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What is it? | How do I conduct a survey? | What materials are available? | When and where can I conduct a survey? | What happens to my surveys? | How can I access the data? | How do I interpret the data and reports? | Why collect invertebrate survey data?

What is the Living REEF Project?
The Living REEF Project is an invertebrate monitoring program that was created as a companion to the fish monitoring program for the Pacific Northwest.  The Project grew from a partnership between REEF and the Living Oceans Society, a non-profit organization based in British Columbia that is committed to the preservation of marine biological diversity and creation of sustainable fisheries through the establishment of a network of marine protected areas and ecosystem management (for more information, visit their website at www.livingoceans.org).  Living Oceans Society was an important partner in REEF's initial expansion to the area, and thanks to the urging of Pacific Northwest surveyors who were eager to learn more about these fascinating spineless creatures and the work of Living Oceans Society in developing the program, the invertebrate program became a reality in the Summer of 2001.  The data are collected using the same standardized method as in REEF fish surveys and are housed in a publicly-accessible database on REEF's Website. These data will ultimately be used by a variety of resource agencies and researchers.

How do I conduct an invertebrate REEF survey?
As part of the new program, invertebrates will be monitored using the same Roving Diver Technique (RDT) survey method used in REEF fish surveys.  The RDT is a visual survey method specifically designed for volunteer data. The only materials needed are an underwater slate and pencil, a scantron form available at no charge from REEF, and a good reference book. Where can I get Scantron forms?

The Survey Method- During RDT surveys in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia), divers can conduct a fish survey, an invertebrate survey, or both during each dive.  During the survey dive, the surveyor swims freely throughout a dive site and record the presence of all fish species and/or each of the 44 Living REEF Project invertebrate species that are encountered and that can be positively identified.  The search for fishes and/or invertebrates begins as soon as the diver enters the water. The goal is to find as many species as possible so divers are encouraged to look under ledges and up in the water column.
At the conclusion of each survey, each recorded fish species is assigned one of four abundance categories based on about how many were seen throughout the dive [single (1); few (2-10), many (11-100), and abundant (>100)].  The invertebrates are assigned either the abundance codes (Single, Few, Many, Abundant) or Present, depending on the species. Species that tend to be present in aggregations rather than as discrete individuals, such as sand dollars and strawberry anemones, will be recorded as present if seen during the dive rather than assigning an abundance category. The list of invertebrates included in the program are listed at http://www.reef.org/data/pac/invertsp.htm.

Filling out the Scansheet- Following the dive, each surveyor records the species data along with survey time, depth, temperature, and other environmental information on the REEF scansheet specific for the Pacific region. The location of the survey is recorded using the common dive site name and the REEF Geographic Zone Code. The Zone Codes are a hierarchical list of codes. A separate survey and scansheet are done for each dive. Completed scansheets are returned to REEF HQ, at P.O. Box 246, Key Largo, FL 33037, USA.

What materials are available?
As part of the Living REEF Project, new survey materials have been created, along with a training curriculum module that was written by Living Oceans Society, "Introduction to Identification of Pacific Northwest Invertebrates".  Waterproof survey paper that lists both fish and invertebrates is available for the Pacific Northwest and a color identification card featuring the 44 invertebrates will be available soon.  A new West Coast REEF scanform has been developed to include fish and invertebrates.  Although one form will be used for the entire area from California to BC, invertebrate surveys can only be conducted in Oregon, Washington, and BC.  Older versions of the West Coast scanform can still be used to submit data and all scanforms should be sent to REEF HQ in Florida.  All of these materials are available through our online store or from REEF HQ.

When and where are invertebrate surveys conducted?
Just like REEF fish surveys, the invertebrate surveys are conducted as part of a diver's regular diving activities; anytime they are in the water.  However, the invertebrate program is only available in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia).

Because each project area has different scanforms and survey materials, be sure to have the Pacific scanform and materials.

What happens to the survey after it's returned to REEF HQ?
REEF personnel review the completed forms and then scan the forms into a computer. A series of quality control programs are run on the datafiles and then the survey data are loaded into REEF's online database. From this database, a variety of reports can be generated on species distribution and population trends, for a specific site or region. The time frame from receipt of a survey at REEF HQ to uploading to the database is usually between 4-8 weeks.

How can I access the data?
All data collected by REEF volunteers is returned to REEF and entered into our database. This database is accessible online, via this Webpage, and a variety of reports can be generated. A summary report can be generated for a given location or region, with data on all species that have been documented there. Distribution reports can be generated for a specific species or family. And you can view your own lifelist of fish and invertebrate sightings using your REEF member ID number.
The Living REEF Project invertebrate database is accessible here.

How do I interpret the data and the reports?
Roving diver survey data generate a species list along with sighting frequency and abundance estimates for each species. Click here for information on interpreting these frequency and abundance estimates.

What are the data used for?
As the Living REEF Project invertebrate database grows, the data will be useful in a variety of management and conservation applications.  While there are no examples of invertebrate data applications yet, the REEF Fish Survey Project data have been used in several scientific papers and have become integrated into several projects.  To read more about these papers and projects and about using volunteers in data collection, visit our Monitoring and Research page.

Why collect survey data?
Once you start conducting fish and/or inveterate surveys, your diving experience will change.  Suddenly you will start to notice things on your dives that have always been there, but the difference is that now you will know them. You will realize when a species you encounter is a great find, and who are the usual suspects.  Another reason- it allows you to participate, become a scientist, become an explorer.   It gives you a voice to make a difference.  We hope you will use it.
To learn more, you may be interested in reading Learning to See Underwater, a paper published in the Underwater Naturalist in April 2001 (click here to download a pdf).


Reef Environmental Education Foundation, 2000-2001
Date Last Modified: 08/29/01

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