REEF Fest Seminars


 Come learn about the amazing marine environment and the drastic changes that threaten our oceans! All seminars take place at Murray Nelson Government Center, 102050 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo, Florida. All seminars are free, but pre-registration is requested

Click here to register 

Thursday, 9/29

Fun Fish Facts: Little Known Facts About Life in the Sea

Presented by: Carlos and Allison Estape

2:30 - 3:30 PM

The Florida Keys barrier coral reef, North America's only living barrier reef, is a truly unique ecosystem, offering some of the most magnificent flora and fauna the world has to offer. Join Carlos and Allison Estape for a look at the most exciting and interesting marine species found right here in the Florida Keys! 

 Carlos and Allison Estape are Level 5 Tropical Western Atlantic REEF Fish ID Experts, members of REEF's Advanced Assessment Tea, published underwater photographers, fish id lecturers, and the creators of the 100 Fish ID website,, which provides tools to learn how to identify TWA fish species. They are passionate about diving, underwater photography, fish id & marine archaeology/history. Carlos and Allison are Islamorada residents who dedicate their time to being "citizen scientists" and greatly enjoy sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for the underwater world with others. They frequently participate in REEF's research and data collection, for both the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and Invasive Lionfish Program. Carlos and Allison were chosen as REEF Volunteers of the Year in 2013.


Sustainability Risk Assessment of Florida's Coral Reef Fisheries
Presented by: Jerald S. Ault, Professor and Chair, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society, University of Miami, Rosenstiel Shool of Marine and Atmospheric Science

3:30 - 4:30 PM

The Florida coral reef ecosystem supports vibrant fishing and tourism industries. Marine fishing in Florida is a multibillion dollar enterprise generating more annual revenue than the entire Florida citrus industry. Many reef fish species are primarily exploited by recreational fishing and the true economic value of these fisheries is unknown. Thus, managers cannot accurately know if these stocks are fished sustainably and in an economically efficient manner. Dr. Ault will use simulation analyses to assess the sustainability status of Florida coral-reef fisheries. 

Jerald S. Ault, Ph.D. is Professor and Chair of the Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society at the University of Miami, and Director of the Tarpon & Bonefish Research Center. Ault is an internationally renowned fisheries scientist in population dynamics, risk assessment, ecosystem modeling and resource management decision-making under uncertainty. Ault's fishery systems science approach is the recognized national standard or U.S. coral reef ecosystems (Florida keys, U.S. Caribbean and tropical Pacific). He provides scientific advice to NOAA Fisheries, National Park Service, and regional Fishery Management Councils. 


The Emerald Sea: REEF Surveying in the Pacific Northwest     Presented by: Janna Nichols, REEF's Outreach Coordinator

4:30 - 5:30

And now for something completely different! Clear across the US, kittycorner to Florida, lies the emerald green waters of the Salish Sea and Pacific Coast. Join Janna Nichols as she takes you on a virtual tour from Oregon to British Columbia (you won't even get cold!) of what REEF divers see and survey in the Pacific Northwest.


Janna Nichols is REEF's Outreach Coordinator, focusing on member relations, field stations, and working extensively with the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. She coordinates REEF's social media and was also the creator of the popular REEF Fishinar (webinar) program. Although Janna officially joined REEF staff in 2010, she has been conducting surveys, teaching fish ID classes, and giving REEF presentations as a volunteer since 2000, and is based in Vancouver Washington. She has personally completed over 1000 REEF surveys and is an expert level REEF surveyor in the Pacific Coast and Tropical Western Atlantic regions. 

Friday, 9/30

 The War On Lionfish in a Context: How efforts to Combat the Invasion are Affecting Marine Conservation at Large                 Presented by: Stephanie Green, PhD and REEF Affiliate Scientist

2:30 - 3:30

The lionfish invasion remains a top issue for marine conservation around the Atlantic region. But are ongoing efforts to control this venemous fish actually protecting native marine species? Has focusing on the invasion affected the ways in which we address other conservation threats in ocean? Using insights from research and management projects conducted in partnership with REEF around the region, Dr. Green will address these questions and reveal some innovative programs underway to incorporate lionfish management into whole-ecosystem marine conservation efforts. 

Stephanie Green is a Banting Fellow at Stanford University, where she leads international research in to the ecology and conservation of marine ecosystems. She is also an affiliate scientist with REEF, where she designs and leads training in marine science and management with international government agencies and conservation groups. Dr. Green's research and teaching has taken her to more than 20 countries bordering the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic Oceans. Recent projects include studying the effects of energy development in Pacific Northwest coastal ecosystems and invasive species in deep sea fish communities off South Florida, and the impact of fisheries, coastal development, and invasion on endemic marine species in Belize. 

The Great White Sharks of Guadalupe Island
Presented by: Dan Orr

3:30 - 4:30 PM

The largest resident population of Great White Sharks in the world is found around the Guadalupe Island, Mexico. During 20 trips to Guadalupe Island over an 8 year period, this seminar addresses population dynamics and possible changes in behavior of Great White Sharks caused by diver interaction. 

Dan Orr, is President of Dan Orr Consulting and recently retired from the position of President of Divers Alert Network (DAN) and Chairman of the Board of International DAN, he has helped DAN focus on its worldwide diving safety mission. Prior to coming to DAN, he worked and taught recreational diving, developed and implemented course curricula in the academic environment, collected data and supervised research efforts in the field of science diving, tested diving equipment for military contractors, and worked for or served on the Boards of various not-for-profit organizations during his career. He has published and co-authored over 200 articles and a dozen books and manuals related to scuba diving. He has also been the recipient of many prestigious awards and honors including 2014 Inductee into the International Scuba Diving Hall of Fame. 


Shifting Paradigm in the Sea
Presented by: Jack Grove

 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

Currently, there is a shift in the norms of our world's oceans and hope for the future of our oceans. Jack will specificallly discuss the marine environments of the Florida Keys and the Galapagos, origins and extinctions of fishes and their importance, the impacts of overfishing, and marine protected areas as the cornerstone of marine conservation and the preservation of biodiversity in the sea. 

Jack Grove, a marine biologist and professional naturalist, has spent much of the past two decades traveling on and lecturing about, the world's oceans. For seven years he lived in the Galapagos, where he carried out extensive marine biological studies. 


 Saturday, 10/1

Sister Sanctuaries: Linking the Science and Management of Coral Reefs in Cuba and the U.S.
Presented by: Billy D. Causey, SE Regional Director, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM

The currents that flow from the Caribbean through the Gulf of Mexico and into the Atlantic physically connect the coral reefs of Cuba and the Southeast U.S. Collaboration in marine science and management between Cuba and the U.S. is essential to strengthening and protecting the ecological integrity of coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and South Florida. As part of the cooperation recently established by Cuba and the U.S., joint marine conservation and research programs are being designed. These and other programs developed in this sister sanctuary relationship are establishing unprecedented cooperation between the U.S. and Cuba at a time when their marine resources and societies urgently need it. 

Billy Causey is the Southeast Regional Director for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. He has managed Sanctuaries in the Florida Keys since 1983, when he became the Manager of the Looe Key Sanctuary, and later the Superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Dr. Causey was the lead NOAA official in the development of the management plan for the Keys Sanctuary. He was responsible for establishing the first comprehensive marine zoning plan for the U.S.

Successful Citizen Science: Examples from Around the World
Presented by: Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects

 3:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Join us as we explore the impact of REEF's marine conservation programs on oceans around the world. Lad Akins will provide an overview of significant breakthroughs REEF has had on fish biodiversity - including recent innovations related to invasive species like lionfish and endangered species such as Nassau Grouper. From stories of exciting encounters with marine life to significant successess for the marine environment, this presentation will briefly explore the history of REEF and key steps for the future of this marine conservation organization.

 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.

 Wacky Creature Stories and Other Tales From the Sea

Presented by: Ellen Prager, PhD, President of Earth2Ocean Inc

 4:30 PM - 5:30 PM

From her books and adventures, author and marine scientist, Dr. Ellen Prager will share stories and images that blend ocean science with entertainment. Learn while you laugh and be amazed by the ocean's strange creatures, their wacky lifestyles, and why marine organisms are critical to both the ocean and human society. See how you can help preserve the sea and get a sneak peek at Dr. Prager's recently released book, Stingray City, the third book in her fiction series for middle graders, Tristan Hunt and the Sea Guardians. The first book, The Shark Whisperer, has been called " underwater Harry Potter".

Dr. Prager is a marine scientist and author, widely recognized for her expertise and ability to make science entertaining and understandable for people of all ages. She currently works as a freelance writer, consultant, and science advisor to Celebrity Xpedition in the Galapagos Islands. She was previously the Chief Scientist for the Aquarius Reef Base program in Key Largo, FL, which includes the world's only undersea research station, and at one time the Assistant Dean at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Prager has built a national reputation as a scientist and spokesperson on earth and ocean science issues.



Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub