The Faces of REEF: Mindy Gould

Mindy (left) with Dawn Vigo (right) volunteering in the REEF booth at Our World Underwater.
Mindy having a little fun underwater in Bonaire.
Mindy diving with sharks in Gardens of the Queen, Cuba.
A bucket list fish for Caribbean fish watchers - the Golden Fairy Basslet. Photo by Arie DeJong.

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 Mindy Gould, member since 1997 (20 years!). Mindy has conducted 121 surveys, in both the western tropical Pacific and the Tropical Western Atlantic. Here's what Mindy had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF? I joined in the early 1990’s and went on my first survey trip to Saba in 2011.  I’ve now been on seven more REEF trips (San Salvador, Cozumel (twice), Utila, Nevis, Philippines, and Solomon Islands). I’m still a wage slave, so I save up vacation days and try to do at least 1 trip per year.
 
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? 
My “first” favorite part is meeting incredible REEF members on survey trips and then diving with them again and again. Whatever we do in “real life,” when we’re surveying, there’s a shared energy, fascination and commitment to submitting quality data that furthers the knowledge base. Everyone dives with a purpose and there’s nothing more exhilarating than sharing in someone’s unique sighting.
 
My “second” favorite part of REEF is spreading the word to other divers about becoming citizen scientists and how important collecting data is to understanding and conserving the ocean environment. For several years, I have volunteered at the REEF booth for Our World Underwater in Chicago and there’s nothing like telling someone about REEF and hearing them say: “I’ve been looking for something like this; sign me up.” 
 
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?  I’m especially glad that REEF’s work is grounded in scientific principles and reproducible results.  In this age of skepticism and challenge to even the fundamentals of science, REEF’s survey program stands out as critical to a myriad number of research projects (Grouper Moon, invasive species). It’s gratifying to see when REEF data is used in research around the world.
 
What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?  It’s got to be diving in the Galapagos with whale sharks, hundreds of hammerheads and the cranky, little red-lipped batfish. As an environmental scientist with a fascination for evolution, the Galapagos is like traveling to the motherland.
 
What is your most memorable fish find?  While diving in Cuba last summer, I came across a Golden Fairy Basslet (Gramma dejongi).  I didn’t know what it was but I knew it was unlike any basslet I’d seen before.  It wasn’t a REEF trip and my dive buddy, Judy, wasn’t around to corroborate, so I snapped pictures as fast as I could.  The book says they’re rare to uncommon, so I was pretty stoked to have spotted it.  As you can imagine, the divemaster didn’t share my excitement as he herded me back to the group.
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