Bygone Dive Pictures To Create Archive Of Underwater Changes

A Weedy Sea Dragon. Photo: Ocean Imaging.

CITIZEN scientists are being called on to create an archive which will become a foundation for underwater research.

Scientists at the University of New South Wales are seeking old dive photos which will be analysed to document the changes in our underwater world.

The University is calling for divers to contribute their old and new diving photos, videos, observations and knowledge to a new UNSW Sydney research project.

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The hope is that the images and recollections collected through the Bygone Dives project will lead to a better understanding of how the underwater world has changed over recent decades.

“Old dive photos hold a wealth of information, and potentially valuable scientific data on the past health of reefs and the species that were present,” lead researcher and PhD candidate in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UNSW Sydney, Chris Roberts said.

“We can use these photos and observations to document how the marine life at dive sites has changed from the past and also to monitor them into the future,” Mr Roberts said.

“We also hope to understand the southward range extension of tropical herbivorous fish, which may have contributed to the Kelp loss,” UNSW marine ecologist, Associate Professor Adriana Vergés said.

Many underwater changes may have gone undocumented as they occur over time scales that are beyond most scientific studies, she said.

However, many recreational divers will have likely observed and recorded such changes over many years or even decades while visiting their favourite dive sites.

Currently most of this valuable information is stored in personal archives and collections, often largely unused.

Mr Roberts is hoping to motivate people to recover these valuable underwater photos from forgotten drawers or hard-drives so that they can be used for research.

Project co-leader Professor Alistair Poore from UNSW Science said that by obtaining a better understanding of the past, this project aims to unlock information that can help conserve reefs into the future.

“Recreational divers gathering and sharing photographs and videos, combined with image recognition technology, could enable increased monitoring of marine life at many reefs rarely visited by professional scientists,” Prof.

Poore said.

Divers who want to contribute photos to the project should upload them to the In Bygone Dives iNaturalist page.

Chris Roberts told News Of The Area, “I had heard about the impact that the floods had on Fly Point, but I have yet to go up there and see for myself.

“Impacts such as these are definitely the sort of thing we think recreational diving photos could be good at monitoring.

“A similar impact occurred at Halifax some time back now, where a lot of the life was buried by shifting sands and this change is one we think we could potentially explore using old diving photos,” he said.

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