The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Jim Pendergrass

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REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 43,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Jim Pendergrass (REEF member since 2008). To date, Jim has conducted 113 surveys along the west coast from California to British Columbia, and he is a member of the Pacific Advanced Assessment Team. Here's what Jim had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? Seven years ago my wife Chris and I took a Habitat Diver class from Eugene Skin Divers Supply and began volunteer diving at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. We became interested in fish/invert ID and the DSO, Vallorie Hodges, told us about REEF. It was a perfect fit for us!

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight? We’ve been on several REEF Advanced Assessment Team projects, and I think the most memorable was the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary out of Neah Bay, WA. The habitat was unique, the critter diversity was astounding, and the folks on the trip were great. We learned a lot!

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? We’re always interested to see what we’ll find this dive and compare it to our previous dives and those other divers have logged. Every dive is guaranteed to be a little different than the last one. We enjoy sharing our experiences with others and encouraging them to become involved. That’s why we started teaching the classes and holding REEF dives for our dive club. Oregon hasn’t had that many surveys completed yet, and our goal is to change that!

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? Where is your favorite place to dive and why? We average about 100 dives/year in Oregon, Washington and BC, and travel to CA and the tropics when we can. We really like cold water diving. Our ‘home’ dive sites are at the mouth of Yaquina Bay in Newport and at the north Jetty of the Siuslaw – but our favorite place to dive is Browning Pass off the north coast of Vancouver Island. The diving there is really spectacular, and the topside scenery can’t be beat.

Do you have a favorite local (or not) REEF field station or dive shop? Our local shop and mother REEF field station is Eugene Skin Divers Supply. We can’t say enough good things about Mike, Diana, John and the rest of the staff. They’re knowledgeable, friendly and committed to making every dive experience a rewarding one. They treat everyone like part of the family. We couldn’t do this without them!

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members? I think the biggest thing is to go slow – or you miss the little things. And sometimes they are the coolest of all! Take pictures if you can for future reference and identification, and realize that learning fish and inverts is a constant process. One at a time. After hundreds of dives we’re still learning!

The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Paul and Marta Bonatz

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 43,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Paul and Marta Bonatz. Marta joined REEF in 1998 and she drew Paul in 2005. They have become active surveyors, and each has conducted 240 surveys. Here's what they had to say about REEF:

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?

Our favorite part of being REEF members is working with a network of other “citizen scientists” to make a difference. Interacting with like-minded divers in an organization that is focused on saving the marine environment is fulfilling. It’s also gratifying to see the change in newly recruited “fish geeks” as they learn more about the underwater world.

If you have been on a REEF field survey, where and what was your trip highlight?

We’ve been on two REEF field survey trips and plan to do more! The first, which hooked us on fish watching, was to Culebra, Puerto Rico. The highlight was the abundant staghorn coral. Unfortunately, it was totally devoid of adult fish. Our second trip was a lionfish control study in Belize. Spending a week focused on spotting and capturing 506 lionfish in the Belize Atolls with Peter Hughes and Lad Akins was exhilarating. We learned about the hazard this invasive species poses to the indigenous Caribbean fish population, and we now work to educate others about this urgent problem.

Where is your favorite place to dive and why?

Avid divers are frequently asked to name their favorite vacation destination. When we are asked this question our honest response is “Wherever we are currently diving”. REEF surveying teaches you to appreciate interesting finds on every dive. We sometimes spend an entire dive in a few square yards watching small critters in their habitat. Although every location is unique, the place we visit most frequently is Little Cayman. The sheerness of Bloody Bay wall, the healthy marine environment, and the stunning Nassau Grouper make for an incomparable mixture.

What is the most fascinating marine encounter you’ve experienced?

We have to include two favorite underwater encounters – we couldn’t agree on just one! The first was on a Manta Ray research trip to the Maldives. At a break in the action while monitoring Mantas on 5 x 1 hour shifts at North Male Atoll, we discovered an octopus positioned on a rock quietly observing us from the distance of a few feet. He welcomed us back every shift! The second was an encounter with a dolphin named “Spot" on Cayman Brac. Spot arrived on Cayman Brac after Hurricane Mitch, and he swam and played with divers on many of the Brac dive sites. Spot disappeared one day and everyone feared the worst. Two years later while diving in Cayman Brac we noticed a pod of dolphins near the boat. Spot edged up to the boat to show off his new family. He wouldn’t let us interact with him anymore, but he wanted everyone to know he was healthy and happy in his new life. It was an electric moment.

Outstanding in their Field: Featured REEF Field Station, Hornby Island Diving

Tiger Rockfish, a great find for a PacNW surveyor. Photo by Janna Nichols.

REEF is proud to partner with over 130 dive shops, dive clubs, individuals, and other organizations as REEF Field Stations.

This month we feature Hornby Island Diving in British Columbia, a REEF Field Station since 2010. Owners Rob and Amanda Zielinski have always been conservation-minded and involved in local projects, so when they heard about REEF several years ago through their repeat customers (who were REEF surveyors) and through discussions with REEF staff, it was an easy choice to become a REEF Field Station. Although divers have been flocking to this area for years, not many surveys had been conducted in the area, so they felt this would be a good way to get the word out about REEF and to encourage divers in that direction. Being a dive charter and lodge, they have the facilities and space for classes. They just hosted twelve enthusiastic surveyors for 5 days for a REEF Field Survey complete with nightly seminars in their meeting area. Amanda is very knowledgeable about marine life and has conducted REEF surveys herself, so she is a good one to ask any questions you might have if you’re just getting started. The area boasts some big attractions for REEF surveyors, including frequent sightings of Tiger Rockfish and Yelloweye Rockfish, both adult and juvenile.

Amanda has some great ideas up her sleeve for getting divers involved in conducting surveys while at Hornby Island Diving, whether for just a weekend or for a week. She says, “If everyone who is a REEF surveyor comes and does one survey, and everyone who’s not, joins REEF and gets started, think of the possibilities.” She’s also been collaborating with another REEF Field Station in the area (The Edge Diving Centre in North Vancouver, BC) to provide more in-depth fish and invertebrate ID training.

Putting It to Work: Who's Using REEF Data, April 2013

REEF data on lingcod are being used to evaluate population trends in Washington State. Photo by Chad King/NOAA.

Every month, scientists, government agencies, and other groups request raw data from REEF’s Fish Survey Project database. Here is a sampling of who has asked for REEF data recently and what they are using it for:

- A scientists from the Nature Conservancy in Washington is using REEF data to evaluate patterns of biodiversity in the Salish Sea and along the Oregon Coast as part of TNC's ecoregional analysis.

- A student at UNC Chapel Hill is using REEF data from the Galapagos Islands for use in a multimedia class project on data visualization.

- The Underwater Council of British Columbia requested REEF survey activity to be used in the BC Marine Conservation Analysis database being developed as part of the Marine Planning Partnership.

- A scientist from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is using data on Goliath Grouper populations in South Florida in the KeysMAP Marine Climate Change Adaptation Planning Project.

- Scientists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife used data on lingcod, giant Pacific octopus, and other species to evaluate distribution and trends.

Putting It To Work: New Publication on Manta and Mobula Rays Published Using REEF Data

A Manta Ray swimming at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Jackie Reid/NOAA.

We are excited to share a new scientific paper published last month in the journal PLoS ONE that included REEF data - Global Population Trends and Human Use Patterns of Manta and Mobula Rays, by Christine Ward-Paige, Brendal Davis, and Boris Worm. Despite being the world’s largest rays and providing significant revenue through dive tourism, little is known about the population status, exploitation, and trade volume of mobulids (Manta and Mobula species). There is anecdotal evidence, however, that mobulid populations are declining, largely due to the recent emergence of a widespread trade for their gill rakers. Researchers from Dalhousie University and eShark.org used expert divers’ observations from two citizen science programs, REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project and eShark.org, to describe global manta and devil ray abundance trends and human use patterns. The study highlights the relative rarity of aggregation sites on a global scale and reveals that many populations appear to be declining. The authors warn that newly emerging fisheries for the rays gill-­‐rakers likely exceed their ability to recover. The study also demonstrates the deficiency of official catch reports, as only four countries have ever reported landing manta or devil rays– Indonesia, Liberia, Spain, and Ecuador. However, numerous diver reports compiled in the paper illustrate that many other countries are regularly landing and selling these rays without reporting.

The paper can be viewed online here. A complete listing of all papers that have featured REEF data can be found online here.

Share Your Thoughts on REEF - Review Us!

Please take a few minutes to tell others about your experience with REEF! Your personal story and feedback help us gain visibility and help us improve. Please share your experience through the GreatNonprofits.org website at: http://gr8np.org/go/yKD

Putting It To Work: Who's Using REEF Data, October 2014

Bocaccio, one of the threatened species of rockfish currently being evaluated by NOAA. Photo by Janna Nichols.

Every month, scientists, government agencies, and other groups request raw data from REEF’s Fish Survey Project database. Here is a sampling of who has asked for REEF data recently and what they are using it for:

- Scientists from NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center are evaluating the status of Lesser Electric Ray in the Caribbean.

- A scientist from NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center Fisheries Conservation Biology Division is including REEF data in an evaluation of threatened rockfishes in Washington State.

- A researcher from Simon Fraser University is using REEF data to evaluate the lionfish invasion in the western Atlantic, with specific interest the impact it will have in Brazilian waters.

- A graduate student from the University of Exeter is using REEF data to evaluate Nassau Grouper populations in The Bahamas.

A complete list of scientific publications featuring REEF programs and data can be found at www.REEF.org/db/publications.

Join Us in September for REEF Fest in Key Largo

We are excited to announce REEF Fest 2015, a celebration to be held this fall in Key Largo (September 24 - 27, 2015). We hope you will join us for diving, seminars, and parties! Come celebrate the success and impact of REEF's marine conservation programs and education initiatives.

Festivities begin Thursday with afternoon seminars and then a welcome party at the Caribbean Club. Friday and Saturday are full days, with diving in the mornings, seminars in the afternoons, and social events in the evenings (Friday Open House at REEFHQ and Saturday Celebration Dinner Party). The fun wraps up on Sunday with a few more organized dives. Seminar topics include: Introduction and Advanced Florida Keys Fish ID, The Best of Blennies, Fish Behavior, Keys Habitats and Ecosystems, Amazing Sharks, Restoring Coral Reefs, and program updates from REEF Staff.

All REEF Fest events are open to the public. Complete details on the schedule, including the lineup of seminars, diving opportunities, and social gatherings, as well as travel logistics and hotel arrangements, are available online at www.REEF.org/REEFFest2015

Why are we celebrating? In the summer of 1993, a group of pioneering volunteers conducted the first REEF fish surveys. Twenty-two years later, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and other REEF initiatives are leading the way as innovative and effective marine conservation programs. REEF Fest is a semi-annual event that celebrates our work and the volunteers that make it possible.

Questions? Check out the REEF Fest website, send us an email at REEFHQ@REEF.org, or call us at 305-852-0030. We look forward to seeing you all in September!

2016 Fishinar Lineup

Don't miss the Manta-nar on January 12th! Photo by Carol Cox.

We are very excited to announce our 2016 Fishinar schedule. We have a great lineup of free and fun webinars, covering a wide array of ocean topics. In addition to many fish and invertebrate ID classes, we also have a Manta-nar on the schedule, as well as sessions with dynamic guest speakers including Ned and Anna DeLoach, Ray Troll, and Val Kells. In total, we have 23 Fishinars planned for next year!

If you haven't yet attended a Fishinar, add it to your list of resolutions to do in the new year. From the comfort of your own home, or on-the-go on your mobile device, you can join in the camaraderie of your fellow fish-fanatics and learn from experts in our short, free, fun and interactive-styled Fishinars. Check out www.REEF.org/fishinars for more information, a complete list of classes, registration information, access to archives, and more. And keep checking back because more sessions are always being added.

2016 Fishinars (all times listed are EST)

Lesser Known Fish of Cozumel, Wednesday Jan 6th at 8pm, with Tracey Griffin & Jonathan Lavan

Manta-nar, Tuesday Jan 12th at 9pm, with Joshua Stewart from Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Pacific Northwest Invertebrates and Algae, Tuesday Jan 19th at 10pm, with Janna Nichols

The Grunt Club: New Members, Thursday Feb 11th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan

Northern vs Southern Gulf of Mexico, parts 1 & 2, Tuesday Feb 23rd and Feb 25th at 8pm, with Carol Cox

Cool Sharks, Thursday Mar 17th at 8pm, with Artist Ray Troll

Common Reef Fishes of Tubbataha Reef Philippines, Monday Mar 21st at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens

Fishes of the Philippines Muck, Wednesday Mar 23rd at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens

The Lionfish Invasion: Current Findings and Control Efforts, Wednesday Apr 6th at 8pm, with Emily Stokes

More Holy Moly Gobies, Wednesday Apr 13th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan

Fishes and Invertebrates of the Carolinas, Tuesday Apr 19th and Thursday Apr 21st at 8pm, with Janna Nichols and Frank Krasovec

You Do WHAT For a Living?: The next chapter, Tuesday Apr 26th at 8pm, with Scientific Illustrator and Author Val Kells

Hawaii Life on a Coral Head: Hawkfishes and more, Wednesday May 4th, at 10pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens

The Wrasse Class- Back in School, Tuesday May 17th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan

Northeast's Less Frequently Seen Fish, Thursday May 26th at 8pm, with Janna Nichols and Jason Feick

Life in the Muck: Blue Heron Bridge, Wednesday Jun 1st at 8pm, with Carlos & Allison Estape

Super Duper Groupers, Part Deux, Wednesday Jun 22nd at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan

Less Frequently Seen Fish of Virgin Gorda BVI, Thursday Jul 14th at 8pm, with Janna Nichols

Fishes of Bermuda, Tuesday Aug 30th at 8pm, with Ned and Anna DeLoach

Underwater Residents of Barkley Sound BC, Thursday, Sep 8th at 10pm, with Janna Nichols

Common Fishes of Micronesia, Wednesday Sep 21st at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens

Sea Saba Underwater, Tuesday Oct 4th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan

Hawaii Life in the Sand, Monday Nov 14th at 10pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens

**All times Eastern Time**

Celebrate World Ocean's Day in June with a Unique Fishinar

The amazing Blue Heron Bridge. Photo by Kim Seng.
Learn all about Caribbean grouper later this month. Photo by Jeff Haines.

The Blue Heron Bridge in Florida is known for quirky, uncommon fish sightings found in the mucky habitat. Guest presenters Carlos and Allison Estape will highlight many of these bizarre fish in a two-part online REEF Fishinar to celebrate World Oceans Day. The first session, held last night, is now archived online. Later in June we'll highlight fishes of the Grouper family in the TWA region.

  • Wednesday, June 1st and Tuesday June 7th - Blue Heron Bridge: Life in the Muck, a two part class, with Carlos and Allison Estape
  • Wednesday, June 22nd - Super Duper Groupers, with Jonathan Lavan
  • Thursday, July 14th - Less Frequently Seen Fish of Virgin Gorda with Janna Nichols
  • Tuesday, August 30th - Fishes of Bermuda with Ned and Anna DeLoach

Everyone, including divers, snorkelers, and devout landlubbers, is welcome to join in these free, online webinars. You don't need any special equipment (other than your computer or mobile device) to log on and join in.

Be sure to visit www.REEF.org/fishinars to look over the entire 2016 schedule, get more details, and register for your favorite ones. We record all sessions for later viewing, and our archives are available for free viewing for REEF members.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub