REEF Fest Seminars


Come learn about the amazing marine environment and the drastic changes that threaten our oceans! All seminars are free, but pre-registration is requested. Seminar times and locations are subject to change as we coordinate our new event dates, December 7 - 10. Please check back here as we continue to update the schedule. 

Click here to register 

Seminars will be hosted at the Murray Nelson Government Center on December 7-9. Please see the detailed schedule below: 

Thursday, December 7:

Seminars will follow a Sunset Picnic from 6:00 - 7:30 pm

Opening Remarks with REEF staff and Board of Trustees

7:30 - 8:00 PM

Recreating Pelagic Habitats in an Aquarium

Andy Dehart, Vice President of Animal Husbandry, Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science

 8:00 - 9:00 PM

Andy Dehart is the Vice President of animal husbandry at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. Prior to joining the Frost Museum of Science, Andy helped build and open the new Ripley's Aquarium of Canada as the Director of Husbandry. Before moving to Canada he spent much of his career working for the National Aquarium in both their Baltimore and Washington, D.C. locations. Throughout his tenure there her worked in many capacities and left as the Director of Fishes and Aquatic Invertebrates. In addition, he was part of the opening team as an aquarist at the Kingdom of the Seas Aquarium at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. Andy's knowledge of sharks has led him to serve as Shark Advisor for Discovery Channel, and has made a number of high-profile media appearances. Andy has been a REEF Board of Trustees member since 2007.


Friday, December 8:

Deploying the Citizen Army: Building Powerful, Purposeful data streams

Dr. Christy Pattegill-Semmens, REEF Director of Science

2:00 - 2:45 PM

Citizen scientists - those who voluntarily contribute their time, effort, and resources towards scientific research - have the potential to provide a rich vein of data to inform resource management. Leveraging this citizenry requires data collection methods that resemble recreation, infrastructure to manage the data and volunteer base, and a model to maintain the long-term interest and funding required to sustain a perpetual monitoring program. Christy will discuss approaches for developing successful citizen science programs, the perils and pitfalls likley to be encountered along the way, and current and future avenues for leveraging citizen science data in research and management. She will draw on experiences and examples from REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project, one of the largest and longest-running ocean citizen science programs in the world.

 Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens is the Director of Science for REEF. Christy overseas all aspects of REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project. She regularly advises on developing scalable citizen science programs. She has spent over 2 decades facilitating the incorporation of REEF's citizen science data into resrouce management and the scientific literature, having authored or co-authored 18 peer-reviewed papers on the subject. She recieved her undergraduate Biology degree from University of Southern California and doctrate from Texas A&M University in Zoology. She is based in San Diego, California, and maintains a visiting scientist position with the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Diver Photos and Reef Biodiversity Changes: Citizen Science on Bahamian Coral Reefs

Dr. Kathleen Sullivan Sealey, Department of Biology, University of Miami

 3:00 - 3:45 PM

Recreational divers go to more dive sites and reefs than most coral researchers. Recreational divers were the first citizen scientists keeping careful records of where, when, and what they saw on reefs, and documenting reefs through the emerging technologies in underwater photography. One private collection of photographs dating back to the 1970's was used to evaluate changes in coral reef biodiversity in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, Bahamas. Recreational diver photos provide additional information to researchers on trends and changes in reef diversity. 

Kathleen Sullivan Sealey is a marine biologist, and researcher focused on island conservation for the past 35 years. She spends most of her time thinking about how people have managed to make such a mess on the planet; it seems there are plenty of ways that people can alter the natural beauty and ecology of islands, coral reefs, and fishes. She is a faculty member in Biology at the University of Miami, and works on coastal restoration and water quality projects throughout the Bahamian archipelago. She completed her PhD in Marine Biology in 1982 at the University of California- San Diego at Scripps Institure of Oceanography. Kathleen has a diverse background in science and technology. 

How Red Grouper Transform their Environment, Creating Homes for Many

Dr. Scott Heppell, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University

4:00 - 4:45 PM

Beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Red Grouper have a job to do. Hard at work day in and day out, these fish actively transform their environment. By excavating with their mouths and fanning with their fins, these ecosystem engineers clear away sediment, which provides clean rocky substrate for the attachment of sessile invertebrates. This behavior creates complex three-dimensional habitat in an otherwise two-dimensional world, providing refuge for a whole community of fishes and mobile invertebrates. This talk will cover our research into this fascinating behavior and discuss the role that Red Grouper play in the ecosystem as well as in local fisheries.

Scott Heppell is an assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University. His research interests include the physiological ecology and conservation of fishes, in particular how physiology, behavior, and life history traits affect the interactions between fish populations, their respective fisheries, and the environment. He has worked on bluefin tuna on the Atlantic high seas, Mediterranean, east coast of the United States, on groupers throughout the southeast Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico, on rockfish in Oregon and Alaska, on sharks in the Adriatic, on forage fishes in the eastern Bering Sea, and on trout, steelhead, and salmon in Japan and the high deserts of eastern Oregon and Northern Nevada. Basically he loves working with fish wherever they can be found and where interesting scientific questions can be asked and conservation issues solved. He teaches classes in Fishery Biology, the Biology of Marine Fishes, Salmon Management in the Pacific Northwest, Problem Solving and Critical Thinking Skills for Fisheries Wildlife, and Fish Physiology. He earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Washington and a MS and PhD at North Carolina State University. He has worked on the REEF Grouper Moon project for 13 years.

Saturday, December 9:

 Conservation Successes: New Findings and Future Efforts to Enhance our Marine Environments

Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects

 2:00 - 2:45 PM

Join in this interactive discussion of research, legislation, and outreach efforts that are having positive effects on marine life throughout the world. See how citizen-based efforts are having major influeces and where new efforts are leading us.

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.

Underwater Encounters

Ned DeLoach, REEF Co-Founder, Author and Underwater Photographer

 3:00 - 3:45 PM

Ned is a celebrated marine photographer who has made innumerable contributions to our understanding of the underwater world. Co-author of over nine marine life indentification books and co-founder of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Ned’s passion for the ocean seems to match his subject in one fundamental way: it knows no bounds. Ned spent his early adult life working as a teacher in Jacksonville, FL, a facet of his life that is still regularly manifested in his work today. Ned has an undeniable gift for didacticism, which, in combination with his inexhaustible enthusiasm for the marine world and all its inhabitants, makes him a skilled trip leader who makes studying the ocean accessible to people of all ages. Ned’s extensive work in his field is evident in his contributions to a variety of media. He founded New World Publications in 1972 and published his Diving Guide to Underwater Florida in 1979. In 1985, he assumed the post of editor-in-chief of Ocean Realmmagazine. Ned has written and supplied photos for numerous other literary publications as well, including Alert Diver and Scuba Diving Magazine. He has also produced multiple underwater documentaries.

4:00 pm: Attendees are invited to enjoy the free outdoor holiday-themed concert by the Florida Keys Community Concert Band


Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub