4th Edition of Reef Fish ID Guidebook Released

We are excited to announce an exclusive opportunity for REEF members to pre-purchase the 4th edition Reef Fish Identification - Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach. This newly released version includes 89 new fish species and over 150 new photos, representing a significant update to the 2002 3rd edition. The new book is currently only available through the REEF online store. Purchase your copy today by clicking here. You can also purchase the three book Reef ID Set here, which includes the new 4th edition fish book, as well as the recently released updated editions of Coral ID and Creature ID books.

Since the release of the first edition of Reef Fish Identification in 1989, this book has revolutionized fishwatching. The 4th edition is packed with amazing marine life photographs of 683 species and enough information to keep marine life enthusiasts busy for years. It includes the latest information on what is known about the taxonomy and distribution of Caribbean reef fishes. The easy-to-use, quick reference format makes it easy to identify the hundreds of fishes sighted on the reefs, sand flats, grass beds, surf zones and walls of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas.

To help our members get the most out of the new book, we will be offering two free Fishinars (online webinars) in the coming weeks to review many of the new additions and species updates that were included in the 4th edition. We hope you will join us for “Digging Deeper in to Caribbean Fish ID - Exploring the 4th Edition of Reef Fish ID, Parts 1 and 2”, on June 16 and June 30, at 5pm PST, taught by REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, PhD. Fishinars are free to REEF members and are easy to access through a basic web browser. To register for one or both sessions, visit www.REEF.org/fishinars.

The Faces of REEF: Roger and Tricia Grimes

Roger and Patricia doing their part in the lionfish invasion. Photo by Leslie Adams.
The Mola mola, one of the oddest fish in the sea. And a great find! Photo courtesy of Wikicommons.

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Roger and Tricia Grimes. They have been REEF members since 2012, shortly after moving to the Florida Keys. They are active with REEF's lionfish research efforts, and they also lend their technology talents around REEF Headquarters. Roger is eligible to have his volunteer hours matched by his employer (Microsoft), resulting in generous financial support to REEF. Here's what they had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF? 

We first heard about REEF when we were taking one of the first lionfish harvesting classes in Morehead City, NC. We liked REEF so much it was partially responsible for us moving to Key Largo a few years ago.

What ways are you involved with REEF?

Our main participation with REEF is with the Lionfish project. We also work to keep the REEF office computers up and running. Our highlights are all the lionfish dives we’ve done with REEF interns, Lad Akins, and the many great volunteers. Really great people! We haven’t done an official REEF survey dive yet. We’ve taken a few of the online REEF Fishinars, and they have really improved our ability to identify fish. Every new fish we see gets recorded in our copy of Reef Fish Identification. One of our life goals is to see every fish in the book!

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?

REEF is a special group of people with big hearts and scientific minds who dedicate a big part of their lives protecting parts of the ocean. REEF makes a big impact through its educational outreach, sharing science, and identifying ways to make the oceans better for everyone. Everything we do for REEF makes us feel like a more complete one human family! 

Do you dive close to where you live? What is the best part about diving there?

We moved to Key Largo three years ago and purposely bought a house on an ocean canal and bought a boat. We go diving every chance we get.

Do you have any fishwatching tips for REEF members?

We’ve noticed that wary fish watch your eyes. If you want to get close to a wary fish, be patient, don’t chase them directly, and advert your eyes until the last possible second.

What is your most memorable fish find?

Seeing a mola mola out in the clear bluewater. I (Roger) was a relatively new diver and I thought I was seeing the closest thing to a dinosaur. I thought I was bent. How could a fish be shaped like a hand? And I’ve never seen one since then, so I now know what a special treat it was.

Double Your Donation to Support Marine Conservation and Education Programs

Double your donation to REEF this summer. Photo by Jeffrey Haines.

REEF’s Summer Donation Matching Campaign is going on now. Please consider making your donation today - click here to donate online! Our supporters have pledged $60,000 to match your donations this summer dollar for dollar. We are about a third of the way to our goal, and we know we can count on the support of our members. Your support helps ensure that we can continue the critical work to protect our world oceans through education and research. Please consider donating today to help us reach our fundraising goal. Every donation, no matter how small, makes double the difference!

We also want to extend a big thank you to all of our members who have already donated this summer.

Golden Hamlet Inductions in 2015

The Golden Hamlet. Drawing by Eleanore Pigman.

We are pleased to welcome two REEF surveyors to the Golden Hamlet Club in 2015 – Georgia Arrow and Janna Nichols. What is the Golden Hamlet Club? No, it is not a club of Shakespearean enthusiasts, but rather a club of citizen scientist superstars - those REEF members who have conducted 1,000+ surveys in the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Georgia was the first member to complete almost all of the 1,000 surveys in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest. Although many of Janna’s surveys were also conducted in the Pacific Northwest, as REEF’s Outreach Coordinator, Janna has conducted surveys in almost all of REEF’s project regions. She recently did her 1,000th on the Cozumel REEF Field Survey.

The very first Golden Hamlet member was Linda Baker, achieving the status in 2005. Today, there are eighteen members of the Golden Hamlet Club. A plaque hangs at REEF HQ in Key Largo, with the names of our honored volunteer surveyors -- Lad Akins, Georgia Arrow, Linda Baker, Judie Clee, Janet Eyre, Dave Grenda, Doug Harder, Lillian Kenney, Peter Leahy, Rob McCall, Franklin Neal, Janna Nichols, Mike Phelan, Bruce Purdy, Linda Ridley, Dee Scarr, Linda Schillinger, and Sheryl Shea. Congratulations to you all. To see pictures and profiles of these surveyors, visit the Golden Hamlet Club webpage. Thanks to their dedication, and those of the 16,000 other volunteers who have participated in the Survey Project since its inception in 1993, we have generated the largest marine fish sightings database in the world. Who's going to be the next Golden Hamlet surveyor?

The Faces of REEF: David Thompson and Luanne Betz

David and Luanne in the Philippines
Exploring topside
David surveying in the Caribbean.
David and Luanne with friends on a REEF Trip.

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight one of our many REEF couples - David Thompson and Luanne Betz, members since 2011. David and Luanne have collectively conducted 250 surveys and are active surveyors in several REEF regions. Both have achieved Level 5 Expert status in the TWA and Level 3 status in the CIP. Here's what they had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? We love diving and having been married in Key Largo under the sea it was a natural fit for us. We first heard about REEF from a fellow REEF member, Penny Hall and in 2011 we signed up as members and started our fish education online. In April 2012 we completed our first survey on the Nevis REEF trip led by Dr. Christy Semmens and we were hooked!

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight? We have been on many! Caribbean destinations include Nevis/St Kitts, St Lucia, Utila/Honduras, Curacao, and we are going on the Bonaire trip this fall. Our favorite trip so far was to the Philippines. The highlight was when a Whale Shark unexpectedly emerged from a massive school of Bigeye Trevally. Tubbataha marine preserve was the most fascinating place we’ve ever experienced; the diversity of life was mind-blowing. We have also attended all of the REEF Fests in Key Largo.

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? Learning about the fish and fish ID has added a whole new aspect to our diving. We love watching the fish behavior, the changes at night, and seeing how many different species we can find.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey? While on the field survey in the Philippines we learned the Three-spot and Reticulated Dascyllus make a throated buzz that sounds like a cat purr when defending their territory.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? We love having an expansion to a hobby we already loved. REEF has given us many new friends. We actually have gone on vacations with members we have met on REEF survey field teams. And they have stayed with us to go diving locally or just to visit. We also joined other REEF members in Hawaii last April. We also introduced REEF to our children and that has expanded our participation with them as well. Our son, Landen, went on a lionfish trip to Curacao with us and proved to be a very good shot!

If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them? REEF is a citizen science program in which we are active participants. They have many programs to participate in, including invasive lionfish control and study, the Grouper Moon Project, and provide a giant database for scientists to monitor sea life around the world.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? We love to dive near our home in Coral Springs, FL. We are close enough to dive in the Keys, Delray, Boynton, and West Palm. Our favorite local spot is (of course!) Blue Heron Bridge.

What is your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to? Black Brotula in St. Lucia, Ghost Pipefish in Dumagete, Philippines, and flouders mating in Tubbataha. Still on our wish list — Manta Rays!

Exciting Opportunity to Sleep Under the Sea

We are excited to share with you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join REEF on a special expedition next spring. In partnershp with Florida International Univeristy (FIU), we have arranged for a small team of REEF members to experience another level of ocean exploration. Our team will venture beneath the waves and spend a night in the FIU Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research laboratory. Deployed 60 feet beneath the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Aquarius Reef Base is the world’s only undersea research station and is used to study the ocean, test and develop undersea technology, and train astronauts. Less than 1,500 people have ever ventured inside Reef Aquarius Base, and even fewer have spent the night in the underwater habitat.

The project dates are March 5 - 10, 2017, and includes 4 nights of lodging in Marriott Bayside Resort in Key Largo, 3 days of 2-tank dives with Quiescence Diving Services, a night spent in the Aquarius Reef Base, and classroom sessions with REEF and Aquarius staff each day. Note that the time spent in the Aquarius is not a saturation dive. The pressure inside Aquarius will be adjusted during the overnight stay, and participants will not be allowed to venture outside of the Habitat until departure from the Habitat. Cost to participate is $4,500. If you are interested in finding out more, visit the Aquarius Expedition website.

Join REEF’s British Virgin Islands Field Survey, featuring a special itinerary aboard the Cuan Law

It’s not too late to become a citizen scientist in 2017! We still have a couple spaces remaining on our British Virgin Islands Field Survey this winter, December 3rd - 9th, and REEF surveyors of all levels are invited to participate. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) offer world-class diving and our REEF trip promises to be great. We have arranged a special itinerary with the Cuan Law liveaboard and the boat will explore some of the lesser-dived areas on the north side of the islands. Ellie Splain, REEF’s Education Program Manager, is leading the trip and will teach daily fish identification classes for participants to expand their knowledge of fish in the area while contributing to REEF’s marine sightings database.

At 105 feet long and 44 feet wide, the Cuan Law is the world’s largest trimaran. There are 10 spacious and air-conditioned two-person cabins onboard, each with a private bathroom. The boat’s top deck has hammocks to relax in after the day’s dives.

With more than 100 dive sites, diving in the BVI is suitable for all skill levels. The water temperature in December is a comfortable 80 degrees F and the dive sites have clear blue waters with spectacular coral formations and plenty of fish life, plus sea turtles and rays. The islands are also home to some of the most famous wreck dives in the Caribbean, including the RMS Rhone and the Chikuzen. The planned itinerary for this trip is unique and will also feature some diving on less crowded, north side reefs and pinnacles, weather and conditions permitting.

When not diving, you can enjoy snorkeling during surface intervals, and there’s plenty to do on this trip for non-divers as well. The boat has hobie cats, sea kayaks, and paddle boards available for all guests to use. The week ends with a fun beach BBQ ashore.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-reach destination for hassle-free pre-holiday travel, the BVI are a great fit. Located only 60 miles east of Puerto Rico, they are easily accessible. Tortola is the largest island and is easily reached by flight from San Juan, PR, or by ferry from St. Thomas, USVI. The currency in the BVI is the US dollar, so there is no need to worry about exchanging money either.

We welcome divers and non-divers, as well as fish surveyors of all levels. Escape from the busy holiday season, and expand your knowledge of marine life! For more information, visit our British Virgin Islands Field Survey webpage . To register for the trip, e-mail trips@REEF.org or call 305-588-5869.

New "Grumpy Grouper" T-shirt

Earlier this month we added a new color of the fabulous "Grumpy Grouper" t-shirt to REEF's online store. The "Grumpy Grouper" shirt features artwork from REEF friend and world famous painter, diver, and character extraordinaire, Ron Steven (aka Rogest). Painted in support of REEF's Grouper Moon Project, "Grumpy" features the face of a Nassau Grouper, with the tag line "Extinction Makes Me Grumpy". The new shirt can be ordered here. 

And more about the Grouper Moon Project can be found here.


REEF Joins Leading Volunteer Organizations to Develop Citizen Science Toolkit

Leda Cunningham test drives an online bird ID portal with other conference participants.
REEF volunteer (and family member) Brice Semmens takes in the REEF display during the poster session.

In late June, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) hosted the first ever Citizen Science Toolkit Conference in Ithaca, New York. Widely known for projects like FeederWatch and the Great Backyard Bird Count, the CLO is a pioneer in bringing people closer to nature through cooperative research, cutting edge technology and innovative science programs across many natural science fields. Leda Cunningham and Dr. Christy Semmens represented REEF at the 3-day meeting, where fifty leaders of citizen science organizations around the world – from worm watchers to bird counters to star gazers – came together to build a toolkit for citizen science practitioners and others seeking to engage volunteers in meaningful science activities.

There is some debate about what citizen science is, not to mention what it does. Many participants noted that “volunteer monitoring” more accurately captures the nature of their programs (much like the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project) while others thought that volunteers fill more of a role than just data collectors and should be involved in all parts of the scientific process, beginning with posing the research question. The group periodically split into five focus groups and reconvened at the end to present a model based on each group’s focus area: Education, Evaluation and Impact, Community Building, Technology and Cyberinfrastructure, and Research and Monitoring. The resulting Toolkit will include resources, recommendations, and case studies from each of these areas, as well as a key to existing citizen science programs. Christy participated in a panel on the impacts of citizen science and presented examples of how REEF data are used by resource agencies and scientists. She presented details of how REEF volunteers helped identify a hotspot of non-native fishes along the south Florida coast and the resulting management actions of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the important role that REEF data can play as a fisheries-independent source of data for the development of stock assessments and fisheries management plans, the discovery of new species by several REEF members, and the value of using our most experienced divers (the Advanced Assessment Team) to conduct annual monitoring of selected sites inside and around no-take marine reserves.

REEF was proud to contribute its fourteen years of experience building the Volunteer Fish Survey Project to the group discussion. Many citizen science organizations deal with the same issues of volunteer recruitment, recognition and retention, engaging the “real” science community, standardizing data collection methods and measuring success. REEF has addressed many of these issues with innovative strategies that may be adopted by other citizen science initiatives: engaging the private retail sector (dive shops) to recruit volunteers within a target audience (scuba divers and snorkelers), developing strong partnerships with science and resource management agencies (such as university-based researchers and the National Marine Sanctuary Program), 5-level expertise testing (in fish identification) to assist with quality control, a published standardized data collection method and the Advanced Assessment Team as an incentive for volunteers to become more proficient surveyors and a measuring stick for training programs.

For more information on the conference or Citizen Science Central, the CLO’s initiative to provide information for practitioners and volunteers, click here. Look for the Citizen Science Toolkit, a robust and practical framework for citizen science program development, implementation, and evaluation, in the fall 2007.

Weeding the Good from the Bad: Deciphering “YOUR” Scanform . . .

TWA scanform

A few reminders to our surveyors:

  • Always write your member number, your name, AND your email legibly on your survey form. It's not necessary to fill in the other contact information unless your information has changed or if you are a new member and do not yet have a REEF member number.
  • Please fill in the full 8-digit Geographic Zone Code for the site where your survey was conducted. You can find a list of these hierarchical codes online [Click here]. If the site is currently not on our list, contact our Field Operations Coordinator, Joe Cavanaugh, to have a site code assigned (please provide as much information as possible, including as many digits as you can pinpoint for your location. A site code should never end in two zeros.
  • The temperature fields on the survey form (Surface and Bottom) are both water temperature. Please do not report air temperature for the surface value.
  • Remember to use a pencil, but do not to use the pencil that was underwater to fill out your scanform. The residual water can cause the paper to rip and it's almost impossible to erase.
  • We graciously ask, moving forward, that team leaders handling a Field Trip survey, review the forms before your trip is over to make sure the participants have indeed filled all the necessary fields correctly, that also goes for current members that mail them in independently as well. Only send us your original form, not a copy and always use a pencil. NOW, to avoid all this, for non members, you can join REEF online, this way you fill out the information we need, thus eliminating the mind reading on our end.
  • And finally - for surveyors in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) or Northeast (NE) regions, please consider using our online data entry interface. This will save you time and postage as well as grant you the eternal gratitude of our small staff. Your surveys will also be processed quicker, and it's better for the environment!
Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub