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Review of Neville Coleman's “Underwater Marine Life Identification e-Guide”
By Joe Tepper, December 26, 2010 @ 12:00 PM (EST)

By Joseph Tepper

Underwater explorer Neville Coleman does not live in the past.

As a multi-award winning underwater photographer, with an accumulation of accolades almost too long to list, Mr. Coleman has spent the majority of his life exploring and photographing some of the world's richest waters. Beginning in 1967, when he led the Australian Coastal Marine Expedition -the first photographic fauna survey on the continent- and now with the 2010 release of his “Underwater Marine Life Identification eGuide,” he continues to transform the traditional marine identification guide into a tool for the future.

His latest work, the “Underwater Marine Life Identification eGuide,” features over 2000 photographs of marine life from the Indo-Pacific region. The content menu of the application divides the species into sixteen primary groups: marine plants, Forams, Sponges, Cnidarians, Cntetophores (comb jellies), marine flatworms, segmented worms, Crustaceans, Molluscs, Bryozoans, Echinoderms, Ascidians, fish, reptiles, sea and shore birds, and marine mammals. The guide's elementary organization of basic phyla, overview of the rules of taxonomy, and even useful overviews of each major group's lifestyle, is as practical for the novice as it is a refreshing reminder for the seasoned veteran.
After selecting a phyla and class, the individual species are further divided into family classifications and sorted alphabetically by their scientific name. The latter of these organizations is perhaps not best suited for the average diver, who may not be familiar with the intricacies of marine taxonomy; but this  slight inconvenience can be easily remedied by a future update that could only be a click away.

The illustrations and images are well suited for identification, although perhaps not approaching a new level of aesthetic achievement. Most identifications photos are profile shots that give a very good idea of identifying features, as well as further information listed below: features, lifestyle, reproduction, ecological associations and identification tips.



While Neville Coleman's new guide follows the fold of its printed relatives in many ways, it also offers several innovative features unique to the electronic format. The “Quick Search” allows you to search for common names and scientific names within the entire guide, eliminating the need to thumb through thick indexes. Another useful tool is the compare function, which allows the user to place two ID photos next to each other, making the otherwise challenging task of intra-species identification a breeze. The application even features the “My List” function: a tool that allows the user to store memorable dives, localities, and even unique species.

In its introduction, Mr. Coleman writes, “this eGuide has been developed as a general visual identification for scuba divers, snorkelers, and students and is not intended to be for than its intention”; in some ways this culmination of art, science, and technology exceeds this intention, resulting in a reliable, portable fish ID book for half of the cost of most printed works.

With the “growing pains” of transitioning from traditional to non-traditional media, it is little surprise that such change is now permeating the world of marine identification. Even though this electronic guide may have some small inconveniences to be addressed in future updates, it is really a sign of things to come.
And so, Mr. Coleman's lives in the present and looks to the future. His eGuide reassures us that, while the future of underwater media is quite uncertain in its physical form, its future in terms of education and innovation will continue to be very bright.

The “Underwater Marine Life Identification Guide” is now available for the iPad and iPhone from the iTunes store for $19.99. The eGuide is due to be released in January for the Android, Blackberry, Symbian (Nokia), Windows Phone, and  Windows Mobile.


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