Archivos de Diario para noviembre 2020

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 04 de noviembre de 2020 a las 03:56 AM por markmcg markmcg | 5 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 25 de noviembre de 2020 a las 01:02 AM por markmcg markmcg | 3 comentarios | Deja un comentario