REEF Fish Field Methodology Course

June 4 - 11, 2017, in Key Largo, Florida 

This summer, spend a week learning marine life survey techniques with REEF experts in Key Largo, Florida. Build your skills and resume for marine field research and discover career opportunities in the marine and conservation field. The course covers reef fish identification for the Tropical Western Atlantic and common tools and techniques used in visual assessments of reef fishes.


Program Curriculum: 

-Tropical Western Atlantic Fish Identification - learn how to identify and remember key Florida and Caribbean reef fish taxa 

-Survey Methodologies - learn the tools, techniques, and methodologies for conducting: 

  • Roving Diver Surveys
  • Transect Surveys
  • Stationary Visual Surveys
  • Benthic Photo and Rugosity Surveys

-Data Entry and Management - learn how to manage and enter data into commonly used management programs

Requirements: Participants must be at least 18 years old and enrolled in or a recent graduate of a college level program in a related field; scuba certified, comfortable and current in their diving skills; physically and mentally capable of carrying out underwater data gathering, and handling of light equipment from small boats.

Course Fee: $945 per person

What is Included: Course fee includes 7 nights of accommodations in a dormitory style setting, 6 days of 2-tank boat dives including use of tanks and weights, REEF Fish Identification Survey materials, and Certificate of Participation upon successful completion of the program.

What are Participants Responsible For: Participants are responsible for providing dive equipment excluding tanks and weights (rental gear available from dive shop), all meals, and transportation. Accommodations include a full kitchen and refrigerator. Accommodations are within walking distance of many bayside restaurants, the perfect location for a delicious meal and a sunset view. 

Participants should fly into Miami International Airport (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). From there, participants may rent a car and drive to Key Largo (both airports are less than two hours from Islamorada) via the Florida Turnpike and U.S. 1. Alternatively, participants may choose to ride the Florida Keys Shuttle from either airport. A rental car will not be needed during the field course, as the accommodations are located at the dive facility. 

Considerations: This is an inexpensive, fun, and educational course that will benefit any student that may be involved in reef fish data collection in the field. This course is not a college credit course (though some students may want to apply for credit from their home institution). Students will gain a strong understanding of field survey tools and techniques applicable to field work throughout their careers.

How to Apply: To apply, please complete the Application Form. Within one week of submission, applicants will receive an email from REEF regarding their status. A $200 deposit will be collected within 2 weeks of program acceptance. Visit the Field Course Policies page for more information on deposit and payment schedules. If you have questions about the program or the application process, please e-mail us at or call 305-588-5869. 

About the Instructors: 

Lad Akins, REEF’s Director of Special Projects, is renowned as a leading expert on invasive lionfish and reef fish identification. Lad helped develop REEF’s acclaimed Volunteer Fish Survey program and has led field research projects around the world. He has discovered and described new species of reef fish, authored more than 20 journal publications and conducted thousands of fish surveys throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic.

Ellie Splain, REEF’s Education Program Manager, is a passionate teacher of the marine environment. Ellie primarily focuses on education programs and efforts at REEF’s Headquarters in Key Largo, Florida and manages REEF's Marine Conservation Internship Program. Since her initial internship with REEF in 2013, Ellie has been captivated by the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, becoming an expert level surveyor and joining the Advanced Assessment Team for the Tropical Western Atlantic. Ellie is a divemaster and an experienced surveyor throughout the Caribbean.


Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub