power of widespread scientific communication, through non-traditional channels in the digital age. Such sites provide a very wide-ranging, open source of communication where almost anyone, who has a scientific interest in fish, through the tools of cyber-space, can meet and share ideas. Thank goodness it is not in Latin.
One of the founders of Fish Thinkers is the subject of this Bio Blurb, Lachlan Fetterplace. Lachlan has conducted almost 1,000 identifications for iNaturalist (933 for Australasian Fishes) and although, as you will see, his schedule is extremely busy, still finds the time to support our project.
Lachlan graduated with a PhD in marine science from Wollongong University, in 2019. His PhD, he tells us was focused “on the ecology of soft sediment associated fishes and the implications for fisheries and marine protected areas (MPA) management – methods were mostly BRUVS and acoustic telemetry.” For those interested, through the Fish Thinkers website you can read an abstract of his thesis and request a copy or download directly from researchgate.net. Lachlan's thesis is titled "The ecology of temperate soft sediment fishes: Implications for fisheries management and marine protected area design.". During his academic studies, according to Lachlan, he also got distracted by lots of side projects on shark and ray biology and on human-shark interactions, amongst other things. As you can tell, Lachlan finds it hard to say no to anything to do with fish.
In 2017 Lachlan moved to Sweden and is now based at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, in the Department of Aquatic Resources (SLU Aqua). He is working in their fisheries stock analysis unit, acting as their marine ecologist. He estimates, only about 20% of his time is spent on stock analysis work with the remainder spent on numerous projects. He tells us such projects include, “Lots of camera-based monitoring research – from looking at marine mammal bycatch in small scale fisheries to recreational fishing effort around MPAs, to underwater video sampling of fish. I also have been working on reviewing recreational fishing regulations in Swedish MPAs, ecosystem-based fisheries management in the Baltic Sea and various other projects…a lot of projects with more on the way. I also just finished supervising my first Sweden based student, which was good fun.”
As indicated by the wide range of interests found on Fish Thinkers, Lachlan’s academic career was a little unconventional and reflected his various interests. He tells us, “I started Uni straight out of school, which was a complete waste of time on the academic front (but very fun, lol). I dropped out after 1.5 years and did other things…travelled and surfed a lot. In the end, I went back to Uni in my 30’s and loved it, I was lucky enough to do some work with the marine park authority (later DPI) in Jervis Bay and when I finished my degree I went straight into honours and then my PhD which were both in collaboration with NSW DPI.” At this time, he did a bit of free diving, and sometimes SCUBA. Lachlan explains, “I am not a super experienced scuba diver. I surf, fish, and explore…I like to puddle pirate too (dip a net the rock pools to see what is about) with people that don’t or can’t get out into the deeper water.”
Project participants will note that an increasing number of images in the project are the result of remote cameras. This is an area now familiar to Lachlan. “A lot of the research work I have been involved in uses remote video camera monitoring and I mostly film things, so my actual photography skills are pretty bad really. That being said, I have filmed many things using remote techniques that would never have been filmed or photographed otherwise, either because they are too deep or in spots people rarely dive. It’s not too hard for anyone to film in quite deep water these days so there is no reason people can’t send a camera system down to say 200m and take a look (and record the obs on the Australasian Fishes project of course) – we have a paper coming out soon that details how to build a cheap off the shelf remote system to do that actually.”
From reading past journal posts, (see Archives for May 2019 - Behind the power of iNaturalist) we have learned that the iNat software was actually born out of a university student project, not dissimilar to the origins of Fish Thinkers. When speaking about the early days of his blog, Lachlan says, “It is a science communication initiative that Matt Rees (another marine scientist from south coast of NSW) and I set up during our honours/graduate studies. The rough aim was to start conversations around sustainable fishing, ecology, natural history and research on these topics but to do it in a way that wasn’t purely academic or popular media – there are lots of people out there that are interested in research on fish for example but don’t want to read the papers but do want to learn and talk about the results and outcomes in more depth than you will get in a news site. On the flip side it was also a good way to collaborate on citizen science and get help and input from the wider public on lots of things. For something that has never had any funding and that we have had to squeeze in between work and study and family etc it has been surprisingly successful…it seemed to fill a niche and we have met, worked with, taught, collaborated and learnt from so many people through Fish Thinkers. It’s in a bit of a caretaker mode at the moment (though for some reason we still get 200+ hits on the blog a day) but I would like to spend more time on it and hopefully we can make time to get some more people involved at some point- it’s pretty good platform for early career researchers in particular to use as it goes directly to a targeted audience who are all interested in everything to do with fish.”
There is discussion in social media that blogging has gone out of fashion, however Fish Thinkers is clearly a way to apply the technology of the day to creating a simple forum which engages both professional and citizen scientists. Like the first printing press, it spreads experience and knowledge, rapidly across the globe. Unlike printed media, it is far more interactive, and will provide inspiration for additional such sites, as well as applications for future digital technologies. The best part, however, it is not in Latin.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted by markmcg markmcg, July 22, 2021 04:20

Comments

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Nice @lachlan_fetterplace! Let me know if you want to do a collab Fish Thinkers post at some stage.

Posted by martyhing 10 days ago (Flag)
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Nice profile, thank you.
Harry, I think you are right about blogging (and journaling) going out of fashion, however, like you, I think it is a useful tool. I find it a really good way of creating an online 'diary' of my observations - for future posterity, if nothing else. It is also a way for me to cheaply raise the profile of the reef where I live among the local population, and the need to protect it.
Not everything needs to be or can be printed in books and magazines, and not everything is a one-minute read. These kinds of comms fill that niche nicely. (Speaking here as a media, comms, writer and editor, and more recently a fish and reef enthusiast!)

Posted by susanprior 10 days ago (Flag)
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Thank you @susanprior. Harry has done a fantastic job with the member profiles. It's great to be given the opportunity to learn a little about other members of the Australasian Fishes Project. :)

Posted by markmcg 10 days ago (Flag)
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@susanprior, I strongly agree with you. Blogging's value will not be known for many years into the future, a bit like our project. Like you said, researchers are always looking for original sources to understand change over time, using documents such as ship's logs, old letters or farmer's diaries. Such day-to-day writings open entire worlds of understanding of the past, as echoed in the voices of the writers. Their value is in the consistent recording of conditions over long periods of time. In addition, they tend to be unvarnished records of real life, a real human-interest dimension. I think blogging lost favour because everyone likes to embrace the latest technology, but I predict they will be mined by future generations to better understand their environment. Your reef project sounds excellent, but I know it will take perseverance, as the rewards will come in the future, to future generations. Some future grad student, like Lachlan was, will thank you.

Posted by harryrosenthal 9 days ago (Flag)
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Well said @harryrosenthal. :)

Posted by markmcg 7 days ago (Flag)

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