THE REEF FISH SURVEY PROJECT
What is it? | What is
the Living REEF Project invertebrate program? | How do I conduct a survey? |
Can I Submit Data Online? | 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? | Are the data accurate and useful? | Who uses the data? | Why collect fish survey
data? | Are other animals included besides fish?
What is the REEF Fish Survey Project?
REEF's mission, to educate and enlist divers in the conservation of marine habitats, is
accomplished primarily through its Fish Survey Project. The Project was developed in 1990
with support from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and guidance by the Southeast Fisheries
Science Center of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The REEF Fish Survey
Project allows volunteer SCUBA divers and snorkelers to collect and report information on
marine fish populations. The data are collected using a fun and easy standardized method,
and are housed in a publicly-accessible database on REEF's Website. These data are used by
a variety of resource agencies and researchers.
What is the Living REEF Project
Invertebrate Monitoring Program?
The Living REEF Project is an invertebrate monitoring program that was created
as a companion to the fish monitoring program for the Pacific
Northwest. Since this program was launched in 1998, REEF has
launched a similar companion program in California. Both of these
programs monitor a set of invertebrates (and Algae in California).
To find out more, visit the REEF Invertebrate
& Algae Monitoring Program page.
How do I conduct a REEF survey?
To collect data for the Project, REEF volunteers use the Roving
Diver Technique (RDT), 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, divers swim freely throughout a dive site
and record every observed fish species that can be positively identified. The search for
fishes 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.
Any sea turtle species seen during your dive should also be marked. More
about the Sea Turtle Program.
At the conclusion of each survey, each recorded 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)].
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 region the survey was conducted in. 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.
Click here to view a short
instructional video of the REEF survey method.
Be sure to also visit this very informative tutorial
webpage put together by Project S.E.A.-Link, one of our partners in
Hawaii. Even though it was written for surveyors in Hawaii, the
information is valid for all of REEF's regions.
Online Data Entry- For surveys conducted in the
tropical western Atlantic and Northeast US region, REEF volunteers can
also submit their survey data online at www.reef.org/dataentry.
Can I Submit Data Online?
Yes, beginning in January 2005, data from surveys
conducted in the tropical western Atlantic and Northeast US region can be
submitted online at www.reef.org/dataentry.
For more information on this process, visit the Online
Q&A page. REEF hopes to make online data entry available for
all our regions by the end of 2005. Of course, REEF continues to
supply and process TWA scanforms.
When and where are surveys conducted?
REEF surveys are conducted as part of a diver's regular diving activities; anytime they
are in the water.
REEF surveys can be conducted in any of REEF's Project areas:
· Tropical Western Atlantic/Northeast US & Canada (Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, and Gulf of Mexico),
southern Atlantic states (Georgia and South Carolina), and Virginia
· West Coast of the United States and Canada (California, Oregon, Washington,
and British Columbia)
· Tropical Eastern Pacific (Gulf of California to the Galapagos Islands).
· Hawaiian Islands.
Each project area has different scanforms and survey materials.
What happens to the survey after it's returned to REEF
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 reef or large
geographic regions. 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 sightings using
your REEF member ID number.
To visit the REEF database, click 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.
Are the data accurate and useful?
Yes! From the beginning, the program was designed in conjunction with marine scientists
from NOAA, the University of Miami, and The Nature Conservancy. For over two years, a team
of marine ecologists and fisheries managers monitored and carefully evaluated REEF's field
methods and reporting procedures. Their study, published in the Bulletin of Marine Science
in 1996, confirmed that the collected data are of extreme value to the scientific
community. They found that fish surveys conducted using the REEF roving diver method meet
- Ability to collect large quantities of presence/absence and relative abundance data
- Indication of species distribution throughout a geographical area based on sighting
frequency and abundance
- Specific species presence/absence and abundance lists may be presented for any given
region, subregion, zone or site
- Measures of similarity in species composition may be computed between any combination of
Today, marine ecologists from NOAA, the State of Florida, Caribbean and
Bahamas government environmental protection offices, marine park management, and
conservation groups are already putting information from REEF's database to good use.
What are the data used for?
As the REEF Fish Survey Project has grown, several papers and products have been produced
using the roving diver survey method and the REEF database. In addition, the REEF Fish
Survey Project has become integrated into several projects. These collaborations have
included those with management agencies and other non-profit organizations. To read
more about these papers and projects and about using volunteers in data collection, visit
our Monitoring and Research page.
Why collect fish survey data?
Once you start conducting fish 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.
other animals included besides fish?
While the main focus of REEF's
program is marine fish, we have incorporated two
additional components through collaborations with other organizations -
the Pacific Invertebrate & Algae monitoring
programs in the Pacific Northwest and California and the Sea Turtle Sighting Program.
Sea turtles are reported in all of REEF's regions.