Local diving photos sought for underwater research project

Diving into the past: Divers are being asked to contribute to a new research project.
Diving into the past: Divers are being asked to contribute to a new research project.

Scientists from University of NSW Sydney (UNSW) are appealing for divers in Sutherland Shire to contribute old and new diving photos, videos, observations and knowledge to help with a new research project.

The project aims to document how marine life has changed at dive sites over the years to hopefully lead to a better understanding of how the underwater world has managed in recent decades.

It is part of the 'In Bygone Dives' project, which is focusing on two study regions, Sydney and the NSW North Coast.

Researchers are particularly interested in photos or videos from Sutherland Shire dive spots at Kurnell and Shiprock Reserve in the Port Hacking, as well as Shelly Beach, Fairy Bower, Camp Cove, Fairlight, Clifton Gardens, Gordons Bay, Clovelly Pool, Shark Point and Bare Island.

"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," said lead researcher and PhD candidate in the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UNSW Sydney, Chris Roberts.

"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."

UNSW marine ecologist Associate Professor Adriana Vergés said they were also keen to track the timing and location of the loss of underwater forests, and understand the southward range extension of tropical herbivorous fish, which may have contributed to kelp loss.

She said many underwater changes might have gone undocumented as they occurred over time scales beyond most scientific studies

It is thought recreational divers could have observed and recorded the changes over many years or even decades while visiting their favourite dive sites.

Divers are asked to search their drawers or hard-drives for images that could be used for the research.

Project co-leader Professor Alistair Poore from UNSW Science said the project aimed to unlock information that could 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," Professor Poore said.

Details: You can contribute photos to the project by clicking here