Archivos de Diario para enero 2021

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 jueves, 14 de enero de 2021 a las 02:34 AM por markmcg markmcg | 7 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 sábado, 30 de enero de 2021 a las 03:46 AM por markmcg markmcg | 5 comentarios | Deja un comentario