Scientific paper discusses the Australasian Fishes Project

In March 2022, colleagues at the University of New South Wales published a paper in the journal Biodiversity and Conservation (View the paper). The paper is titled "Many cameras make light work: opportunistic photographs of rare species in iNaturalist complement structured surveys of reef fish to better understand species richness."
In the abstract of the paper, the senior author, Dr Christopher Roberts @cj_roberts (see photo above) and his co-authors state that "Citizen science is on the rise, with growing numbers of initiatives, participants and increasing interest from the broader scientific community. iNaturalist is an example of a successful citizen science platform that enables users to opportunistically capture and share biodiversity observations." I don't think any of us would disagree with that statement.
They "compared the opportunistic fish photographs from iNaturalist to those obtained from structured surveys [conducted by] Reef Life Survey at eight study reefs in Sydney, Australia over twelve years.", and found that "iNaturalist recorded 1.2 to 5.5 times more fish species than structured surveys resulting in significantly greater annual species richness at half of the reefs, with the remainder showing no significant difference."
In terms of ease of use, they stated that "iNaturalist likely recorded more species due to having simple methods, which allowed for broad participation with substantially more iNaturalist observation events (e.g., dives) than structured surveys over the same period."
Opportunistic observations such as those uploaded into iNaturalist have limitations but the authors state that "These results demonstrate the value of opportunistic citizen science platforms for documenting fish species richness, particularly where access and use of the marine environment is common and communities have the time and resources for expensive recreational activities (i.e., underwater photography)."
Interestingly, "The datasets also recorded different species composition with iNaturalist recording many rare, less abundant, or cryptic species while the structured surveys captured many common and abundant species."
The authors end the abstract by saying, "These results suggest that integrating data from both opportunistic and structured data sources is likely to have the best outcome for future biodiversity monitoring and conservation activities."
So what's the take-home-message? For me, it's that iNaturalist is an incredibly powerful citizen science platform and the efforts of Australasian Fishes Project users are contributing to a better understanding of the natural world. Pat yourselves on the back and please continuing to upload your observations - not just those of strange or rare fishes, but also of common species.
Posted by markmcg markmcg, May 08, 2022 10:47

Comments

Thanks @markmcg for sharing our research with the Australasian Fishes community, I hope some will find it interesting to see how their observations are being used – and their great potential for future use!

Also a great take home message, especially about sharing any and all fish photos – not just exciting/interesting ones. As all observations are definitely valuable!

p.s. Thanks for the early conferral of ‘Dr’, still working on that one, still just a Mr for now…

Posted by cj_roberts about 2 months ago (Flag)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts @cj_roberts.

I've spoken with a number of people about your paper.
You'll be a Dr before you know it. I'll leave the text as it is. :)

Posted by markmcg about 2 months ago (Flag)

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