23 de febrero de 2021

Scientist Member Profile – Glenn Moore

To continue our series started in 2020 that features scientists who have generously assisted the Australian Fishes project with their time and expertise, we introduce Dr Glenn Moore, Curator of Fishes at the Western Australian Museum. Glenn, who goes by the user name @gmoo, has been researching Western Australia’s fishes for more than 25 years and is recognised as an authority for the identification and taxonomy of both marine and freshwater fishes. Glenn is an experienced field-based researcher and his research involves taxonomy, genetics, biodiversity, biogeography, ecology and evolution. He regularly uses outreach opportunities to engage with the general public, raising awareness about fishes through popular publications, media, public enquiries and citizen science initiatives.
Q: I would be interested in the origins of your interest in nature, especially fish. A bit about your early areas of research. Did your interest in science begin at a young age?
A: I have been obsessed with the natural world, especially animals, for as long as I can remember. Our family often travelled around Australia, especially WA, and I was the kid who was always catching critters – lizards, frogs, spiders and insects. I got binoculars at about 10 years of age and added birds to my obsession. I was even the president of our local branch of the Gould League. I grew up fishing with my dad and loved the thrill of trying to figure out what we had caught, but I never really thought about studying them, because I couldn’t experience them the way I could with terrestrial fauna. That all changed when I learned to SCUBA dive in my mid-teens and I saw fish in a different way. Spending time with fish made them less of a mystery and I stopping seeing them as something on the end of a hook. I bought every fish book I could afford and I spent every weekend snorkelling or diving. When I got out of the water, I immediately went through the books and wrote down everything I saw (I still do). I really was obsessed – most of my spare time was taken up with reading fish books (pre-internet!) and learning how to identify them. In the late 1980s, I started studying Zoology at UWA and I also started to think more critically about fish behaviour, biology and evolution. My friends gave me the nickname ‘fishnut’, which has stuck to this day. I was hooked and did everything I could to get to new places to explore Western Australia’s fishes but as a young uni student, funds were limiting! So I volunteered for every PhD student project I could find, I got a research assistant job working on seagrass (really so I could see fish), I got heavily involved in the UWA dive club committee so I could get discounted boat trips and gear hire and I soon found myself becoming a SCUBA instructor with the local dive shop so I could get paid to be underwater (and watch fish while watching students 😊). I had found my calling and set about ensuring I could make a career out of it. Even then, I had earmarked the museum as the place I wanted to end up. I did an Honours project on Buffalo Bream and then a Masters on seahorses. Jobs in marine science were hard to get and so I ended up as the Community Education Manager at the Aquarium of Western Australia for a couple of years. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t for me – I wanted to do the science. In 2002 I got a contract as the Western Australian Museum fish technical officer. I was in the place I had wanted to be and working with one of my idols, Dr Barry Hutchins, who I proudly call my mentor now. After four years my contract ran out and I knew if I wanted to lead a research program, I needed a PhD so I signed up and did my PhD using genetics to explore the evolutionary history of the charismatic Australian Salmons. While doing my PhD, Barry retired and with perfect timing, the Curator of Fishes position was advertised as my thesis was being examined. I got the PhD, won the job and here I am.
Q: Why the interest in the Australasia Fishes project and are you contacted to assist with Identifications often? How did you first get involved with our project?
I was invited to join up by Mark McGrouther. At the time, I was reluctant because I was getting so many public enquires through the museum that the thought of adding more seemed overwhelming. Mark gave me a few friendly nudges and I jumped on board. Just as when I first started as a young naturalist, I still love the challenge of figuring out what something is and that keeps me coming back. However, I also love the fact that as a professional, I can now help citizen scientists with their exciting finds. I also learn a lot about distributions of fishes and of course, I learn a lot from all the other contributors. My engagement ebbs and flows with how much other work I have, but I’ll usually jump on if someone tags me.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your typical, fish identification process? What features to examine first? How difficult is this working from photographs? Are there some elements in taking a photo which would make it easier for identification? Perhaps we could tell members how to improve the images for your purposes.
In the bird world, they use the word jizz. This refers to the first general impression you have, including size, shape and movement and I think it’s the same for fishes. It’s really the first stage that any of use to identify anything. For most of us jizz can tell us if it is a shark or a trevally but as you get more and more knowledge and familiarity, the same set of discrimination skills can get an identification down closer and closer to species level as the first step. Of course, information on where the image was taken plays a big role in excluding certain species. From there, each group of fish requires a different set of characters to identify them. Photographs limit what characters are available, but we usually rely on some combination of colour/pattern and body proportions (both of which can be really variable). If the photo is really good, we might be able to count the rays in the fins, see the teeth or even count certain scales. One of the things about being a professional ichthyologist is that it is our job to follow the literature and the changes in taxonomy, so we tend to be acutely aware of what we don’t know. This often leads to us being more conservative with our identifications, so don’t be put off if we aren’t prepared to confidently put a name on your photo. While your fish might look a lot like species X, we know the only way to be 100% sure is to count the scales, or do an x-ray and count the vertebrae or something else that is impossible from a photo alone. What makes a good photo? For most fish it is important to have the fish as flat as possible on its side with its fins out (some things like rays, flatheads, flounders etc are best from top). Try to fill the frame with as much fish as possible and keep the resolution high. Wet fish out of the water reflect light so try to avoid big bright patches on the fish’s flanks. Take several photos from different angles and close ups of different parts of the fish. iNaturalist is great because you can post multiple images, so why not? Out of interest, you might notice that fish field guides using paintings or dead fish usually have the specimen oriented facing to the left – it’s just one of those standards we all use. But don’t worry about that for ID purposes.
Q: I would be interested in some of your experiences in remote area research. It must be very interesting. Do you do any underwater work as well as part of your field work?
I am lucky that I am the museum ichthyologist responsible for Western Australia (which is about one third of Australia!). We have extremely remote places that are very difficult to get to. My career has included expeditions to some of the most remote places – the Kimberley marine areas. I have worked in places that no human may ever have been before. We dive a lot and the fish communities are largely untouched and intact. However, these trips are challenging. We are days from the nearest emergency services and the Kimberley has enormous tides (up to 12m in places), sometimes very poor visibility, crocodiles and sharks so it is not for the inexperienced. I recognise that it is indeed a privilege to visit these areas and survey the incredible fish diversity.
Q: What do you think about the project? Are we making a contribution, and if so, in what areas do you believe the data we are collecting will ultimately be useful, in a scientific context? What advice would you give our participants or words of encouragement would you offer?
I think iNaturalist is a fantastic forum, for two reasons. Firstly, it is such a wonderful way to connect people who are interested in the same things. This includes connecting citizen scientists with professionals. From a scientific perspective, the ever-growing dataset contributes to our knowledge of species distributions, in particular. When I try to establish distributional boundaries for a given species, I always check on here to see if anyone has added a sighting outside of the known range. This has already been important for documenting shifts in the distribution of animals related to our warming seas. I am sure this will only continue, but I hope that it might help us pressure decision makers and find solutions to solve our worsening climate crisis. For too long, this has been the responsibility of professional scientists, but now everyone can do their part – keep going!
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Anotado en febrero 23, martes 00:49 por markmcg markmcg | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario

09 de febrero de 2021

Diving into the past…

Despite being a year where many people couldn’t get on, and in, the water as often as they may like, 2020 saw the Australasian Fishes project continue to grow in both the number of observations and the total number of species. Nearly 27,000 observations were added to the project in the last year, 4000 more than 2019, taking the total to over 100,000 observations (Figure 1). Approximately 1,400 species were observed in 2020 by Australasian Fishes users, including 97 previously unrecorded, increasing the total number of species in Australasian Fishes database to nearly 2,500 (Figure 2).
Figure 1: Number of Australasian Fishes observations per year between 1962 and 2020 excluding years with no observations.
Figure 2: Number of fish species observed per year (green bars) and the total number of species recorded by the Australasian Fishes project (black line) between 1962 and 2020.
One of the most striking trends from these graphs is that there are relatively few observations and species prior to 2018. This is hardly surprising, given the Australasian Fishes project started at the end of 2016, however, it highlights the huge potential for increasing the Australasian Fishes database through the addition of older observations.
We know the underwater world is a very dynamic environment. Reefs are constantly changing, species disappear, and new ones arrive in their place. Rocks are cleared of algae and sponges by big storms, and even whole new reefs can appear from the beneath the sand before eventually being buried again. Many Australasian Fishes contributors may have observed such changes, having visited the same sites over years or even decades.
Chris Roberts (@cj_roberts) is a PhD candidate at UNSW Sydney researching how underwater photos and videos can be used as an alternative data source to monitor reefs. The research is also looking at whether old photos can be used to document how reefs and the species inhabiting them have changed through time. In addition to fish, this research will also be looking at changes in mobile invertebrates, as well as the reef attached organisms such as algae and sponges. The main reason for the creation of a separate project to Australasian Fishes is to gather underwater observations of ALL marine life in one place.
To gather old underwater observations for this research we have set up an iNaturalist project called In Bygone Dives (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/in-bygone-dives). If you have older underwater photos, you can assist this research by joining the In Bygone Dives project and upload some of your older observations (but don’t forget to also add your old fish observations to the Australasian Fishes project). If digging through your archives to find and upload your old photos seems like a daunting task, we would encourage you to start with your oldest photos, as these will be relatively more valuable as historical data simply due to their being less observations further back in time (although all observations are extremely valuable!). If you already have older observations on iNaturalist, you could also add them to the In Bygone Dives project (to add observations already on iNaturalist to new projects in bulk/batches, message @cj_roberts for instructions).
If you’re thinking ‘I don’t have old dive photos’, well, we all know ‘old’ is relative, and this research is looking at change through time using photos from pioneer diving days through to more recent years. So, you can enjoy looking back at diving memories, and by adding them to In Bygone Dives, you’ll also be helping our reefs and how we conserve and manage them in the future.
For more info about the project visit www.inbygonedives.com or message @cj_roberts directly on iNaturalist.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Chris Roberts.
Anotado en febrero 09, martes 00:52 por markmcg markmcg | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

30 de enero de 2021

Member profile - Tim Wilms

Looking back over the past bio blurbs of the project, a familiar sentiment expressed is that at some point, many participants wanted to be marine scientists. While many participants took different career paths, we try to feature in our Journal, individuals who became professional marine scientists. In this article, we meet someone who is well on the path to becoming a professional marine scientist, and a strong supporter of citizen science and Australasian Fishes. Tim Wilms (https://www.inaturalist.org/people/tim_wilms) is ranked #15 on the project fish identification leaderboard, with 3,712 identifications for Australasian Fishes. He has conducted over 24,000 identifications for iNat and is still going strong. His story is very inspirational and illustrates the global reach of citizen science.
Tim is a 33-year-old PhD candidate at the Technical University of Denmark. He originally come from the Netherlands and lives in Denmark with his wife and two children. While for Tim, changing countries for study was an easy transition, the weather in Denmark is equally as bad as the weather in Holland, his wife is from Manado in Indonesia. Northern Europe climate requires is taking time to adjust, not to mention the issues surrounding COVID.
Like many stories of international travel for study, Tim’s passion for marine science started with international travel. He says “Although I had always been fascinated by sharks from a young age, my real passion for the ocean started in 2006 after my Dad took my brother and me to the Red Sea in Egypt. After an introduction dive in the hotel pool, we started our PADI open water course and I found myself hooked immediately after taking my first few breaths underwater. The underwater life and colours were absolutely astonishing, and the visibility was unbelievable. Eventually, I even switched my career path entirely, going from studying Econometrics and Operations Research into Earth Science and eventually Marine Science. I have never once regretted that decision until this day and I now consider myself lucky to be working in a field that truly fascinates me.”
His current area of marine research regards marine habitat restoration in the Baltic Sea. From his description it is extremely interesting, and steeped in recent history, illustrating how man alters the natural environment, to the detriment of the marine habitat. It began in the early 20th century in Denmark, with the “stone-fishing industry”. He tells us, “Basically, stone-fishermen were extracting the rocks from the seabed, initially by hand in shallow water but they soon enough started to use more sophisticated technologies such as diving on surface-supplied air and using small cranes to extract the heaviest boulders. The stone-fishermen were selling the rocks to companies involved with the construction of harbors and bridges, and the Baltic Sea rocks were even used for the restoration of buildings in Western Europe after World War II. This activity of stone fishing was prohibited early on in Germany, but not until 2010 in Denmark, meaning that much of the reef habitat here has now been either degraded or completely removed. As such, many Baltic fish species have lost large parts of the habitat they are depending on for food and shelter, and we have seen a steady decline in commercially important fish stocks (such as Atlantic cod) for which habitat loss has undoubtedly been a major contributor (alongside systematic overfishing).”
Tim’s PhD project focuses on rocky reef habitat that is being restored in dedicated parts of Denmark. This is done by purchasing rocks from quarries in Norway and shipping them to Denmark as well as rocks that result from blasting during the construction of tunnels, which are usually shipped and dumped offshore. Reefs are constructed in various configurations to find out what design works best for different marine species. Then the project uses non-invasive sampling techniques that do not damage the habitat or marine species they want to monitor, such as baited underwater cameras and environmental DNA sampling, creating datasets and contributing to better knowledge on how to restore and preserve marine ecosystems.
With this focus on European marine life, how did this Baltic researcher get involved in the Australasian Fishes Project? Tim recalls, “I discovered iNat in late 2017 after I had been identifying fish on the “marine creature identification” page on Facebook. However, I felt that the Facebook page was lacking an overall structure to the observations. iNat, on the other hand, was a very robust tool that saved all observations on a global map together with the date of observation, allowing for a comparison of species seasonal occurrences across oceans. I also realized that, for some marine species, there were very few observations to be found on the general fish database websites whereas iNat often seemed to have at least a handful of observations for those species. I have been hooked to iNat ever since and still try to check out new observations of interest every day.
Another great feature of iNat are the projects, such as the Australasian fishes project, and the way in which they are linked to observations from a particular area. In my case, I came across the Australasian Fishes project because it was linked to many observations I was identifying. I personally have had a strong connection with Australia, ever since I decided to leave on a 2-year working holiday trip Down Under in 2010. My main goal was to get my advanced open water certificate and explore the Great Barrier and Ningaloo Reefs, but of course this all had to be financed somehow. And so, my working trip also brought me to Tully to pick bananas (hell of a job); to Bruce Rock (WA) to drive a tractor seeding wheat and barley; and to Kojonup to work as a shepherd for 3 months (which may just be the best job on this planet). I particularly enjoyed living in these remote outback villages and being able to disappear off the grid for a while, something we are just never able to experience here in Western Europe.”
In a way, Tim is paying back his debt to Australia for his experiences here and having Australasian Fishes support from someone in Northern Europe is one of the truly amazing aspects of our project. It is clear he is also a big fan and supporter of citizen science. In Denmark, he often works with local fishermen who kindly boat him around to different sampling locations. The fishermen have a huge amount of knowledge on local fish populations and are genuinely excited and curious about the research. Tim tells us, “In one of our fish tracking projects, the fishermen even contribute to the data collection process by bringing along manual receiver devices on their fishing trips to search for underwater signals from tagged fish. Every time a tagged fish is detected by the fishermen, a new data point with time and location of the fish is added to our database which improves our statistical power on which we base our conclusions. In a way, this is comparable to the contribution of citizen science to iNat. Every time an observation is added and assigned to “research grade” with help of the iNat community, we are adding a data point in space and time for that particular species. Many of my colleagues utilize fish distribution maps (e.g., AquaMaps from FishBase) for their publications, and by adding more and more observations here to iNat we are in effect creating similar species distribution maps of high resolution in particular for coastal areas (within range of our SCUBA and snorkeling community of course). Perhaps at some stage, large-scale marine observations (e.g., offshore fisheries data) can be effectively combined with fine-scaled data (e.g., from iNat) to create distribution maps of high resolution across the globe. I can definitely see these types of maps being increasingly used by the scientific community in the near future, especially to detect marine invasions or track shifting species distributions due to global warming. Without a doubt, every data point counts!”
I am sure many of us know about the challenges of being a PhD student, and how much of a personal struggle it can be. I came across many stereotypical, “starving” PhD candidates during my career in the university sector. Tim is fortunate where he has found a venue supportive of his work and family. He says, “I would say that Denmark is probably one of the better countries in Europe (or even globally) to be conducting a PhD in the natural sciences. In contrast to other countries (such as the U.K. for example), PhD candidates in Denmark are considered employees, not students and therefore receive a decent salary instead of monthly stipends. Another thing I found very appealing when entering Denmark was the way in which they treated my family situation with a wife and stepdaughter coming from Indonesia. I was told from day one that employees in Denmark should feel comfortable and be able to focus on their jobs without stress about their family situation, meaning that my wife was granted a residence permit right away and could start looking for a job as well. This would not have been possible in countries that do not consider PhD candidates to be employees.”
As he is brimming with optimism and support for our project, I ask Tim what he thinks the future holds for him and his work. He notes, “I’m expecting to finish the PhD by the end of next year. After that, I am hoping to continue some of the conservation and restoration work we are currently involved in, possibly through a postdoctoral position at the university. We have just received news last week that we have been granted funding to construct and study a “barrier reef” along a part of the Danish coastline that is experiencing a high degree of coastal erosion. The idea is that our future barrier reef will function as coastal protection by attenuating wave energy, while at the same time enhancing marine biodiversity locally and serving as a case study for similar future efforts. So, at the moment things are looking promising in terms of future work, but you just never really know in this competitive world of academia. In case things do not work out at the university in the end, I could certainly see myself filling some sort of consultancy role either within a governmental agency or at an NGO. In any case, I will always be looking to somehow contribute to our global effort of preserving the ocean for future generations and safeguarding the astonishing marine biodiversity it harbors against anthropogenic stressors.”
We are very grateful to our global supporters and take inspiration from the professional marine science community, who remind us of how important the project has been and will continue to be in the future. Who knows, one day we may be visiting the Great Rock Barrier Reef of Denmark.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Anotado en enero 30, sábado 03:46 por markmcg markmcg | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

14 de enero de 2021

Member profile - Yann Kemper

One of the more delightful aspects of working on the Australasian Fishes project is that through the iNaturalist software, one can meet interesting people from all over the world. Occasionally you come across someone who is extremely impressive in their focus and dedication to natural science, and that is the case with the project member highlighted in this article, Yann Kemper (in the photo, above, with Scott Loarie during a visit to the iNaturalist offices with his younger brother). Yann’s name should be familiar to many in the project, he is listed as Number 6 on the project Leader Board of the 1,691 people who are helping with the identification of fish for our project. I can recall numerous times loading observations into the project, late at night, only to find Yann’s identifications waiting for me in the morning. His name, as well as @maractwin, aka Mark Rosenstein, (https://www.inaturalist.org/posts/27243-member-profile-mark-rosenstein#summary ) often greets participants when they first open their software in the morning to check identifications for recent observations. They are often the first of the day. Yann’s dedication and stellar performance is even more noteworthy when we learn that Yann is actually a high school student, living in the very land-locked city of Cincinnati, Ohio in the United States!
When I first learned about Yann, I immediately recalled the practice of several news magazines which run annual features called “Young Leaders of the Future.” In these stories, the editors highlight young individuals, who by their actions, contributions and dedication to a worthwhile cause, demonstrate the qualities which will likely make them future leaders in their discipline. A quick examination of Yann’s work indicates he is worthy of nomination for the title of “Future Leader in the Natural Sciences”. Just through our project alone, we can easily see how dedicated he is supporting citizen science. For Australasian Fishes he has recorded 8,547 identifications. To further support his “Future Leader” status, Yann is also participating in 42 other iNaturalist projects, to which he has contributed a total of 111,669 identifications. If that was not enough, he also Curates a project on iNat called Moths of the World (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/moths-of-the-world)
It is easy to wonder what drives this high school student to be so deeply engaged in the study of nature in general and Australasian Fishes in particular? Yann says, “I've shown interest in your project due to my love of Australasian fish. My extensive interest in the natural world stems from the fact that I enjoy finding things I've never seen before. I divide my time across nature and my other hobbies.”
Yann’s interested in nature is also supported by his interest in photography. Not having visited Australia or even living near an ocean, he has not been in a position to add to our project’s observations. He notes, “I don't collect fish images often, seeing as I don't live nearby any seas or oceans. I have snorkel dived in the Florida Keys, although this was prior to purchasing my Olympus TG-5.”
Although far from an ocean, Yann’s interest in nature still has a local outlet. He says, “As for non-aquatic subjects, I usually hang around in a specific spot and sift through dirt to find smaller organisms.” This looking for local, smaller organisms has resulted in a total of 9,097 observations for iNat, including taxa such as birds, plants, insects, and, of course, moths. He is serious about his photography, saying, “I'm a high-school student, typically I don't have time to take photographs, save for the weekend. During Summer and vacations, I have ample time for photography. I visit Germany every few years to see my family, while there, I'm often on the lookout for birds, I also visit California often, which is where I take most of my fish photographs. Outside of iNaturalist, I'm interested in watching foreign films, and archiving websites with Archive Team. I use a Nikon P900 as well as an Olympus TG-5, although I have used the latter less since my purchase of the former. I only have a simple light-ring on my TG-5 that subsides for aquatic photography.”
Like many of the project leaders, Yann follows other leaders on iNaturalist. He currently follows 96 people, across numerous projects and scientific disciplines. It is interesting to note Yann follows Ken-ichi Ueda, one of the software’s founders, see our article at: (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/australasian-fishes/journal/archives/2019/05 ) and who currently co-directs iNaturalist (See: kueda's Profile · https://www.inaturalist.org/people/1). Ken-ichi has recoded over 40,000 observations and has helped with over 92,000 identifications. You can tell a future leader by the people they associate with in both the real and cyber-naturalist sphere. Yann points out, “I like to follow people as a token of appreciation. I'll typically follow someone when I like their photography or work in the natural field.”
While I greatly appreciate the work Yann does for me and the project, I find it amazing that his knowledge of antipodean fish is so vast, especially for someone who lives 15,000 kilometres from Australia, in a landlocked part of the US. Yann explains, “I developed my skills in species identification through hours of reading old scientific documents and papers, as well as emailing different professors and meeting with some in person. One trick for identification I've grown fond of is comparing species to identification keys (this works particularly well on insects). Sci-Hub may be of use to you if you can't find an article anywhere. I think what specifically first interested me in iNaturalist, and by extension nature, was that my photographs could be used in research data and field guides. I kind of branched out and just overall became interested in Nature from there. My moth project is mostly a collection project. I noticed there wasn't any easy method to sort moth observations from butterfly observations, so I decided to create that project to fill that gap. I guess I could see a lepidopterologist using some of that data to show population systemics, for example, maybe showing the amount of moth observations in a particular area.”
So where does a future leader in Natural Science go after high school? Yann responds, “I'd say my career plans are currently either an entomologist, preferably a hemipterologist (leafhoppers, planthoppers, etc) or an ichthyologist. Ichthyology would be my preferred field, but I don't live anywhere near an ocean and freshwater fish are not my specialty. Ohio State University or the University of Cincinnati would likely be ideal, but a California University or perhaps a foreign one may be an option as well.”
Yann reflects on some of the challenges of taking the path of natural sciences. He notes, “Frankly, it's quite hard to find young people my age who share my interests in my area. I go birdwatching every other Sunday with a group of (mostly) senior citizens, but a few younger college students occasionally join in. Most of my photography adventures are in and around my neighbourhood as we have a large back forest and field. I do make many other observations in and around Cincinnati as well, though.” He reminds us that nature photography can be challenging as even more so, in a climate which experiences cold winters. He recalls, “I'd say my worst nature photography incident would probably be around January, at Burnet Woods (a local urban park). I'm rather skinny, and on top of that, I didn't exactly dress for the frigid weather, and my hands were going numb from the cold. Despite that, I did preserve and took plenty of photographs.”
Many project participants have been attracted to Australasian Fishes, as it has been an excellent learning tool to self-teach fish identification. This is an advantage of iNaturalist, as if you have an interest in any taxa of the living environment, there is probably a project which can act as a classroom for the ID of life on the planet. Yann reminds us, “I discovered Australasian Fishes around the time I started getting active on iNaturalist. My first category of taxa which I often identified and got to know was fishes, and I enjoyed focusing on fish of the Greater Caribbean and Australia.
Trying to identify future leaders is not easy, and there are many examples where news magazines, got it wrong, Their nominees were famous one day, then never heard from again. In natural sciences, future leadership is extremely important. It is easy to see that many of the current discipline leaders, in the research and academic communities, are, to be polite, getting older. There is a clear need for the next wave of scientific leaders to arrive on the scene, as the current crop heads toward retirement. It is motivating to find people like Yann in our project, who are willing to assist those with less experience and share their observation and experience with the rest of the iNat community. This is excellent training for a future leader and I see a future where such skills and dedication will benefit projects like ours and science in general.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Anotado en enero 14, jueves 02:34 por markmcg markmcg | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario

11 de diciembre de 2020

Woo-hoo! 100,000 observations and counting

It's time to give yourselves a pat on the back. The Australasian Fishes Project recently cracked 100,000 observations! That's incredible. What's more, the milestone was crossed on 24 November and since then nearly 2000 observations have been added. You guys are amazing. Thank you! :)
@joanna_chen, photographed above wearing her favourite pink mask, uploaded the lucky 100,000th observation - a Wobbegong. Joanna stated that, "The [photo of the] wobbie was captured at Split Solitary Island on a NSW east coast dive trip. It happened to be perched right on the corals." Congratulations Joanna and thank you for your ongoing contributions.
And speaking of contributions, you may be interested in the graphs below, which track the rise in the numbers of observations, species and project members.
It took four years to reach this milestone. Somehow, I can't see it taking another 4 to reach 200,000. :) Thanks again fish-fans!
Anotado en diciembre 11, viernes 00:23 por markmcg markmcg | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario

25 de noviembre de 2020

Spring BioBlitz Report

Introduction
One of the more interesting publishing phenomena of the 1980’s and early 1990’s was a book series titled, “A Day in The Life of…” This photojournalism series was organised by Rick Smolan, and each volume featured a selected location, examined over a 24-hour period. Over this time about 50 photographers were commissioned to record their assigned part of the country or state. The result was a series of 13 books, with titles such as Day in the Life of Australia, A Day in the Life of America, etc. The locations featured in the series included, America, the Soviet Union, Japan, California, Spain, Hawaii, Australia, Israel, Africa, China and Thailand. The results were coffee table size books of professional photos, all taken across the selected locale, documenting a single day. Each volume was a unique product, a snapshot of a single day in the lives of ordinary people, across the featured location. Of course, the photos were of professional quality, and selected to illustrate the lives of typical people in the course of a normal day.
It is interesting to look back at these books today, not only for their nostalgic or historic value, but to appreciate the herculean effort it took to organise this simple concept, capture one day in photos. As the years go by such books may be great interest to future generations, illustrating how normal people lived a typical life at a singular point in time.
The concept of a BioBlitz is similar, except the subject is the natural world, at a particular point in time. Our project software has been instrumental in furthering this concept of BioBlitz, providing a platform for such snapshots of nature, at a selected point in time. Looking through iNaturalist, there are 5,442 listings for projects with the word “BioBlitz”. Locations include national parks, schools, backyards and other exotic and less exotic local areas. While not only fun, according to the BioBlitz iNat sites, they also provide valuable information on various populations in nature at a certain point in time. It is useful information, and data which will serve the scientific community for many years.
Like A Day in the Life, organising a BioBlitz is a significant task, relying heavily on motivated individuals to raise awareness of the event and to take a leadership role in its organisation. This is especially true in the early stages of organisation. Think of Australia’s amazingly successful Clean Up Australia Day, which was founded in 1989 and has grown to a massive initiative across the country, and the world. In July, Australasian Fishes published an announcement about the upcoming Spring BioBlitz organised by Thomas Mesaglio (AKA the beachcomber) whose bio-blurb can be found here.
Thomas, always interested in the natural environment, has organised the official participation of Australia in this global event, for the first time. Below is his report of the event, with his thanks for the support of Australasian Fishes project members.
- Harry Rosenthal
Spring BioBlitz Report
In April earlier this year, Australia participated in the City Nature Challenge for the first time, with four cities ─ Greater Sydney, Greater Adelaide, Geelong and Redland City ─ all joining in. Notching up almost 17,000 observations in just 4 days, Australia’s debut was a successful one, especially given the event ran during our autumn when many flowers are no longer in bloom, migratory birds have left, and invertebrates are much harder to find.
The Australian City Nature Challenge organisers decided to build on this success by organising another major BioBlitz, but this time in September during our spring. Rather than limit the event to Australian cities, we decided to get as many Southern Hemisphere cities and regions involved as possible. Pitching the event as the Great Southern BioBlitz (GSB), we launched a broad social media campaign, promoting participation across all the usual channels, as well some handy advertising from Mark (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/australasian-fishes/journal/38737-spring-bioblitz). Over the course of just a few months, interest in the GSB ballooned, with more and more cities signing up from all around the world until we had an incredible 137 regions or cities across 12 countries and 3 continents.
The event was a huge success. In just 4 days, over 3,000 participants contributed almost 91,000 observations across over 12,000 species! (https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/great-southern-bioblitz-umbrella) Fishes, sharks and rays were strongly represented in the GSB, with 217 species observed over the 4 days, including this awesome eastern cleaner clingfish observed by @harryrosenthal (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/61281199) and a relatively rare Dunker’s pipehorse found by @tanikacs washed up onto a beach (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/60696946).
Although Cape Town stormed home to secure another major BioBlitz victory after winning the City Nature Challenge earlier in the year, with Lima also excelling, Sydney put in an awesome effort, finishing in the top 10 for number of observations (2,818) and observers (139), and 4th for number of species seen (1,137). A whopping 41% of Sydney’s diversity was plants, followed by molluscs (16%) and insects (14%). Fishes came in at 10%, highlighting an area to build on for next year!
Although organising BioBlitzes and similar events takes a lot of time, effort and outreach, it’s certainly worth it to see the amazing observations posted, and awesome engagement by naturalists of all ages and from all walks of life. Given the benefits of connecting with nature, including for physical and mental health, BioBlitzes like the GSB are a great way of overcoming those COVID blues. There are also many scientific benefits, with increased efforts to search for organisms uncovering rare and interesting finds, such as this rare, endangered isopod (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/60688593) found in Victoria by @smellmes.
We’re already starting to plan next year’s GSB, so pencil it into your diaries and expect an even bigger and more successful event!
- thebeachcomber
Anotado en noviembre 25, miércoles 01:02 por markmcg markmcg | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario

04 de noviembre de 2020

Scientist Member Profile - Tom Trnski (Head of Natural Sciences, Auckland Museum)

Both images above taken during the 2011 Kermadec Islands expedition - ©Richard Robinson @depth.co.nz.
Left image - Tom Trnski @tomtrnski spreading rotenone.
Right image - Tom (centre) processing a fish catch with Mark McGrouther @markmcg (right) and Carl Struthers @cdstruthers.
Tom Trnski grew up at a beachside suburb in Melbourne and spent his summers exploring the local rockpools. Once he learnt how to snorkel his interest in marine life expanded and continues to this day. He now studies fishes of the southwest Pacific region, and he is a specialist on the larval stages of fishes – the stage between hatching from their egg to settlement into the juvenile habitat – including their identification and ecology. He spent over 20 years at the Australian Museum, Sydney, before moving to the Auckland Museum in 2007
Tom has published books and scientific papers describing fish larvae and their fascinating life history. He has also led and participated in many surveys of fishes throughout the Pacific, from Indonesia, the Great Barrier Reef, Coral Sea to French Polynesia. In 2011 he led a biodiscovery expedition to the Kermadec Islands with scientists from five different agencies collecting and documenting species. The expedition was the largest of its kind to the Kermadecs – one of the world’s most untouched marine environments – and included discoveries new to New Zealand and to science.
Q: Could you tell us a little about the origins of your interest in nature, especially fish?
A: My immigrant parents were wary of the Australian environment, so my exposure to nature started in my mid-teens through friends who I would bush walk with. This transformed my view of nature and I found an immediate connection; on reflection this was perhaps a spiritual connection that has stayed with me for the rest of my life. I still get a buzz out of being in a remote place in a pristine environment. An undergraduate field botany course in Tasmania helped me interpret landscapes and the drivers of biodiversity.
I was a really poor swimmer as a child and somewhat fearful of the ocean after a near-drowning experience when I was about seven. I grew up in bayside Melbourne and spent summers at the beach, but never too far from shore, but was fascinated by the critters in the rockpools (these same rockpools are now barren of most life!). It wasn't until I was 19 that I learnt to swim distance and SCUBA dive. I did my science degree in Townsville and in second year did a weeklong coral reef ecology subject based at Orpheus Island and this was the beginning of my understanding of marine ecosystems and the pleasure of diving. Diving provided me the opportunity to observe closely the diversity and behaviour of marine life. I didn't realise until I studied science that it was a good fit for me.
After I finished my degree, I moved to Sydney for a year. While working as a barman to make ends meet (what else to do with a marine biology degree?). I started volunteering at the Australian Museum on my days off to maintain my interest in marine science. This led to a few short-term contracts and then to a full-time job there with the fish team. It was this serendipity that aligned me with fishes for the rest of my career. I spent 22 years there supporting and leading research, taking lots of data on fishes, doing collection management, and developing new collection and research facilities. There I had the opportunity to participate in, and later lead, field expeditions to collect fishes, sometimes to remote areas such as Shoalwater Bay in Queensland, the far northern Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, and French Polynesia. I have a logistician personality, so these expeditions were a good match to my natural abilities.
My first serious science job at the Australian Museum was working with my research mentor Jeff Leis, describing the development of fish larvae. It resulted in a book on the larvae of tropical Indo-Pacific fishes, which is still relevant today. I subsequently worked on another book describing larvae of southern Australia. After over 10 years of working at the museum, I undertook a PhD on the behaviour and ecology of larval and juvenile fishes.
Q: Why the interest in the Australasia Fishes project and are you contacted to assist with Identifications often? How did you first get involved with our project?
A: My former manager at the Australian Museum, Mark McGrouther, got me started, and hooked, on the Australasian Fishes project. The iNaturalist platform is fantastic, linking citizens to scientists. There are more eyes out there observing nature, and making great contributions to species distributions, behaviour and diversity. I can vicariously participate in these observations through my involvement in the Australasian Fishes project. I enjoy the challenge of identifying fishes, sometimes from imperfect images. I don't always get it right, but the community of experts narrows down the identification options to provide a good data set for analysis. I am quite time-challenged in my current job, so tend to respond to posts that I am linked to, rather than me being proactively searching for posts to identify.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your typical, fish identification process?
A: Interestingly, it is my exposure to larval fishes that has given me the knowledge to identify fishes. Fish larvae often look totally different to the adults. However, there are basic morphological consistencies of meristics (things that can be counted, like vertebrae and fin elements) and morphometrics (relative positions and size of anatomical features). Identifying fish larvae also requires a broad knowledge of the diversity of fishes, to help narrow down the options.
A good quality photograph can be the difference between a rough identification and an identification to species. Ideally a well-lit lateral shot with all fins visible is a winner. But this is not always possible, or only a part of the fish is available (for example some skeletal remains). The best images are also sharp enough to count the spines and rays of the fins; this certainly makes my identification task easier.
Q: Tell us about some of your experiences in remote area research.
A: I have been privileged to have had the opportunity to visit many islands in the South Pacific, often remote or uninhabited. Usually I am contributing to biodiversity surveys of the marine environment with a diverse array of other marine scientists. I have seen some pristine and degraded environments which has fuelled my interest in marine protection and recovery.
Even though I sometimes lead these remote area biodiversity surveys with scientists that have interests in marine mammals, algae or marine invertebrates, my passion is for the fishes. However, I recognise that all of these elements are connected, and I ensure that all interests are accommodated in expeditions.
Most of my survey work is undertaken snorkelling or diving or using ship-based capture methods such as nets, traps, dredges, videos or night lighting. Every method has its biases in what species are recorded so it is important to diversify methods to maximise species diversity.
The most exciting aspect of these surveys is either finding species that have not been recorded from an area before (range extensions) and finding new species. All of these increase our understanding of biogeography and the diversity of life.
I have been challenged many times to identify fishes. With about 20,000 marine species (and a similar number of freshwater species) there is always an unfamiliar species to deal with. Good descriptive guides written by experts are essential tools or the trade.
In identifying fishes for the Australasian Fishes project, I have sometimes made major errors if I have assumed the fish is marine rather than freshwater. So, it is imperative that the locality and habitat details are provided to assist with the identification. I had a recent fail when I assumed a fish was found in marine waters but in fact it was in freshwater, and I embarrassingly was nowhere near the correct identification (https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/23321818#activity_identification_130783987 ).
Q: What are your personal, current areas of research?
A: I moved to Auckland 13 years ago, initially to take up a curatorial role. My current role is as head of the natural sciences team at the Auckland Museum. I am the administrative leader of a team of curators and collection management staff. This means that I don't get a lot of time to do research. I manage to remain active mostly through collaboration with other scientists or through student supervision.
My varied research interests, at the moment, include the biodiversity of fishes in the South Pacific region, the drivers of biogeographic patterns, marine restoration, larval fish development and ecology, and the intersect of science and indigenous knowledge. The latter is challenging but also the most fulfilling part of my role. We were recently awarded a $13 million grant to enable an indigenous-led research program at the remote and pristine islands of Rangitahua / Kermadec Islands, which I have the privilege of co-leading.
I have been fortunate to have had a career in museums. Museums have an interesting profile, where research is undertaken, biodiversity is recorded, and the galleries can engage the public on topical issues.
Q: What do you think about the project? Are we making a contribution, and if so, in what areas do you believe the data we are collecting will ultimately be useful, in a scientific context?
A: The Australasian Fishes project is making a great contribution to our knowledge of species distribution ranges and new species records, and sometimes behaviour. The many additional observers have added new observations that would otherwise go undocumented.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Anotado en noviembre 04, miércoles 03:56 por markmcg markmcg | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario

12 de octubre de 2020

Member profile - Michal Biniek

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt by every Australian and, in fact, by almost everyone in the world. For many, it has become a life changing event, compounding the fear of illness with separation from family and community. There is no doubt that it has created a nostalgia for the old “normal” times, which looks good to many of us today.
For some, the ocean has provided a refuge from pandemic, as it is clear the virus seems to avoid the salt water. While not encouraged to congregate on the shore, many have become solitary divers/snorkellers, practicing isolation in the sea, and exploring the environment close to their homes, as travel has also been discouraged. Our project numbers have grown over the months of the pandemic, where some fortunate participants have been exploring their close local locations, and other have been supportive with identifications and encouragement. This bio’s subject Michal Biniek (on the right in the photo, above) clearly illustrates this response to isolation, as much of his body of work has been observed in the waters surrounding his residential neighbourhood of Manly, in Sydney.
Michal’s contribution reminds me another aspect of exploration as well, the exploration of a new country and culture. He reminds me of my past travels, working overseas in countries where a different language is spoken and is located far from family. Many project participants have worked overseas during their careers, and most will tell interesting stories about their adventures and misadventures, however, I would guess that their experience was not always a bed of roses. There were times when the distance from home, from family and from a native language created a challenging set of circumstances. In some ways, Michal reminds me of the additional challenges which must encountered when a pandemic and travel restrictions are added to the mix of overseas employment. Michal is a relative newcomer to our country, far away from his roots in his native Poland, however, it is clear he has quickly built himself a community, both physical and a virtual, in a very short period of time, during a global pandemic.
Michal came to Australia, from Poland three years ago. The purpose of the move was to join an Australian-owned software company, as a software engineer. He resides in Manly, NSW, where his odyssey in underwater photography started. Michal tells us, “Photography is my long running hobby. I started taking photos on film when I was a kid. Nature photography brings another level of difficulty as it requires many different factors to go well - it takes proper timing, light and composition to take a “good photo”. That’s especially challenging to achieve when chasing moving objects like animals.”
Michal did not do much underwater exploration in Europe but that changed after he moved to Sydney. Introduced to the underwater richness of the Sydney area by friends from the company’s scuba social club, (hello @kopper!), he learned that Sydney is an amazing place to discover underwater life. Not only that, but the place where he lives, was the perfect taking-off point for this underwater adventure. And take-off, he certainly has done, compiling an impressive record for the Australasian Fishes project. Since joining in April 2019, he has recorded 1,442 observations of which 1,288 have been for Australasian Fishes. His impressive list of observations encompass 262 species to date. In addition, in such a short time, he also helped in over 2,463 identifications. Michal has truly jumped in with both flippers! It is important to note that at least a third of his time in the project, was during a global pandemic (so far). When many others were looking for toilet paper, Michal was looking at his underwater neighbours.
Having a background in nature photography, he quickly wanted to know the names of the fish he recorded. He says, “iNat was recommended to me by friends in a company scuba social club as a great place to learn and seek for help identifying underwater species. @markmcg does a great job recruiting people to this amazing project. I’m impressed by the community around Australasian Fishes - great specialists, so when in doubt, we can get really precise expertise - as well as plenty of members submitting new interesting observations every day. I'm a huge fan of underwater photography, I take a camera with me on every snorkelling session. I have made a routine to process photos the same day as they were taken, or at least these with uncommon findings, so I can post them to iNat.”
He explains that “Manly has been my home for the last few years - that’s why most of my observations are done around there. Thankfully, I live really close to the water so I can get to the water pretty often! Additionally, due to COVID and travel lockdown I couldn’t really explore much further, so I took the opportunity to explore local waters even more carefully. Both sides of water offer great, yet different conditions and species. Shelly Beach - definitely better to “catch” big fish - like sharks or bull rays, but it can get busy. The Harbour side is a less common choice to swim, but that’s where I saw my first turtle in Sydney, hey!”
Michal prefers a lightweight set-up as much as possible, so his exploration is snorkel/shallow freediving only. This allows him quick trips to the water during the day. His current schedule allows from 2 to 3 trips a week, of course, depending on the weather and visibility. He reports any conditions with 15m visibility makes him simply take his fins and go straight to the water.
Michal discusses his preferred photography equipment, “I use Canon G7X mk II with Fantasea underwater housing - I shot photos with natural, ambient light - it takes a while to find out how to take better photos with that setup, but even with such minimalistic equipment it is possible to take “good photos”. I have found Manly-local Ian Donato’s guide a great start for beginners (https://www.housingcamera.com/blog/underwater-photography/on-being-an-underwater-photographer-who-favours-the-shallow-end). I wish I had read it earlier. My personal hints (for snorkelers) are usually specific:
• Chasing fish is usually a lost cause - is never ends with good photo; my tricks to get better angle of the fish is to swim parallel to it (works well with dusky whalers) to hide and surprise fish from behind a rock (juvenile butterflyfish) or simply wait - they may turn around and actually get curious.
• Some fish may get used to humans around - e.g. I observed some tropicals like brown tang which tend to ignore me after few minutes of me diving up and down.
• When without light/strobe, I set the shutter to fixed 1/250 - that helps with sharp pictures when diving “deeper” or during not-sunny weather when auto mode switches to 1/80 (sigh).
Nature photography, thanks to its challenges, is very rewarding. When moving to the opposite side of the globe, everything around is new and exciting. I wanted to learn more about them - taking pictures and identifying them helps and can be fun too. I also felt that the harbour deserves a little bit more attention, however it is hard to compete with Cabbage Tree Bay. As I live nearby Manly Cove, I have decided to scan that area with more attention - turns out that you can find such interesting critters like keyhole angelfish or a green sea turtle in the harbour as well!”
Finally, Michal’s engagement in the underwater community has been impressive, even while in isolation when the pandemic was in full swing. He is a strong supporter and contributor of the Facebook group VIZ, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/sydviz/) which is a private group dedicated to reports of underwater visibility conditions across the Sydney metropolitan area, focusing on conditions for divers. Like Australasian Fishes, it is volunteer site, with individuals and groups reporting water conditions, temperature and abundance of marine life across the regional area. The reporters are extremely enthusiastic, and their passion is almost infectious, as they report on conditions at famous and less famous dive spots. There is a good mixture of shore dive and boat dive reports, so the site is useful as a condition guide and motivator for getting off the couch, where many are waiting out the pandemic, and into the water. Another advantage, like Australasian Fishes, it creates a sense of instant community for all, including the newly arrived, COVID isolated individuals and those passionate about exploring the local marine environment. Michal quickly became a highly valued member of this Facebook community, as his reports have been on the lesser explored areas of Manly in Sydney. It seems like every few days, during the pandemic, Michel has been contributing photos, videos and water condition reports of the Manly area, harbour side and ocean side. This useful service has been appreciated by fellow members of the VIZ group, many of the observations he has made for our project have been featured in his reports on water conditions.
In summary, the pandemic has created an interesting challenge for many people in the world. For some it has been isolating, both physically and emotionally. A difficult time to overcome. Projects like Australasian Fishes and VIZ have help some to bridge the barriers of physical isolation, by allowing us to feel engaged with others in interesting and meaningful projects. When looking at these citizen-driven initiatives it is clear to see the dedication and passion reflected in the written reports and observations. There are often notes of encouragement and support which come through exchanges found in these online initiatives as well. Such camaraderie is important during periods of isolation and pandemic. Michal Biniek has reminded me that family and community can be found in many places on Earth, and online projects play an important role not only in the science of our times, but also in the human engagement of our times.
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Anotado en octubre 12, lunes 06:05 por markmcg markmcg | 7 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de septiembre de 2020

Spider eats fish!

The image on the left is from an excellent observation posted by @wingspanner. It shows an Eastern Osprey holding a Yellowfin Bream in its talons. The right image shows a close-up view of the fish.
Seeing these observations prompted me to take stock of the observations that show fish as prey. I'm sure here are many! The list below shows a single observation of 6 different predator types 'in action'.
Anotado en septiembre 18, viernes 02:47 por markmcg markmcg | 21 comentarios | Deja un comentario

18 de agosto de 2020

Member profile - Matt Tank

Writing an Australasian Fishes bio blurb in COVID-19 Australia is an interesting experience. As I write, the country is experiencing the inevitable second wave, during the normal winter flu season. Parts of the country have entered stringent lockdowns, while others have closed borders, sealing in their healthy citizens. Other states are somewhere in between, putting out viral spot fires, in hopes of keeping the pandemic under control, for a second time. Another defining aspect of the country’s response has been the widespread practice of working/studying from home. We now see the most widespread use of this practice in history where never before has such a large percentage of the Australian workforce has been working remotely. In some ways, this is not unexpected, as most futurists have predicted that working/studying/shopping from home will be a wave of the future. That wave has arrived a decade earlier than predicted.
In my past, I was responsible for writing pandemic plans, and have always regarded “working from home” as the weakest link in pandemic response. At the time, it was a frequently cited work-around, however, it was a logistical impossibility. Limited internet bandwidth, application licensing restrictions, a dependence on corporate portals to access corporate applications are among several technical reasons limiting user’s access.
In 2020, I was pleasantly surprised to see that most of these problems were solved before the arrival of COVID-19. Thanks to broadband, we now have the capacity for more users to simultaneously access the internet. Many corporate applications have moved from internal servers, to the cloud, allowing almost universal, unlimited staff access. The reason I bring this up is that our ability to work from home, as a nation, is the result of IT professionals, who skilfully migrated us to these new platforms, allowing numerous government and business operations to continue to function, even though the entire staff are working from their respective homes. Upon reflection, I realise this capability was given to us as a result of IT experts who paved the way for this transition. The subject of this bio blurb is one such IT expert, Matt Tank, an IT consultant by profession, based in the Southern suburbs of Adelaide. Matt explains, “I specialise in Cloud Technologies, mostly this is about adapting existing business systems to be Internet-based for cost savings and flexibility. However, more and more I’m being asked about ways to make these systems better, using technologies that are much easier to implement in the cloud.” I doubt if Matt would have thought his work in implementing this technology would save the bacon of so many companies and perhaps change the fundamental office working relationship for many years to come.
Matt’s introduction to our program, was, of course, the result of his pursuit of alternative, online technologies. He explains that some of the technologies he implements are things we might recognise as iNaturalist users. Examples include Computer Vision and geospatial reporting (those great observation maps we see), are related to the technologies he implements. He notes, “In fact, it was professional curiosity that brought me to iNaturalist. I was fielding questions for clients about Microsoft Custom Vision, and I decided to build a Fish ID solution as a side-project. Image searches for testing images brought me to iNat, and the rest is history. I started posting my own images, and like so many others, was approached by @markmcg to join the project. Unlike most of the regular contributors to the Project. I discovered iNaturalist while working on a Computer Vision proof-of-concept, and realised not only that I could use the site to help me ID the things I didn't recognise, but I could also help others with what I know.”
Matt says that he is neither a scientist nor a photographer, but like most in the project, his love for marine life started early. He recalls, “TV was an inspiration, but not documentaries at first. It was actually the movie Jaws that sparked my interest. I was way too young to be watching it, but also probably too young to be scared by it but became interested in sharks from virtually that day. The documentaries came later, and my interest widened to fish and other marine life. In the 80s and early 90s, most marine documentaries covered the tropics, which shaped a lot of my early knowledge.”
His early passion for marine life has remained as part of his character and he joined Australasian Fishes in February 2018. Matt’s contribution to Australasian Fishes has placed him in 22nd place in observations, with a total of 771. However, many project participants have benefited from his numerous identifications. For our project he has assisted in 6,505 identifications for us, ranking him 7th in that category. Matt has not only assisted us, but has contributed over 2,736 observations to iNaturalist projects, making a remarkable 21,258 identifications for the benefit of citizen science.
This passion for the marine world, however, did not result in a career in science. He says, “Over the years, my future career as a Marine Biologist slipped out of reach (you have to work hard at school, who knew?), and I was only diving sporadically. I wasn’t really interested in joining a dive club, and my friends were starting to move away and get busy (so was I for that matter). A trip to the Cook Islands in 2016 changed all that. I didn’t (SCUBA) dive, but went snorkelling every day, mostly alone, with a GoPro to record what I saw. I realised again how much I enjoyed it, and living 10 mins away from Port Noarlunga Reef, a world-class diving location, I made the decision that I was going to make sure I was in the water as often as possible, even if it was alone with a snorkel (maybe that’s even preferable – not many people want to wait around for 10 mins while you get the perfect shot of a sponge). I usually get into the water about 20-30 times a year now, and mostly in warmer months. With a huge increase in local experience, my interests expanded to include local fish species, and with less fish diversity than in the tropics, I also started to pay more attention to the hugely diverse invertebrate populations of Southern Australia. Ascidians in particular are of interest, because there are so many unknowns, and of course many of them look spectacular. I don’t really have a favourite location for diving in SA, because there is such a great variety of environments, but I always come back to Port Noarlunga, an excellent reef and jetty dive. Myponga Beach is a mix of huge tidal pools and an underwater wall that quickly drops down to about 6m, and the seagrass meadows of Kingston Park are great for weed whiting and leatherjackets.”
Developing his interest in underwater photography was based on a need to feed his thirst for undersea creature identification. Like other leading project participants, he is driven by a desire to know and identify the creatures he sees while underwater. He recalls, “Being the first time I snorkelled with a camera, another thing that Cook Islands trip showed me is how much more you remember individual dives when you can identify what you are looking at, and how much value that knowledge adds to future dives. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a photographer, so for me a camera is really just a tool for identification. Recently though, I’ve realised that when you’re looking at something really small, a GoPro won’t cut it, so I’ve recently purchased a new underwater camera, an Olympus TG-6 with the flash diffuser attachment. While acknowledging my limited experience with it so far, I would definitely recommend the product if you don’t want to lug around a lot of equipment or are on a smaller budget. Its microscope mode is really handy, for observations like this little guy here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/51192339.”
Looking back, he feels that using iNaturalist has been very rewarding, in a number of respects. “If you’re willing to put in the effort, it’s a great learning tool. Professionally, I haven’t seen a better resource for building a repository of images about particular species. The AI aspect of it is really coming along too, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes. I think in the medium-term, we’ll get to a point where a single model based on all life won’t cut it, and that these systems will start to think in a more hierarchical way like we do. Instead of one model, it will iterate through multiple models; first of all, to decide what type of organism it’s looking at, then a more specialised model based on its decision. It’s going to be a lot more accurate if the system first decides it’s a fish, then used its knowledge of fish to identify the observation, rather than just comparing to the 250K+ list of (current) species. Combine this with technologies that can analyse the description field to work out the submitters intent, and other similar functionality, and we could end up with a system that can do a lot of the heavy-lifting, and leave the experts freer to fine tune IDs rather than constantly fix mistakes. That’s not even talking about the ways that researchers could plug the data into reporting and/or machine learning solutions to make their own findings. This is where a project like Australasian Fishes could really come into its own, and the groundwork starts right here, where we all contribute to building that repository of knowledge.”
In conclusion, Matt wanted to use this bio blurb to express his appreciation to other project members. He says, “This is also an opportunity for me to reflect on the help I’ve received over the years, so in regard to Australasian Fishes specifically, I’d like to thank (in no particular order) - @maractwin, @sascha_schulz, @joe_fish, @davemmdave, @marinejanine, @kendallclements, @rfoster, @clinton and @markmcg… And everyone who contributes the observations that help so much in building my knowledge - and our collective knowledge.”
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member Harry Rosenthal.
Anotado en agosto 18, martes 02:53 por markmcg markmcg | 6 comentarios | Deja un comentario