The Faces of REEF: Greg Jensen

Greg in his element underwater. Photo by Janna Nichols.
A fish lover at heart.
Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker. Photo by Greg Jensen.

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 60,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Greg Jensen, member since 2009. Greg has conducted 230 surveys (almost all in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest where he lives with his wife Pam, also an active REEF member). Greg is a faculty member at the University of Washington and the author of "Crabs and Shrimps of the Pacific Coast". He is a Level 5 Expert surveyor in the PAC region and has participated in several of the Advanced Assessment Team projects in Washington. Here's what Greg had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF? I first learned about REEF when I was approached by Janna Nichols to help on some dive surveys for a non-REEF project to count invertebrates in the Pacific Northwest. There wasn’t a species list, and we were trying to identify everything- which turned out to be impossible, given the density of organisms and problems with species identification for groups like sponges and bryozoans.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs? As a scientist who has always been interested in biodiversity I have kind of a built-in affinity for documenting what I see, and REEF gives me yet another excuse to dive. What I like (besides seeing the database grow) is that it gets more non-scientists engaged and interested in underwater life. Divers who once thought a site was only good if it had wolf eels or octopus are now getting excited over obscure little sculpins, and that’s pretty cool.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? If you don’t dive nearby, where do you most often dive? Where is your favorite place to dive and why? I’m fortunate to live near Puget Sound, in an area where I’m surrounded by water. There are a dozen or more great sites an hour or less from my door, ranging from current-swept rocky channels where one can only dive during small tidal exchanges, to quiet bays that can be done anytime. With such a variety of habitats there is the opportunity to see a great diversity of species.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite? Can’t really decide if my favorite fish is a spiny lumpsucker or a grunt sculpin. Both are small, unbearably cute fish with great personalities.

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members? Stock up on identification guides. All books have their strengths and weaknesses, and having several different references at hand will give you different views, color variations, and tips for separating similar species. Check out REEF’s online “Fishinars” for handy tips to separate similar-looking species, and these often include characteristics that may not be in any of the guide books. I’ve given Fishinars for west coast crabs and sculpins, and put together an e-book to simplify identification of Pacific Northwest sculpins, a group that many divers find particularly difficult (free pdf download at www.molamarine.com).

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub