Scientist Member Profile – Glenn Moore

To continue our series started in 2020 that features scientists who have generously assisted the Australian Fishes project with their time and expertise, we introduce Dr Glenn Moore, Curator of Fishes at the Western Australian Museum. Glenn, who goes by the user name @gmoo, has been researching Western Australia’s fishes for more than 25 years and is recognised as an authority for the identification and taxonomy of both marine and freshwater fishes. Glenn is an experienced field-based researcher and his research involves taxonomy, genetics, biodiversity, biogeography, ecology and evolution. He regularly uses outreach opportunities to engage with the general public, raising awareness about fishes through popular publications, media, public enquiries and citizen science initiatives.
Q: I would be interested in the origins of your interest in nature, especially fish. A bit about your early areas of research. Did your interest in science begin at a young age?
A: I have been obsessed with the natural world, especially animals, for as long as I can remember. Our family often travelled around Australia, especially WA, and I was the kid who was always catching critters – lizards, frogs, spiders and insects. I got binoculars at about 10 years of age and added birds to my obsession. I was even the president of our local branch of the Gould League. I grew up fishing with my dad and loved the thrill of trying to figure out what we had caught, but I never really thought about studying them, because I couldn’t experience them the way I could with terrestrial fauna. That all changed when I learned to SCUBA dive in my mid-teens and I saw fish in a different way. Spending time with fish made them less of a mystery and I stopping seeing them as something on the end of a hook. I bought every fish book I could afford and I spent every weekend snorkelling or diving. When I got out of the water, I immediately went through the books and wrote down everything I saw (I still do). I really was obsessed – most of my spare time was taken up with reading fish books (pre-internet!) and learning how to identify them. In the late 1980s, I started studying Zoology at UWA and I also started to think more critically about fish behaviour, biology and evolution. My friends gave me the nickname ‘fishnut’, which has stuck to this day. I was hooked and did everything I could to get to new places to explore Western Australia’s fishes but as a young uni student, funds were limiting! So I volunteered for every PhD student project I could find, I got a research assistant job working on seagrass (really so I could see fish), I got heavily involved in the UWA dive club committee so I could get discounted boat trips and gear hire and I soon found myself becoming a SCUBA instructor with the local dive shop so I could get paid to be underwater (and watch fish while watching students 😊). I had found my calling and set about ensuring I could make a career out of it. Even then, I had earmarked the museum as the place I wanted to end up. I did an Honours project on Buffalo Bream and then a Masters on seahorses. Jobs in marine science were hard to get and so I ended up as the Community Education Manager at the Aquarium of Western Australia for a couple of years. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t for me – I wanted to do the science. In 2002 I got a contract as the Western Australian Museum fish technical officer. I was in the place I had wanted to be and working with one of my idols, Dr Barry Hutchins, who I proudly call my mentor now. After four years my contract ran out and I knew if I wanted to lead a research program, I needed a PhD so I signed up and did my PhD using genetics to explore the evolutionary history of the charismatic Australian Salmons. While doing my PhD, Barry retired and with perfect timing, the Curator of Fishes position was advertised as my thesis was being examined. I got the PhD, won the job and here I am.
Q: Why the interest in the Australasia Fishes project and are you contacted to assist with Identifications often? How did you first get involved with our project?
I was invited to join up by Mark McGrouther. At the time, I was reluctant because I was getting so many public enquires through the museum that the thought of adding more seemed overwhelming. Mark gave me a few friendly nudges and I jumped on board. Just as when I first started as a young naturalist, I still love the challenge of figuring out what something is and that keeps me coming back. However, I also love the fact that as a professional, I can now help citizen scientists with their exciting finds. I also learn a lot about distributions of fishes and of course, I learn a lot from all the other contributors. My engagement ebbs and flows with how much other work I have, but I’ll usually jump on if someone tags me.
Q: Could you tell us a little about your typical, fish identification process? What features to examine first? How difficult is this working from photographs? Are there some elements in taking a photo which would make it easier for identification? Perhaps we could tell members how to improve the images for your purposes.
In the bird world, they use the word jizz. This refers to the first general impression you have, including size, shape and movement and I think it’s the same for fishes. It’s really the first stage that any of use to identify anything. For most of us jizz can tell us if it is a shark or a trevally but as you get more and more knowledge and familiarity, the same set of discrimination skills can get an identification down closer and closer to species level as the first step. Of course, information on where the image was taken plays a big role in excluding certain species. From there, each group of fish requires a different set of characters to identify them. Photographs limit what characters are available, but we usually rely on some combination of colour/pattern and body proportions (both of which can be really variable). If the photo is really good, we might be able to count the rays in the fins, see the teeth or even count certain scales. One of the things about being a professional ichthyologist is that it is our job to follow the literature and the changes in taxonomy, so we tend to be acutely aware of what we don’t know. This often leads to us being more conservative with our identifications, so don’t be put off if we aren’t prepared to confidently put a name on your photo. While your fish might look a lot like species X, we know the only way to be 100% sure is to count the scales, or do an x-ray and count the vertebrae or something else that is impossible from a photo alone. What makes a good photo? For most fish it is important to have the fish as flat as possible on its side with its fins out (some things like rays, flatheads, flounders etc are best from top). Try to fill the frame with as much fish as possible and keep the resolution high. Wet fish out of the water reflect light so try to avoid big bright patches on the fish’s flanks. Take several photos from different angles and close ups of different parts of the fish. iNaturalist is great because you can post multiple images, so why not? Out of interest, you might notice that fish field guides using paintings or dead fish usually have the specimen oriented facing to the left – it’s just one of those standards we all use. But don’t worry about that for ID purposes.
Q: I would be interested in some of your experiences in remote area research. It must be very interesting. Do you do any underwater work as well as part of your field work?
I am lucky that I am the museum ichthyologist responsible for Western Australia (which is about one third of Australia!). We have extremely remote places that are very difficult to get to. My career has included expeditions to some of the most remote places – the Kimberley marine areas. I have worked in places that no human may ever have been before. We dive a lot and the fish communities are largely untouched and intact. However, these trips are challenging. We are days from the nearest emergency services and the Kimberley has enormous tides (up to 12m in places), sometimes very poor visibility, crocodiles and sharks so it is not for the inexperienced. I recognise that it is indeed a privilege to visit these areas and survey the incredible fish diversity.
Q: What do you think about the project? Are we making a contribution, and if so, in what areas do you believe the data we are collecting will ultimately be useful, in a scientific context? What advice would you give our participants or words of encouragement would you offer?
I think iNaturalist is a fantastic forum, for two reasons. Firstly, it is such a wonderful way to connect people who are interested in the same things. This includes connecting citizen scientists with professionals. From a scientific perspective, the ever-growing dataset contributes to our knowledge of species distributions, in particular. When I try to establish distributional boundaries for a given species, I always check on here to see if anyone has added a sighting outside of the known range. This has already been important for documenting shifts in the distribution of animals related to our warming seas. I am sure this will only continue, but I hope that it might help us pressure decision makers and find solutions to solve our worsening climate crisis. For too long, this has been the responsibility of professional scientists, but now everyone can do their part – keep going!
This journal post was written by Australasian Fishes member, Harry Rosenthal.
Publicado por markmcg markmcg, 23 de fevereiro de 2021, 12:49 MANHÃ

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