Devin Bloom doesn’t often poke or friend anyone. And he barely ever posts. But he will use social media to fish for answers.

The U of T evolutionary biologist, whose sister secretly signed him up to Facebook, recently suggested that his fellow researchers use the site as a way to identify more than 5,000 fish caught during a scientific expedition to Guyana.

While Bloom returned to Toronto, his fellow researchers Brian Sidlauskas and Whit Bronaugh from Oregon State University uploaded photos of the catch to Facebook.

Within 24 hours, leading fish experts around the globe had identified about 90 per cent of the photos, and the team could provide the Guyanese government with an inventory — a requirement that allowed it to export its specimens.

“I can get that information, but it takes hours or days to be able to do that,” said Sidlauskas, 34, an assistant professor of fisheries at Oregon State. “But to connect with people around the world meant I could get that information in five or 10 minutes.”

If a fellow scientist couldn’t identify a fish, they sent the photo to experts in Venezuela, France or Belgium. So little of the area’s biodiversity is known that, in some cases, scientists could only narrow the identification down to one or two species, but Sidlauskas says even that ruled out thousands of others.