Biological monitoring by citizens using Web-based photographic databases of fishes
The Internet has changed the way biologists communicate; this includes the collection of information on fish biology. This technological change may allow the possibility for biological monitoring by general citizens via the Internet. The Japanese Internet atlas of fishes, WEB sakana-zukan, has been in operation since 2002. It provides an opportunity to communicate and accumulate information on fish biology by amateur users, who consist mainly of sports fishing fans. This website has functioned not only as an entertainment and educational tool for users with an environmental and ichthyological interest. To date, more than 35,000 photographs of fishes have been registered on the website by more than 1,000 unique users, and more than 37,500 photographs of fishes have been posted in its bulletin board system (linking approximately 28,000 photographs to the website) by more than 2,000 unique users. As these photographs almost always include time and locality data, it is possible to provide distribution data by publishing the information as scientific papers or registering them as collections at the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History (the Image Database of Fishes (KPM-NR) contributing to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility). If the communication method is developed and improved, various scientists will be able to collect much more biodiversity data from general citizens via the Internet.