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High-resolution audio and photographic recording of small marine organisms for non-destructive ecological sampling and documentation.

Christopher Kitting, Ph.D.
California State University

California State University, Hayward
3:00 p.m.–Pacific Forum

Ecological observations in the laboratory can indicate what might happen in the field, but direct close-up observations in natural settings often lack convenience and resolution.

Field problems, such as disturbance of the animals, inadequate lighting, and poor visual acuity of a drifting investigator have been minimized with versatile, little-known, cost-effective photographic equipment, including the finest, almost practical color imaging via Hasselblad’s 70-mm film format. 

Risk of equipment damage is minimized for depths of less than 7 meters, with an inexpensive, pliable vinyl housing for virtually any camera. Close-ups are best with a short extension tube or achromatic (2-element) diopter. An external flash is convenient in a separate housing, triggered via an auto-exposure slave accessory. Slave flashes can be shared within a rack of close-up and wider-field underwater cameras.

 Resulting color transparencies are studied with transmitted light under a dissecting microscope. Initial, subjective, time-lapse comparisons are made with an improvised blink comparator. Such simple procedures yield efficient, non-destructive data collection with permanent photographic records. Quantification is optimized after subjective comparisons of photographs establish the necessary subsampling resolution and replication.

 These records result in improved documentation and illustration and provide diverse education worldwide for the broader scientific community and the public.