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Search for new nudibranch records in Sydney Sea Slug Census


Jessica Nelson (Huxley)
14 November 2017

New records of sea slugs could be discovered this weekend when volunteer scuba divers take to the waters around Sydney for the highly anticipated third annual Sydney Sea Slug Census.

Last year participants made history by photographing the elusive Macleay's Spurilla for the first time in 15 years. More species are likely to be found this year as the event extends from the previous 24-hour format to take place across the whole weekend.

Professor Steve Smith, Director of Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre in Coffs Harbour, has co-ordinated the sea slug census events at six locations along the east coast since 2013, documenting hundreds of species and new regional records. Two new event sites, Lord Howe Island and Melbourne, have been confirmed for 2018.

Professor Smith has again teamed up with the Underwater Research Group in Sydney to deliver the Sydney Sea Slug Census on November 18 and 19.

“These brightly coloured nudibranchs are plentiful in the Sydney area and are an underwater photographer’s dream as they are generally easy to spot, relatively immobile and highly photogenic,” Professor Smith said.

“They are also very important indicators of environmental change due to their short life spans and reliance on specific food sources and so our team at Southern Cross University is monitoring changes in their distribution under the influence of human impact, including climate change.

“Due to the huge interest in this event, we have extended it from 24 to 48 hours, encouraging as many divers, snorkelers and rock-pool ramblers to photograph as many species as possible in a quest to become this year’s best spotter.”

The citizen science program contributes directly to Southern Cross University’s marine biodiversity research program. Divers must be certified and at least one member of participating teams needs to have access to an underwater camera.

Members of the Underwater Research Group will establish a base at Bare Island for the Sydney Sea Slug Census, but participants are encouraged to include as many sites as possible between Port Hacking and Pittwater.