Gathering species occurrence and distribution data normally requires considerable effort by scientific research teams over extended periods of time. The proliferation of smart phones and the popularity of social media platforms, however, means citizens are increasingly making and sharing observations of the world around them.

As the availability of opportunistic observations continues to grow, so does its utility and value, leading to increasing interest in its potential as ‘big data’. As such, there is growing interest in using opportunistic observations by citizens as an efficient means of monitoring the distribution and status of species. 

This Honours project will explore the use of photographs taken by recreational scuba divers as a potential data source for environmental monitoring and conservation in marine systems.

This is part of the ‘In Bygone Dives’ project – please check our website for more information:


This honours project will look at one of two possible research areas:

Aim 1: Test the ability and reliability of using recreational dive photographs or videos as a data source to describe the current composition of fish and associated habitat. 

Aim 2: Use old diving photographs and videos to assess historical changes in reef ecosystems and the associated reef habitat using photographs from personal archives of recreational SCUBA divers.

Student benefits

You’ll benefit through working with a supportive team of UNSW BEES academics and PhD candidates.

Through this project, you’ll learn how to:

  • apply critical thinking, statistical analysis and scientific writing
  • process photos and videos and identify local marine life
  • research historical records
  • develop community engagement and communication skills.

Supervisors: Christopher Roberts (PhD candidate), A/Prof. Adriana Vergés and Prof. Alistair Poor

Get involved

To learn more about this project, contact Prof. Adriana Verges