Australasian fishes's Journal

Journal archives for March 2024

March 06, 2024

The Australasian Fishes project has a new look

You may have noticed that the Australasian Fishes project looks different.
We've converted from a traditional project to a collection project. Why did we do this? The primary reason is that we were going backwards. At the time of conversion, we had a stockpile of over 11,000 suitable observations that needed to be added manually. Despite having a team of people adding observations, the situation was unmanageable.
Now when you add your observation, it is automatically uploaded to the Australasian Fishes project, assuming it passes the project rules.
So what does this mean to you? The project still has the same functionality but when you upload your new observations you don't need to choose to add them to the project. They will go in automatically.
We're going through a testing phase at the moment. Please let me know if you have any problems.
Thank you to Scott Loarie, @loarie, for his help making this change happen.
Posted on March 06, 2024 10:29 AM by markmcg markmcg | 3 comments | Leave a comment

March 13, 2024

Member profile - Susan Prior

It is usual with these Bio Blurbs to highlight a project participant who has contributed significantly to the project. This Bio Blurb, featuring Susan Prior, @susanprior, who is listed at No 18 on the project Observer Leader Board with 2,356 observations is certain one such participant. She’s a strong supporter of iNaturalist with 3,643 observations recorded.
Some Bio Blurbs also feature Australian locations, where project participants would find the natural environment both interesting and unusual, often full of exotic marine life. This Bio Blurb is one of those as well, as Susan lives at a place most dream about visiting, Norfolk Island. A place rich in both environmental and historical contexts.
Finally, Susan is a skilled, professional writer, so there is very little I could add to her Bio Blurb, as it is a rich and rewarding write-up of her interest in nature and her love for the island. The following are her own words.
“If I was to give you a quick list of what I am, this would be it: a science communicator, an interpretation researcher, content developer, writer, editor, project manager, community engagement practitioner, publisher, storyteller, and environmental and coral reef advocate. And I am about to embark on a PhD, studying Norfolk Island’s marine environment. I am also a mum to two adopted daughters, a grandma to one grandson and a granddaughter who is due very soon.
I was born in the UK, and emigrated to Australia with my then husband 40 years ago, in 1984. I’ve loved being in the water since I was a child, so it was natural for me to take up the opportunity to go scuba diving and ocean swimming in Australia. We moved as a family to Norfolk Island in the late 1990s, for a period of almost five years. I then returned to the island to live permanently in 2018.
In the 90s, I’d squeeze my daily swims around part-time work and being a mum. I’d swim out to the reef, often with a small child – or two – hanging onto my back so they could peer into the depths and see the amazing wonders there as well. I recall pointing out moray eels, cheeky smoky pullers and colourful wrasse.
Fast forward twenty years, I returned as an empty nester with more time. Working as a freelancer gave me the flexibility to resume my swims but when I got in the water, I was immediately struck by the changes I thought I was seeing – less fish, both in variety and numbers, and diseased and algae-covered corals. I didn’t return to diving, though. On Norfolk, we are lucky enough to be able to access the reef by wading in off the beach. All my photos have been taken while snorkeling, which I normally try and time to around low tide. As I only use a small camera and no additional lighting or other equipment, low tide conditions mean I can get closer to the subject and stay still enough to get a reasonable shot.
I had no evidence to support my hunch that the reef was struggling and when I searched for resources about Norfolk Island’s reef, I could find very little. Norfolk Island was almost like a research frontier – yet to be really discovered. I decided I had to do something. In January 2020, I drew a line in the sand and began taking photographs. But the trouble was, I didn’t have a clue what I was photographing. I had zero knowledge, none whatsoever, of fish or corals. Heck, I even confused a flowerpot coral with an anemone! I would Google, for example, ‘black and white fish, horizontal stripes, yellow tail fin’ and then trawl through the photos until I found something that looked vaguely similar. That led to me discovering iNaturalist and it grew from there.
Norfolk Island’s reef has long been overlooked, overshadowed by the stunning beauty and intriguing history of the island above water. Yet, Norfolk Island’s lagoons are unique and I wanted to raise awareness of them. Not only does the island feature one of the most southerly coral reefs in the world, but it is uniquely surrounded by an Australian Marine Park up to the high tide mark, while directly abutting the World Heritage Australian Convict Property of Kingston. This is relevant in that this history has contributed to many of the detrimental changes we see on the reef today.
As many freelancers will relate, I was booked for a six-week job that never eventuated, so with my growing catalogue of images, I decided to use the time to build a website and blog. It’s by no means perfect, but it is a start. On there, and with the iNaturalist window always open to help me ID species, I catalogued every kind of fish – as well as corals, anemones, nudibranchs, turtles and much more – that I’d seen in the last four years while doing my ‘lap’ swimming. This website is updated regularly as I get better images of different species or write another blog post.
In summer 2020, as I was just getting going recording the reef, Norfolk Island experienced a severe drought. It broke with devastating consequences for our marine environment. Since then, I’ve used the website and my Norfolk ISLAND TIME social media pages to raise awareness and to pressure (nicely) the various levels of government to help us tackle our water quality issues. In those four years, there have been some small improvements to the catchment, research undertaken and reports tendered, but there is still much to do if we are to fix the problem properly and build a resilient reef – resilient enough to withstand the other impacts that are coming at it, such as climate change. Time is marching on, and I fear we will lose the reef as we know and experience it today before we achieve any serious improvements to the island’s wastewater management.
In this journey, iNaturalist and Australian Fishes have proved to be an amazing resource, but I think the thing that has struck me the most throughout this whole, very steep, learning curve, is the enthusiasm and helpfulness of other fish and coral enthusiasts, both amateur and academic. So many people have kindly helped to correct my aberrant IDs and offered advice and supportive comments. Even better, I can’t quite describe the thrill of being the first person to identify a species in an area. I think I am up to eleven now. Silly, I know. Childish, possibly. But it’s a great buzz.
As a citizen scientist, I have more than 100,000 images of Norfolk Island’s reef and its inhabitants: four years of information, observations and evidence. I keep everything, and I also keep different versions of the best photos. This means I have the right file size and type ready to go for any particular platform, be it my website, the book I am writing, iNaturalist.org records, Facebook or anything else I need. And keeping everything (and filing them in a logical way) means I can go back and compare images of the same coral bommie, for example, taken in 2020 to ones taken in 2024. I believe this resource is and will continue to be invaluable in helping to protect Norfolk Island’s reef. It is my advocacy tool. We may forget, but photographs don’t.
I have to thank Malcolm Francis, @malcolm_francis, who is based in New Zealand and who maintains a comprehensive fish species database for Norfolk Island, the Kermadecs and Lord Howe. He has been a wealth of wisdom and information. I’d also like thank and acknowledge two other very significant people on this journey: coral researchers Associate Professor Tracy Ainsworth and Associate Professor Bill Leggat. It is because of them that I have now, at 64-years-old, decided to embark on a PhD to try and fill in some of those research gaps”
I certainly want to pay Susan a visit and buy her a coffee, on the island of course. For those interested in learning more about her work or the unique natural environment found on Norfolk Island, I encourage you to examine her website, blog and Facebook page.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Posted on March 13, 2024 05:51 AM by markmcg markmcg | 7 comments | Leave a comment

March 23, 2024

Male Leafy Seadragon with parasite gives birth

Jens Sommer-Knudsen, @jenssommer01, took this wonderful photo in January 2024.
Janine Baker, @marinejanine, manages the Dragon Search South Australia project. She stated, "This is such a special photo, because it shows a newly hatched baby seadragon, on top of the algae-covered egg cups. Very rare to see a hatchling captured in the same image as the father."
The adult seadragon was named 'Xiaolong' by diver Kerry Neil. Xiaolong means 'Little Dragon'. In her own words Kerry is a "passionate marine scientist working within industry to ensure sustainable development of coastal infrastructure."
Jens provided us with the following information. "A dive buddy from URG NSW and I had travelled to South Australia with the main aim of seeing and photographing Leafy Seadragons. Peter Corrigan from Sea Dragon Dive Lodge was kind enough to take us for a dive at Rapid Bay Jetty to help us find some; the photo in question is of a leafy that he showed us just next to the old jetty. We saw a number of leafies during the dive as well as more on a subsequent dive. We observed Xiaolong towards the end of the dive and while the egg mass is obvious, I must admit that I didn't notice the babies and the parasitic isopod (See another journal post about parasitic isopods) until I looked closer at the photos after the dive."
Thank you Jens for uploading this terrific observation.
P.S. For all you movie trivia buffs, American martial artist and actor Bruce Lee's Chinese name was 李小龍 (Li Xiaolong).
Posted on March 23, 2024 07:34 AM by markmcg markmcg | 0 comments | Leave a comment