Nudibranchs and flatworms
a photographic atlas for the Bass Strait region
Photographic Atlas
Current Atlas Projects

The atlas project

The collections in museums such as Museum Victoria are our primary source of information about the diversity of nudibranchs (and the rest of our fauna), and it is vital to be able to examine collections of scientific specimens to fully describe an animial. The locality and habitat from which each specimen was collected also tells us about the ecological preferences of the species, and each specimen in our collection enables us to place another "dot on the map", and a large enough collection can therefore tell us about the distribution of the species. However, the collection is not large enough. Colour photographs of many nudibranchs and flatworms can often be identified accurately, and these photographs will become "virtual specimens", enlarging our "collection". In some ways a photograph is better than a specimen: not only does it show the living animal in colour, but often allows identification of a food item or preferred habitat. Mating or egg-laying behaviour may also be recorded (probably for the first time for many species). As photographs in the atlas accumulate, we will reach a better understanding of the ecology and distribution of nudibranchs and flatworms in the region.

What the project needs from you

We need photographers who are willing to share underwater photographs with the project. Whether you dive a lot or occasionally, your photographs and observations will be valuable. If you would like to contribute to this project, the first step is to register with Reef Watch Victoria, after which you will be sent further information, including a monitoring kit for a variety of marine life. We will need to know where and when each photograph was taken. The getting organised link provides a spreadsheet file to assist maintaining these records, and some thoughts on organising photographs. Please bring your photographs to the Discovery Centre (formerly InfoZone) at Museum Victoria, or post to Reef Watch; the addresses are listed on the resources and contacts page. We can cope with pretty much any medium you might be using for your photographs, although digital photographs (in as high resolution as practical, copied onto CD), or 35 mm colour transparencies (slides) would be our preference. If at all possible, don't entrust your only copy of a slide or file to the post, try and keep a copy yourself. If you don't have facilities for making copies please contact Reef Watch or the Discovery Centre and we will make arrangements. We can scan slides (or colour prints) and return the original, and the digital copy, to you. Many photographers find the best way to obtain "copies" of a slide is to take two almost identical photographs in rapid succession of the same animal.

What you will get back from the project

All participants will receive nudibranch and flatworm pages to add to the Reef Watch identification kits. Depending on how many photographs are made available to the project, we hope we can begin this about March-April 2005, and in further subsequent instalments. Photographs will also be added to these web pages. It is intended that these images will eventually form the basis of new colour identification guides. The first of these is a proposed guide to "Nudibranchs of the Bass Strait region" which we hope to complete in 2006. We hope that Reef Watchers also will gain satisfaction from making contributions to original scientific research on these fascinating animals.

What not to do!

Most importantly, don't take any risks, and always dive safely. Neither Reef Watch nor Museum Victoria wants anyone to take any risks, nor can we insure you and your dive buddies. Make sure that you are diving under appropriate certification and procedures through your own dive club or similar organisation.
Don't collect anything. In most cases a colour photograph is all we need. If it becomes necessary to collect a few specimens, for example to resolve a taxonomic problem, we will arrange collecting permits and issue identification cards for the species we are seeking.
Don't disturb animals in the wild. We want to know as much detail as we can about the natural distribution and preferences of each species. Please do not reposition the animal on a different seaweed or sponge to make a more pleasing photograph - if you do we will learn about your own preferences, not those of the nudibranch or flatworm!