Goals, Learning, Identification, and Sharing Information - Oh my!
One of my goals in 2017 is learning! In my diving world what that translates into is that I hope to learn a lot more about: the critters I photograph; the environment in which they live; our impact on the oceans; and what we can do to help. I've always been interested in the critters but now I want to dive deeper, learn their specific species name, read interesting facts / information about them, and finally log the observation so that others can get insight as well. I've been struggling with where / how to do this.
Fish Surveys and REEF.Org
I love the idea of REEF surveys but that's not really the right fit for me as I often prefer to photograph inverts over fish and my general goal is spending more time with fewer specific critters rather than trying to get an overall survey of the health of a reef (in terms of biological diversity and abundance). Having said that, if you're interested in helping out with reef surveys, you should definitely check out REEF.Org and their Volunteer Fish Survey Project. I've got a friend that's amazing at it. She's in the Golden Hamlet Club and she's also the number one surveyor in Indo Pac and South Pac; she's an absolutely ferocious data-collector in action. It's truly cool to see but there's a reason we call her "no spine, no time" Janet as she's always interested in the fish! Personally, I'm kind of more into the inverts (nudibranchs and cephalopods being pretty high in my list). To be honest, once I see an octopus... well, I can spend the entire dive watching it, if it will let me! So... I'm not sure I'd be any good with fish surveys! I'm so glad people like Janet are into it. As a result, it's really cool to see such fantastic data out there. Explore their data here.
Sea Slug Forum
Somehow I stumbled on this fantastic reference from the Australian Museum (link for SeaSlugForum) when I was trying to identify a nudibranch. There was a lot of activity on the Sea Slug Forum from 1998 until June 2010 when they were unable to continue funding the site. But, I still find some of the posts very helpful and I'm happy that they've kept the information online and available. Unfortunately, it doesn't accept new messages/posts so there's no way to log sightings or to post messages or to get help with an ID. But, it's still a good reference!
WoRMS: World Register of Marine Species
I've ended up on this site only a few times (WoRMS); it's been invaluable at helping me diver deeper on some very obscure stuff but it's been most useful when I already know what I'm looking for (see, sometimes this is the hardest part - finding someone who actually know what something is... I've got a story about this BTW, I'll get to that in one of my next posts! ;-) ). So, if you know the species in which you want more information, definitely check this out - you might be able to find some very cool references.
I'll always hit the wikipedia page for a critter. I'm constantly impressed at the wealth of information that's there. It's entirely community driven so if you can donate a small amount to them, that's awesome. But, this should always be a stop on your quest for information. And, if you have the time and/or want to become a contributor - that's really cool too. I'm thinking about doing that!
Just googling / bing'ing it
And, of course, I always try to see what else might be out there. I'll enter a critter name plus a country (or a regional area for diving [or a specific dive site]) and then I'll walk through a few links and see what they have to offer. It's really fun to see other shots, other blogs, and learn more about the diving in various places around the world! In fact, I'm sometimes shocked at how much might exist for a dive site or dive location; there's truly a wealth of information out there!
And, I like to observe critters above water too. So, what can I do?! Where could I log all of this?! Well... I recently stumbled on iNaturalist.org. The barrier to add observations is low (ANYONE can add an observation as long as you adhere to a few rules) and there are already millions (4M+) of observations online. To document an observation, what they prefer (for research / scientific purposes) are photos of the critter for ID with specific location details (GPS when possible), etc. Hey, I can do that!! Check it out, I'd love to know what you think!
There are a few other FANTASTIC references too, but I'll save those for another post. I'd love to get more insight into what you do and how you ID critters? (Or, if?)
My current plan - as I go through and post photos - will be to also log critters on iNaturalist.org (I might even go back and update some of my prior posts). So, you might start seeing an iNaturalist.org observation ID on my posts to Facebook!
Where do YOU go for marine critter IDs and/or information?
Do you have a marine critter-related goal for 2017?
Thanks for reading; thanks for commenting! I'm especially interested in YOUR research/references/links!
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