On­line tool helps iden­tify marine life

Central Leader - - NEWS - By KA­RINA ABADIA

Ever come across an un­usual shell while walk­ing along the beach or caught a fish you couldn’t iden­tify?

Auck­land Mu­seum has de­vel­oped a free ap­pli­ca­tion called NZ Marine Life to help you out.

The mu­seum’s nat­u­ral sciences col­lec­tions man­ager Sev­er­ine Han­nam says: ‘‘It’s an amaz­ing tool and is ac­ces­si­ble to any­one who has an iPad or iPhone and wants to learn more about coastal marine species.

‘‘It’s kind of our way of tak­ing our col­lec­tions out­side the mu­seum walls.

‘‘It means we can share our knowl­edge with mem­bers of the pub­lic that wouldn’t nor­mally come here.’’

She started work­ing on the ap­pli­ca­tion in the mid­dle of last year, along with sev­eral oth­ers in the marine sciences depart­ment.

The ap­pli­ca­tion, which can be down­loaded for free from the App Store, was launched on June 21 in con­junc­tion with the open­ing of the ex­hi­bi­tion Moana – My Ocean.

The on­line tool fea­tures 130 of New Zealand’s coastald­welling marine mam­mals, rep­tiles, fish, shell­fish, in­ver­te­brates, seaweeds and plants.

Each en­try com­bines pho­to­graphs with in­for- ma­tion on the an­i­mal or plant’s bi­ol­ogy, iden­ti­fy­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics, diet, habi­tat and its na­tive and en­dan­gered sta­tus.

Be­cause it’s the first time Auck­land Mu­seum staff have cre­ated an ap­pli­ca­tion it was a bit of a learn­ing curve, Mrs Han­nam says.

Many of the pho­to­graphs were taken specif­i­cally for the on­line tool by mu­seum pho­tog­ra­pher Krzysztof Pfeif­fer.

The main idea is to help peo­ple iden­tify the marine life that is com­mon around the Auck­land re­gion.

An­other im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion in the se­lec­tion process was high­light­ing the pro­tec­tion sta­tus of some of our most en­dan­gered species.

Auck­land Mu­seum’s marine team and con­tribut­ing sci­en­tists will con­tinue to add ad­di­tional species and de­velop con­tent for the tool.

There are also plans to broaden its cov­er­age area.

‘‘We are ob­vi­ously very much Auck­land-fo­cused at the mo­ment but the fu­ture plan is to in­volve other re­search in­sti­tutes, mu­se­ums and uni­ver­si­ties to cre­ate an app which can be used through­out the coun­try,’’ Mrs Han­nam says.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Handy ref­er­ence: Auck­land Mu­seum nat­u­ral sciences col­lec­tions man­ager Sev­er­ine Han­nam hopes the NZ Marine Life app will re­mind peo­ple about the im­por­tance of our na­tive species.

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