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Smith College

Publication Date

Fall 2023

Program Name

Australia: Rainforest, Reef, and Cultural Ecology


iNaturalist is a citizen science photographic database, which is an underutilized resource in photographic identification research studies. Grey nurse sharks are critically endangered and there is a lack of knowledge regarding the estimated population size, longevity, and interactions with fisheries of this species off the coasts of Australia. To determine how photos submitted to iNaturalist can be used in Carcharias taurus conservation, the photographs were evaluated on a number of criteria including: location, date, visibility of spot patterns, visible sex characteristics, and visible injuries. In total, 814 photographs of grey nurse sharks were obtained from the iNaturalist database. Only 23.2% of the photographs in iNaturalist met the standards necessary for Sharkbook.ai, but 35.6% were clear enough shots to provide valuable information for locational, seasonal, and/or injury-based research. The most prominent injuries were scars, with retained fishing gear a close second. The temporal data was only reliable in the contemporary iNaturalist submissions—the archival photographs were not accurately time-stamped and therefore were not included in seasonal assessments. The seasonal patterns shown by the contemporary iNaturalist encounter dates are supported by known migratory patterns of grey nurse sharks. The detection hotspots were primarily in the southern portion of the eastern range, with significantly fewer encounters reported in Western Australia. iNaturalist is a valuable general resource for Grey Nurse Shark research but lacks the expertise and knowledge necessary from contributors to fully meet the needs of complex research objectives.


Biodiversity | Data Science | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Marine Biology | Oceanography | Zoology


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