Born on the east coast of Scotland, my passion for nature started at four years old. St. Andrews is the break point between many miles of sands to the north, and an even longer stretch of volcanic and sandstone coast to the south. With a four meter tidal range there were daily opportunities to investigate marine life on the sands or in often large rockpools. While still at school, regular and frequent visits to the Gatty Marine Laboratory and the Zoology Museum where Prof. Burt took time to deepen my knowledge and interest in biology.
Although graduating in botanical taxonomy from Edinburgh University, my studies included a large zoology component. An animated lecture by Prof. Sir Maurice Yonge on research on the Great Barrier Reef awoke a burning interest in coral reefs.
While researching tropical diatoms at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, I had the opportunity to learn diving with the BSAC at a time when the reefs were pristine. It was the ideal opportunity to learn more about coral reefs. Two marine laboratories belonged to the university, one of which was the world-famous Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory. Thomas & Nora Goreau founded the lab and carried pioneering research on coral reef structure and development. In the 1970's there was little in the way of identification literature for reef life, so naming what you saw was very much a do-it-yourself occupation, referencing research papers and talking with researchers. Many divers were interested in corals, so I started a reference collection and started to name them. Nora Goreau was still carrying out research into coral skeletogenisis in Discovery Bay and was my enthusiastic mentor for knowledge on coral reefs.
My interest in underwater photography started then when a friend lent me his Nikonos II. Working with film and no flash was a very different experiance from today. At the end of my stay in the Caribbean, I helped the then curator of the museum in the Trinidad Institute of Marine Affairs collect subterranean sponges in the Boca Grande and deepwater ahermatypic corals on Chacachacare, one of which turned out to be a new species.
Five years were spent organising scientific expeditions to Malaysia, Sabah, Java, the Philippines, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Namibia and Madagascar. The expeditions were in cooperation with research institutes in the various countries, Europe, and the USA. The largest project involved UNESCOs MAB team and another major project, CSIRO.
My own publications have been on maritime lichens, East African orchids and tropical diatoms. Recently I was able to facilitate the description of a new species of cryptic crab by working together with researchers in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum. The crab was named after the sharp-eyed guide that found it, Maxi Tabalong,
Now, as you see here I use images to highlight species diversity and conservation issues on SE Asian Coral Reefs.
Wonders of the night
A kaleidoscope of flatworms