May 2nd 2007
Digital Field Guide for Magnetic's marine life
Magnetic Island Marine Scientist Dr Andy Lewis has, after 12 months, compiled the first volume of the Magnetic Island Coral Reef Field Guide.
Dr Lewis operates Reef Eco-Tours (click here) and has received many requests for an island specific field guide from his tour parties. "I have accumulated thousands of underwater images while working in the waters around the island, and I thought a digital field guide would be a useful way to make the material available to the wider community" said Andy.
"In a digital format, I can include multiple high resolution images of each species to illustrate changes in appearance through the life cycle, and by building links into the text, the user can navigate through groups of ecologically similar species".
The first volume covers the fishes of the island, with some 130 species from 33 families. The guide works in a hierarchical manner, with an initial page of thumbnail images of each fish family, which leads to a list of species and then finally to individual pages for each species, with images and information on aspects of the biology such as preferred habitats and ecological characteristics. The field guide is packaged on CD, and works directly from the optical drive on both PC and Mac computers in the standard web browsing software. Once running, the guide links automatically to many web based information sources.
Dr Lewis is making the work a not-for-profit exercise and has freely provided schools, universities and professional bodies with copies of the field guide CD. He is however hoping that locals and visitors who wished to acquire the guide will make a donation ($30 - $40) to support the continued development of the project. According to Dr Lewis, "donors to the field guide project will be listed in a database and will receive updates to the guide as they are completed. Eventually the guide will encompass fishes, corals, invertebrates, and algae."
This first volume underlies the inherently ongoing nature of the project and in future volumes Dr Lewis's work will be supported with expert identification and ecological information provided by marine specialists Dr Katharina Fabricius (soft corals), Dr Lyndon Devantier (hard corals), Dr Dani Ceccarelli (algae) and Dr Rick Braley (bivalve molluscs).
As far as the Island's reefs go, Dr Lewis is quite positive and marvels at their hardiness. "We still have very good reefs here," he says. "Most bays with reefs have 70% to 80% hard coral cover on the reef crests and slopes. The island is close to the coast and the water is too turbid for crown of thorns starfish, so the coral communities have escaped the outbreaks of starfish that have decimated reefs further offshore. However, the proximity to the mainland means the island reefs are likely to be affected by terrestrial run-off and thermal bleaching. Because the island is easily accessible for tourists, it is important that we manage the marine ecosystems here very carefully".
Sample pages from the field guide are available at Andy's Reef Ecotours website (http://www.tevenei.com/micrfg/micrfg_info.htm) and copies of the field guide can be ordered directly from firstname.lastname@example.org
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