Under the Lens

03 February, 2010

Mark Norman with underwater video equipment
Mark Norman with underwater video equipment at Mud Islands.
Image: Julian Finn
Source: Museum Victoria

Scientists from Museum Victoria have captured new images of extraordinary and colourful marine biodiversity, thanks to a partnership with Parks Victoria on a project called Under the Lens.

Julian Finn and Mark Norman took photographs and footage of the sponge fields, seagrass beds and temperate reefs around Popes Eye and Mud Islands in Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park. The images will be used to illustrate MV’s ongoing series of marine life field guides.

Said Mark, “It’s a reciprocal arrangement where we’ve received help with access to remote areas to get these images, and Parks Victoria can use them to help promote the Marine National Parks. We’ve provided underwater photography equipment and expertise, and they’ve provided the boats, logistics and local knowledge.” Working with Parks Victoria’s Natural Values Management Coordinator Roger Fenwick, the collaboration has been running for two years, and is also helping local communities learn more about what is in their marine parks and sanctuaries.

Previous trips with Under the Lens have discovered many new species in Victorian waters, particularly species of sponges, which will feature in an upcoming MV marine field guide on this group of animals. This will be the first book ever published about Victorian sponges. “Sponges are amazing living creatures, not just something you use in the bathroom,” said Mark. “You can push some species through a flyscreen and they reassemble themselves on the other side, like something out of Terminator. Historically, stony sponges built reefs bigger than the Great Barrier Reef and created whole habitats. They also produce amazing chemical toxins that have led to many pharmaceutical discoveries.”

The recently collected images and footage were taken through this year’s Two Bays project, a two-week extensive overview of Port Phillip Bay and Western Port that aims to discover more about the riches of Victoria’s bays. Projects such as these are key to the museum’s activities during this year, declared by the UN as the International Year of Biodiversity.

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