Volume 72

A Clearer Picture: How Digital Cameras and Other Technologies have changed Marine Life Surveys over the Last Three Decades

Pattengill-Semmens, C.
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Date: November, 2019

Pages: 230-231

Event: Proceedings of the Seventy-Two Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute

City: Punta Cana

Country: Dominican Republic


The rapid evolution of digital underwater imaging technology has resulted in a broad expansion of underwater photography among scuba divers. Such photography, once the domain of technical specialists, has allowed citizen scientists to record, identify, and inventory species well after their dive gear is dry. Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has maintained a citizen science fish survey program for the last 26 years, an interval of time that encompasses the advent of digital camera commercial availability. I will discuss how underwater digital photography has changed the game for these diving citizen scientists, and how photo documentation, in concert with social media applications, has led to a vibrant, interactive community of amateur natural historians. I will also discuss how digital imaging by this community has altered our understanding of species-specific distributions, commonness, and habitat specialization. Finally, I will outline a series of best practices guidelines for integrating imaging technology with formal and informal diving-based citizen science programs.

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