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Oregon State University, United States
So my name is Brian Sidlauskas.
I am both a scientist and a social person
I'm a professor of ichthyology, and that's the biology of fishes.
It's spelled i-c-h-t-h-y-o-l-o-g-y.
The Cuyuni river in Guyana was a very poorly known river.
Through the Smithsonian Institution’s Biological Diversity of the Guyana Shield program
we went up about 200km of this river.
It took several days by motorized boat.
We found a river that I would describe as being in trouble,
and we want to understand as much as we can about the biodiversity before we lose it.
I sort of keep a running tally in my head of all the different things that we’ve collected.
And I’ll say “Alright, we’ve got a pile of about thirty of those,”
but our basic goal was to try to get one photograph of everything that we thought looked different.
What's the exact color pattern?
How may scales does it have on the lateral line?
How many rays are there in the dorsal fin?
How many teeth does it have? How many rows of teeth does it have?
It can get quite complicated quite quickly.
In order to get an export permit from Guyana
one needs to provide the government with a fairly detailed list
down to the level of how many individuals of every species did you collect,
which is a bit of a daunting task given that we’ve got 5,000 fish,
some of which may not even be known to science yet.
So one of the very first things that we did as soon as we got back to civilization
was take whatever photographs my student, Whit, had taken along the way,
put them up in an album on my Facebook page,
and ask the world’s community of ichthyologists, which also happened to be my friends, to help me out.
We tagged people as fish that they knew
We sent Facebook messages, we sent e-mails, I put status updates on my own page, and I went to bed.
And then I woke up in the morning and I had just an inbox flooded with notifications from Facebook
saying that such-and-such identification had been posted on the album.
And literally within about 24 hours, the vast majority of the photos that we uploaded to Facebook
had at least a tentative ID as to what people thought that they were.
In a couple of cases, some of what we had collected was really interesting and potentially new to science.
And in terms of speed and efficiency, this was an order of magnitude, at least, faster than what I could have done on my own.
An identification provided on Facebook by a world’s expert on fishes
is really no different from an identification provided hundreds of years ago, say,
by Darwin on a barnacle in a natural history collection on which he happened to be the world’s expert.
I am now tagged quite frequently as my study organism on Facebook.
There are lots of fish photos that are tagged as Brian Sidlauskas.
Ultimately what I think we’re doing by tagging all these photos on Facebook
is creating a virtual community of scientists or a virtual meeting of the minds.
It’s really speeding up how we do science.
And this is important because we’re discovering new species all the time
and we also don’t know how fast we’re losing them
And there’s only so many ichthyologists to go around.
The fact that we can just spend a little bit of our days interacting with each other
builds a personal connection that I think is an important part of the networking
that’s at the center of the scientific enterprise.
Brian Sidlauskas Identifying new fish species with photo tags
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Facebook Stories:Speeding Up Science

3220 Folder Collection
VoiceTube published on April 5, 2013
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