Wherever you dive or snorkel near Lizard Island you encounter wonderful fish.  This one is a bicolour parrotfish (cetoscarus bicolor), but how could you know?

Bicolour Parrotfish (cetoscarus bicolor)

Bicolour Parrotfish (cetoscarus bicolor) © Andy Lewis

How could you know that as a juvenile this same species would have an entirely different colouring and that it would be quite different again in an intermediate stage?  Or that there are at least 14 research papers covering locally-observed parrot fish in the library at the Lizard Island Research Station?  Where does it live? What does it eat? How much does it eat? Does it prefer to be solitary, or in a school?

This information and a great deal more is available in the Lizard Island Field Guide.  It covers both Marine Life and Terrestrial Life. Within Marine Life, the categories are bony fishes, marine reptiles, invertebrates (corals are invertebrates), sharks & rays, marine mammals, marine plants and protozoans (a group of single-cell organisms that live independently in water or as parasites).  To take a test run, type “bicolour parrotfish” in the search box and click GO. You can also search by colour, size and/or depth.

Since it commenced hosting field research in 1973, the Lizard Island Research Station has accumulated information on around 6,800 local species, making it one of the world’s most extensive biodiversity data hubs.  There are images of over 1,800 species in the Guide.  More are added each year as local photos become available.

The Guide aims to cover all macroscopic plant and animal species that occur within the Lizard Island area, defined as within 15 nautical miles of the Lizard Island Group.  Local photos are important, because some species at Lizard Island have colours and other characteristics that differ from specimens of the same species recorded elsewhere.

The Guide has been compiled by one of the Station’s resident Directors, Dr Anne Hoggett AM.  It also includes Atlas of Living Australia records and location data.  Many of the photos and species descriptions were contributed by Dr Andy Lewis.

The Guide is used by scientists seeking to build on what is already known, and by students and other visitors who want to understand what they are seeing on the island and in the waters around it.  It is available free of charge. Begin by reading help > getting started.

Field Guide data can also be downloaded and accessed offline using an iPhone or Android app.  This is handy if you are heading out beyond the range of internet access.   See app links here.  If you are planning to visit the island, we recommend downloading the app and data in advance.

The Lizard Island Field Guide is powered by GaiaGuide, a non-profit initiative of Geoff Shuetrim.  Its goal is to make it easier for people to recognize and understand life around them; its great variety, its needs, its beauty and its value.  Follow Geoff on Twitter @gshuetrim