Journal archives for October 2018

October 17, 2018

Member profile -Tony Strazzari

The underwater world offers visitors many options and never complains which option you select. For some, the relationship is strictly casual, only visited on personal holidays to waterside destinations such as the South Pacific Islands or the Great Barrier Reef. Most of us would be familiar with these quick visitors who pay their excursion fees, hop in the water and leave with fond memories of their time underwater. They have one perspective of the ocean. There are also those of us who are weekend visitors, leaving dry land when our terrestrial work is done, using our spare time to sharpen our underwater skills in a series of frequent visits. We too develop a perspective on life in the sea. On the other end of spectrum, there are those who are quickly and completely smitten by their early underwater experiences. They transcend the casual and weekend visitor experience, to a professional life, working in the underwater environment. Sometimes they hop back and forth as the situation requires, but they still retain a lifelong passion for their aquatic profession. This month’s bio blurb is about someone who’s made the transition from visitor to almost underwater native. Tony Strazzari is such a person, as evidenced by his recent joining of the project in May 2018. He is already top of the project leader board with 2,509 observations for the project of 242 different species. This is from his total contributions to iNaturalist of 5,606 observations of 872 different species. Tony is also ranked 30th in identifications, offering great support to the project. In this bio blurb, we meet Tony and better understand what drove his meteoric risk in the project.
Tony grew up in an outer suburb of Newcastle, like many, loving the Australian landscapes. As a boy he avidly explored local bushland at the end of his street and later bushwalking and the beach: bodysurfing, swimming and snorkelling. Still not yet bitten by the ocean bug, he followed a career path working at BHP Steelworks as a cadet engineer becoming a Chemical Engineer for 13 years. During this time, he developed a love of travel both nationally and internationally and finally in 1991; after a local dive shop had a free “pool experience” he followed his intuition, stopped procrastinating and did an Open Water course. In his own words, “… an addiction started”. From his first dives he quickly realised that he could see and interact with more animals and much closer in a 45 minute dive than I could in a year’s bushwalking.
Within 3 years he had made around 250 dives; with new friends exploring most of the coast from Port Stephens to Catherine Hill Bay as well as being familiar with all the “standard” local sites at Nelson Bay and Swansea. Taking advantage of redundancy offers to leave BHP; he further developed his water skills completing his maritime coxswain and divemaster qualifications and started a dive boat business, Divercity. In addition, he completed a Diploma of Education and started a new (money paying) career as a science teacher. While working during the week as a casual teacher he continued to run Divercity on the weekends and holiday periods in the Newcastle/Swansea areas and through exploration dives developed a pretty good knowledge of local reefs and wrecks and a love of Moon Island off Swansea. The 90s was a turbulent time in Newcastle for dive shops with shops opening and closing all over the place and that certainly didn’t help an independent boat operator so after 4 years persevering, he sold the boat. It wasn’t a major financial success, but he says, “I didn’t lose money and gained huge amounts of experience. I also was privileged to do an “underwater naturalist” course with the late (and very great) Neville Coleman – diving with him was an education for me; how to dive to observe so many tiny animals.”
Having children, his underwater career slowed down over the next few years but when he could, he assisted with courses at a local shop and introducing Scuba Diving (Open Water course) as a sport option at the school where he worked. As a lifelong learner, he also gained some technical and cave diving qualifications.
In 2007 a freak injury whist playing sport with the kids at school left Tony with a snapped peroneal nerve (and partial paralysis) in his left leg, ruling out teaching or any job on his feet for extended periods. A total of 3 years of operations and rehab left him without a job. An online enquiry to a Port Stephens dive shop (‘any work for a DM/Coxswain”) resulted in a “can you start Saturday” and 5 years of working there – driving boats, leading dives and becoming an instructor.
Of his memories of those years, he says that he certainly enjoyed his experience diving from Nelson Bay in particular diving with Grey Nurse Sharks at Broughton Island. The experience increased his knowledge of the local seas but in search of greater variation, he left the bay with another staff member and started his current business Grey Nurse Charters – an ex-Victoria Police tactical response boat and the fastest dive boat in Australia. This new venture allows Tony to operate a dive business as he’s always wanted …a boat light enough to trailer between Swansea, Newcastle and Port Stephens but big enough to carry 12 people; pick and choose the gear he wanted to sell; teach diving properly (no rushed 2 day courses) and to offer one of the greatest ranges of dive sites of any dive operation in the world without the burden of a shop. The best part OD, of course, now he dives full-time.
Anyone looking at Tony’s photos in the project quickly realises he is an accomplished underwater photographer, who takes this skill very seriously. We asked him to condense his years of experience in underwater photography in to advice for the project participants, and he replied, “I try to get some images most times I dive … when I lead dives I try and get shots of customers with sharks and the other animals they see. I sometimes like just poking around by myself with a macro lens looking for weird little stuff. Photography promotes diving and the business. Since 2011, I probably average about 400-450 dives per year. I also have a side project diving river ports, harbours and other sites looking for old relics – bottles, pots, brass and copper. This is often in brackish or freshwater, with little to no visibility but now due to a new camera I am able to take shots in these environments when conditions allow.
Photography and teaching diving allow me to share my passion for diving with others – the amazing things I see: creatures, ship wrecks, scenery – despite diving for 27 years I can still see something I’ve never seen before at a site I’ve dived hundreds of times. Dive sites change with the seasons and the ocean currents. I have seen the population of grey nurse sharks increase dramatically from critically endangers over these years. Travel to overseas dive destinations no only gives me the chance to see and photograph different marine life but also lets me meet fellow divers from all over the world – Philippines, Vanuatu, Thailand, Indonesia, Fiji, Chuuk, PNG, Solomons and other places. Underwater photography has also allowed me to become friends with people from many other countries. Diving knows no borders, no religions but the respect for the forces of the ocean and nature and no skin colour.
My main camera system is a Canon 55D (I have 3 bodies – not the most expensive camera but certainly a high-resolution image and ability to use Canon lenses) with a range of lenses – 10-22 mm zoom, 60 mm and 100 mm macro-lenses and a 17-75 multipurpose lens. I wanted a tough housing that would handle rough treatment and didn’t need kid glove handling so got a Hugyfot aluminium housing. I have Sea and Sea strobes but have recently been experimenting with two 2000 lumen video lights. I find this gives a softer image than the flash and is also good for wide angle shots – wrecks etc.
A recent present of a Nikon Coolpix allows me to carry a small camera when I’m doing other stuff and can’t lug a big housing (such as in rivers) and on dives I do carry a housing for macro when I’m set up with wide-angle and vice versa. So expect more freshwater brown shaded photos of different fish. The greatest thing that happened to underwater photography and all photography for that matter is the digital camera … from the best SLR to the cheapest point and shoot …. Results are instant! No waiting for a couple of days for expensive developing and printing to know what happened. No being limited to 24 (or 36) shots with no feedback until after the dive. We can take hundreds of pictures during a dive and if using a bit of thought and adjustment can find out what works and what doesn’t at no cost – errors can be deleted. With editing programs such as Photoshop (which I use) we have all the control over our photos that wasn’t possible without a huge financial investment and costly dark room trial and error. With diving images it’s mainly colour correction (for the blueness underwater causes), removing back-scatter from suspended particles and other evidence of particles in the water and cropping for best composition.
My advice to any new underwater photographer would be take lots of photos …. practise, get some real critique (not just everyone telling you they’re lovely shots) and learn to use an editing program – bring out the colour! Don’t ever post crappy shots! Don’t post shots that haven’t been cleaned up.
When underwater taking photos take things SLOW! Don’t chase fish; they can swim faster than you can. Be PATIENT. Wait. Take lots of shots … they don’t cost you anything. Delete the crappy ones! For macro practise on nudibranchs … they are very patient too and let you improve your technique. Get as close as possible, make the subject BIG in your shot, try face on for dramatic type shots or side on for identification.”
The Australasia Fishes Projects is very grateful to Tony for the numerous contributions he has made to the project, and we wish him success with his latest underwater venture. We enjoy the underwater world with him, regardless of whether we are casual, weekend or professional visitors, and look forward to his ongoing support and contributions to Australian citizen science.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal. Thank you Harry!! :)
Posted on October 17, 2018 02:55 by markmcg markmcg | 8 comments | Leave a comment

October 24, 2018

Vote for Australia's favourite fish

In a national poll, Lateral Magazine, in collaboration with the Australian Society for Fish Biology, hope to crown Australia’s most popular fish. The choices have been whittled down to a 51-species shortlist (no easy task) for voting purposes.
Voting ends at midnight on October 31 AEST.
Posted on October 24, 2018 03:56 by markmcg markmcg | 12 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