My fellow PhD candidates over in Puerto Rico, Chelsea & Evan Tuohy are undertaking a lot of interesting marine research. One of their current projects they are working on is developing a fish identification and surveying app for Caribbean reef fish ID and underwater surveys. Chelsea explains in more depth in her guest blog below.
I first started diving in 2008, and it was an undergraduate field course hosted at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez’ Isla Magueyes field station that introduced me to the work of a field scientist. I lived in un-airconditioned dorms, woke up early to dive every morning, and spent the afternoons pouring over fish identification books. This was my first time trying to identify Caribbean reef fish, and I had zero background on this subject.
“This one kinda looks like that purple one I saw in the book, a damselfish? I’ll just scribble those details here on my sheet and check when I get back” This was my internal monologue, as I quickly tried to document everything I saw, eyes glued to my paper, totally missing the school of bar jacks crossing over my transect line in front of me.
Years later, I’m now a Ph.D. Candidate at the same university I had visited back in 2008. I can identify fish much better now, working on projects like the NOAA National Coral Reef Monitoring Plan to census the fish in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
I started a company with my husband and fellow fish biologist/Ph.D. Candidate, Evan Tuohy. Isla Mar Research Expeditions is our dream of educating the next generation of eager scientists – because after all, the future of the oceans is dependent on who comes after us and how prepared they are to tackle the big issues like overfishing, coral diseases and climate change.
We have hosted and assisted several other field courses of new fish biologists. The story is always the same as mine back in 2008. We watch them struggle to identify what they see in the water compared to the books. Two weeks of diving is not enough to become an expert in this technique – and you definitely need that experience before moving on to bigger and more important projects. There has to be an easier and faster way to teach these new field researchers about underwater visual census of reef fish.
And there is.
Well, we are paving that way.
Our application will put the references and the surveys in one. Students will be able to quickly identify fish from a series of the most common, and record the number easily and quickly. That means they spend more time associating the image with the actual fish, less time scribbling descriptions of what they don’t know, and more time observing what is moving in and out of their survey area. There is no substitution for real life experience in fish survey – and our app will reduce the time it takes for fish biologists to become adept, and therefore improving the quality of their data for use in their own projects.
It’s incredible what technology can help us with these days; now let’s take underwater field research to that level.
Take a look at our campaign on Experiment.com (link to www.experiment.com/fishid) to get a better feel for what we are developing – perhaps this app will be useful to you? Perhaps you have feedback or suggestions of things you’d like to see? Let us know!
Our campaign ends on July 23 – and we are trying to raise $2835 by that deadline. If you find this interesting, feel free to share it with others or perhaps contribute. We would sincerely appreciate your support – thank you for helping us make science free and available to all!
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