What coral is that? A practical way to learn coral identification.

Distinguishing between the multitudes of different reef-building corals is a struggle that coral reef ecologists are well familiar with.  Fortunately, coral biologists such as Professor Charlie Veron have produced comprehensive taxonomic works designed to help decipher this important group of organisms. But these taxonomic treatises are by nature voluminous and are not designed to be taken underwater.

All that has changed now with Russell Kelley’s Indo Pacific Coral Finder.  Russell, a well-known biologist and communicator, has produced an ingenious guide which can easily be carried underwater and allow anyone to identify corals on the spot.  This is an enormously important tool for the biology and conservation of coral reefs.

For the diver / snorkeler interested in corals the Indo Pacific Coral Finder is unlike anything you may have seen or used before for coral identification.

In simple terms its a robust underwater book with a visually driven key that overcomes the variation in shape / form that corals show due to environment. After making a simple visual choice of a “Key Group” e.g. is it “branching”  and then answering a plain language question about scale or texture, the user is sent to a “Look-Alike” page with the top 5 or 6 best bets as to what the coral genus might be. Typically, the user then “sees” the answer because the eye and brain are very adept at separating similar things. By using visual cues and greatly reducing the reliance on text you are able to get the correct genus name of the coral. The Coral Finder then connects the end user directly with the relevant volume / page number in Charlie Veron’s Corals of the World and suddenly you are in the learning business!

The Coral Finder lets the early learner get a foothold where previously confusion reigned due to the bewildering number of species and their environmental variation. This tool offers a great opportunity for people to know their corals better. It captures around 70 genera (including the stony non-scleractinia) and works anywhere in the Indo-Pacific.  More advanced users will also find it a useful revision, learning and teaching tool. The Coral Finder is published by Russell Kelley and was supported by Dr Charlie Veron and the Australian Coral Reef Society. It is available from www.byoguides.com

These training movies give a sense of how the Coral Finder works.  You can find these movies here and here.

There is a supporting website of free audiovisual training resources (The Coral Hub) under construction by the Coral Identification Capacity Building Program and is due for release later this year.

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