Scientists from UNSW Sydney hope to document how marine life has changed atdive sites over the years by using photos and observations from the public.

Divers in Sydney and the NSW North Coast are being asked to contribute theirold and new diving photos, videos, observations and knowledge to a new UNSWSydney research project.

It is hoped that the images and recollections collected for the In BygoneDives project will lead to a better understanding of how the underwater worldhas changed over recent decades.

“Old dive photos hold a wealth of information, and potentially valuablescientific data on the past health of reefs and the species that werepresent,” lead researcher and PhD candidate in the School of Biological, Earthand Environmental Sciences at UNSW Sydney, Chris Roberts says.

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

Mr Roberts will launch the project at the Manly Seaweed Forests Festival thisSunday, April 18.

The In Bygone Dives project is currently focusing on two study regions, Sydneyand the NSW North Coast, but may expand to include more regions at a laterstage.

The researchers are particularly interested in photos or videos from theseSydney dive sites: Shelly Beach, Fairy Bower, Camp Cove, Fairlight, CliftonGardens, Gordons Bay, Clovelly Pool, Shark Point, Bare Island, Kurnell andShip Rock.

They are also keen to track the timing and location of the loss of underwaterforests such as kelp from NSW North Coast, between Byron Bay and Tweed Heads.

“We also hope to understand the southward range extension of tropicalherbivorous fish, which may have contributed to the Kelp loss,” UNSW marineecologist, Associate Professor Adriana Vergés says.

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

However, many recreational divers will have likely observed and recorded suchchanges over many years or even decades while visiting their favourite divesites.

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

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

Project co-leader Professor Alistair Poore from UNSW Science says that byobtaining a better understanding of the past, this project aims to unlockinformation that can help conserve reefs into the future.

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

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

Image: Bigstock

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