REEF Welcomes New Trips Program and Communications Manager

Next time you sign up for one of REEF’s Field Survey Trips, you’ll be greeted by a new voice. REEF has added a new member to the team; welcoming Jamie Dietrich as the new Trips Program and Communications Manager! As Jamie’s position title implies, her main responsibilities revolve around managing REEF’s Field Survey Trips Program. Each year, REEF leads 10-15 week long international Field Survey Trips to diving destinations across the world. Led by marine life experts, participants learn about the ocean while contributing to marine conservation as citizen scientists. Anyone can join REEF and likeminded divers for an itinerary of diving, seminars and fun! Jamie will also be managing communications and marketing efforts for all of REEF’s programs.

Jamie is a midwesterner at heart, but comes to the Keys from the Big Apple where she spent eight years after university working in Experiential Marketing; listing several Fortune 500 companies among her clients. These days, her clientele seem a bit fishy, as she’s traded in the boardroom and business suit for the beach and a wetsuit. Jamie recently became a certified Divemaster and Coral Reef Research Diver, and she spent the majority of the last year developing her conservation expertise on a volunteer marine mission in Fiji. After leaving her island home and returning to the States, she decided to make “island-time” a permanent staple in her life by relocating to the dive capital of the world. Jamie is excited to get her feet wet and continue to contribute towards meaningful work that aids in the protection of what she’s come to love most, the ocean.

The Faces of REEF: Nick Brilliande

A Whitetip Reef Shark - one of Nick's memorable finds on a recent survey. Photo by Jim Spears.

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 Nick Brilliande. He has been a REEF member since 2011. An active surveyor who lives on Oahu, Hawaii, Nick has conducted 50 surveys to date and is a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team for the Hawaii region. Here's what he had to say about REEF:

How did you become involved with REEF?

The first time I heard about REEF was through a group called Reef Watch Waikiki. I attended some talks by REEF members Cassidy Lum and Jennifer Barrett describing what REEF does and how to survey fish. I answered a few questions and made some comments on fish, which impressed both Cassidy and Jen. Then came the time to try it out and I did. I had fun doing it, but it was also an excuse to look at fish, which I always find fascinating. After that, I became a member, went out to survey when I could, and slowly made my way up to an Expert Level 4/5 surveyor.

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you learned doing a REEF fish survey?

I am always curious as to how the environment changes over time and how those changes affects the species that live there. The ocean is always different every day in some way or another; you never have the same type of conditions or species.

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?

When doing a fish survey, having an extra pair of eyes does help, but you want to be patient. The fish initially view you as a threat, but wait a little and eventually they will get used to you enough to come out and be able to see them. Let the animals make the first moves.

When learning fish for the first time, do not jump around families. The only thing that will accomplish is a huge headache. Take one family, learn the different species of fish one at a time, then quiz yourself to see if you actually know one species from another. Rinse and repeat. As long as you are out and about, you will never forget a fish's face. As mentioned, patience is key. Let them come out on their terms and let them make the first moves. One thing that seems to work for me is keeping my hands and arms to my side while snorkeling or diving - fish seem to view this as less threatening than flailing arms back and forth or having arms wide out.

What is your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish you would really like to see?

There are a few finds I remember. One was in Pokai Bay on O'ahu. Here, I witnessed a female Whitley's Boxfish picking at a turtle with a large tumor beside his mouth. This fish was picking at the tumor, but I still have no idea as to the purpose of this. At this same location on the same day I found my first lobster molt, a Slipper Lobster molt. Another encounter I still remember is in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii. There were three notable encounters on the same day: two Longnose Butterflyfish, one of which was in a rare dark coloration alongside the other, which was in it's typical yellow coloration, a partial albino Yellow Tang in very shallow water, and a very sleepy Whitetip Reef Shark, which I was able to get very close to without disturbing him.

As far as animals I would like to see, that list would be almost half a page long. A few notable ones would include a Whale Shark, a Dragon Moray Eel, a Hawaiian Monk Seal underwater (I've seen them numerous times on beaches or them swimming around viewed from a boat or shore), and a Hawksbill Sea Turtle.

Long-Spined Sea Urchin To Be Added to TWA Survey Protocol

Diadema antillarum, the Long-Spined Sea Urchin, will soon be part of the TWA REEF survey protocol. Photo by Paul Humann.

In response to requests from the scientific community, we are adding a new species to monitor on REEF surveys in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) - Diadema antillarum, the Long-Spined Sea Urchin. In the early 1980s, a large die-off of Diadema occurred throughout the TWA. This has had a significant and long-lasting impact on coral reefs in the region because Diadema is (was) one of the primary grazers on Caribbean coral reefs (keeping rocks clear for baby corals to establish and keeping algae from overgrowing established corals). The disappearance of Diadema, coupled with overfishing of grazing fish species such as parrotfish and surgeonfish in some parts of the Caribbean along with other complicating factors, has resulted in many algae-dominated reefs. Despite 20+ years since the die-off, the once wide-spread and abundant species has failed to recover in most places in the Caribbean. There is a growing collective of researchers who are hoping to map the current distribution and abundance of Diadema. REEF will be assisting this effort by including Diadema in our TWA protocol. Surveyors will report whether they were actively looking for Diadema or not, and if they were, in what abundance category (S,F,M,A - same as for fish). We are currently working on the necessary training materials and additions to the database, and the new protocol will be in place soon.

Looking For a Warm Destination This Winter: Join REEF in Dominica or Barbados

Underwater in Dominica. Photo by Ari Perryman.

While we can't do much about dreary winter weather, booking a trip for the coming year might be just the trick to lift your mood. REEF trips are a diver's dream vacation! We have two great trips in February - a fish ID trip to Barbados and a lionfish research trip to Dominica. Trips later in the year include Belize, Saba, Bermuda, and more. Expert-led education combined with citizen science and world-class diving make our trips unique. Visit www.REEF.org/trips to find out more, and contact us at trips@REEF.org or 305-588-5869 to book your space. Trips sell out so book your space today.

Putting It To Work: Who's Using REEF Data, May 2016

Large parrotfish like this Rainbow Parrotfish are a rare site in most of the Caribbean these days. Researchers are using REEF data to evaluate those population trends. Photo courtesy ReefNet.

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:

- Data from St. Eustatius and St. Martin were provided to a scientist at the Sustainable Fisheries Group at UC Santa Barbara.

- Parrotfish and surgeonfish sightings data from the Caribbean were provided to scientists from Avanzados del I.P.N-Unidad Mérida, a university in Mexico, to evaluate trends in these important reef herbivores.

- A graduate student at University of British Columbia is using REEF data from the Pacific Northwest to evaluate regional fish and invertebrate assemblages.

Over 60 scientific publications have included REEF data. Find out more at www.REEF.org/db/publications.

Book Your 2017 REEF Trip Now!

The REEF Trip survey team in Palau.
Barb Anderson and Pat Broom, learning together in the Philippines.
Learn about the lionfish invasion on a REEF Trip in the Caribbean.
Come enjoy crystal blue water in Bonaire next year with us.

If you have been thinking about joining us on a REEF Trip in 2017, now is the time to book your space. We are looking for passionate ocean enthusiasts to join us! There are still some spaces left on the following trips. Trips sell out quickly, so book your space as soon as possible! 

February 18 - 25, 2017 -- Dominica -- Dive Dominica & Castle Comfort Lodge, Led by Lad Akins, find out more

April 4 - 14, 2017 -- Solomon Islands (one space left) -- M/V Bilikiki, Led by Christy Pattengill-Semmens, find out more

May 6 - 13 -- Turks and Caicos Islands -- Dive Provo and Ports of Call Resort, Led by Amy Lee, find out more

May 14 - 21 -- Galapagos Islands (one space left) -- M/V Galapagos Sky Liveaboard, Led by Christy Pattengill-Semmens, find out more

June 24 - July 1 -- Bahamas (one space left) -- Lionfish Research Trip Explorer II Liveaboard, Led by Lad Akins and Peter Hughes, find out more

June 24 - July 1 -- Roatan -- CoCo View Resort, Led by Janna Nichols and Scott & Patti Chandler, find out more

August 19 - 26 -- Curacao -- Lionfish Research and Fish ID Trip Combo GO WEST Diving and Kura Hulanda Lodge, Led by Lad Akins, Peter Hughes, and Ellie Splain, find out more

October 1 - 8 -- Grand Cayman -- Sunset House, Led by Paul Humann, find out more

October 15 - 19 -- Hornby Island British Columbia -- Hornby Island Diving, Led by Janna Nichols, find out more

November 4 - 11 -- Bonaire -- Captain Don's Habitat, Led by Amy Lee and Janna Nichols, find out more

December 2 - 9 -- Cozumel -- Chili Charters and Casa Mexicana/Safari Inn, Led by Tracey Griffin, find out more

December 3 - 9 -- British Virgin Islands -- Cuan Law Liveaboard, Led by Ellie Splain, find out more

The complete REEF Trips schedule is posted at: www.REEF.org/trips. Contact Amy Lee at trips@REEF.org or call 305-588-5869 to book your space or to find out more. Details on 2018 Trips coming this spring.

Don't Miss REEF Fest 2017

REEF Fest 2017 is coming up -- September 28-October 1 in Key Largo, Florida. REEF Fest days are filled with diving, snorkeling, and other eco-adventures, and a seminar series with an impressive line-up of scientists and conservation leaders. Evening social events happen each evening. REEF Fest kicks off on Thursday night with a sunset picnic, including complimentary dinner and refreshments. The REEF Open House from 6pm to 9pm is Friday night, where we will unveil the REEF Interpretive Center, a unique and beautiful addition to the REEF campus. Guests will also enjoy REEF’s newest exhibits, photography displays, and Native Plants Trail. And then the event culminates with the Saturday banquet, "For the Love of the Sea". You won’t want to miss out on this evening celebration that includes a three course meal, plus hors d'oeuvres, a full service liquor bar, live music, and great friends- alongside fantastic silent auction items! Space at the banquet is limited (ticket required). Check out www.REEF.org/REEFFest for more event details or contact Events@REEF.org . We hope to see you in September!

The Faces of REEF: 2017 Volunteer of the Year, Nancy Perez

REEF is proud to announce Nancy Perez as our 2017 Volunteer of the Year. REEF has over 67,000 members and Nancy is proud of her longtime support as member number 589! Nancy originally joined REEF because of her interest in diving, marine fishes and underwater photography.

When she moved to Key Largo in 1996, Nancy was closer to REEF’s Headquarters and looked for ways to be active in the community, learning more about REEF while volunteering for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Despite joining in 1993, Nancy did not complete her first fish survey until 2005 while on a REEF Field Survey Trip in Key Largo, led by Paul Humann. Nancy has since conducted more than 50 TWA fish surveys.

In 2008, Nancy began to dedicate more time to REEF by volunteering as a part of REEF’s outreach events committee, assisting with the fundraiser dinner event, For the Love of the Sea. From there, Nancy was a part of the committee that planned REEF’s first Fish & Friends event in March of 2009. Since then Nancy has taken a lead role in organizing the monthly Fish & Friends seminar series by organizing speakers to present at the event, encouraging other volunteers to bring food and drinks to the social gathering before the seminar, and advertising the event throughout the Upper Keys community by distributing flyers to more than 30 local businesses each month.

Today, Nancy is formally REEF’s Volunteer Coordinator, an entirely volunteer position. She has organized nearly 100 Fish & Friends events, and planned or assisted in the organization of many other events, including REEF’s annual holiday party, the dedication of REEF’s Headquarters building in 2009, and every REEF Fest event since the event began in 2013.Nancy also assists with REEF’s Invasive Lionfish Program by coordinating volunteers to make and serve lionfish ceviche during Invasive Lionfish Derbies.

Nancy is an invaluable member of REEF who brings style and flare to our events hosted in South Florida. Nancy shares her passion with all who she encounters, making her a wonderful ambassador for REEF and our mission. We are so grateful for the time, enthusiasm, and dedication that Nancy offers REEF. Nancy – Thank You and Congratulations!

REEF Lionfish Expeditions Lead to New Information

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Pterois volitans AKA lionfish. Photo by Tom DeMayo
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August Blackbeard's Lionfish Project.
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Hesperis dissection by Everton Joseph (College of the Bahamas), Tim Schwab (Nassau Guardian) and Marcian Tucker (College of the Bahamas)
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Juvenile lionfish. Photo by Tom DeMayo

Working with leading scientists, REEF's lionfish field work is paying off in valuable information needed to address this key issue. Information from the five Bahamas projects conducted thus far this year is being used to help determine the range and extent of the lionfish invasion, as well as to address key questions on age/ growth, reproduction, genetics, parasites and habitat preference.

To date, more than 400 fish have been collected and shipped to the NOAA research lab in Beaufort NC and more than 500 sightings have been documented in the Bahamas. Data on length, plumage and stomach content have been gathered in the field, and samples for genetics and age/growth studies have been shipped to researchers.  REEF has worked in close partnership with the College of the Bahamas, researchers at UNCW, and Salisbury University, and local dive operators Bruce Purdy and Stuart Cove in gathering and analyzing the data.

Interesting data to date include:

  • Average size:188mm
  • Most species: Pterois volitans (though there are some Pterois miles present also)
  • Stomach content: about 70 % fish and 30 % crustacean with the most prevalent prey families including basslets, gobies and shrimp. Also found in stomachs: whole crab, whole sand diver, jawfish with eggs still in its mouth, and juvenile grouper (including Nassau)
  • Genetics: It appears that there were at least 11 females involved in the original founding population. This number is up from previous indications of four fish.
  • Reproduction: Fish are reproducing year-round with age at reproduction as young as 1-2 years.
  • Habitat preference: Lionfish have been found in almost all habitat types including artificial sites, canals, deep reefs, shallow reefs, small ledges and sand bottom.
  • Parasites: Compared to native fish, lionfish have almost no parasites, leaving more energy and time for growth and reproduction.
  • Growth: Lionfish appear to grow faster than similar sized native fish species like the graysby and the red hind.

REEF to Host "For the Love of the Sea" Benefit Dinner and Auction

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On Saturday, February 9, REEF will host an ocean-themed dinner and auction at Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort to raise awareness about REEF in the Florida Keys community and help conserve local coral reef ecosystems. Underwater photographers Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach will present new images of sea life taken on their worldwide dive travels. A silent and live auction will offer prizes from local businesses and travel to destinations including Bonaire and Papua New Guinea. Tickets are $75 each and include buffet dinner, open bar and dancing.

For more information, including how to purchase tickets, become an event sponsor or donate auction items, please visit www.REEF.org/loveofthesea. If you are in the area, please join REEF for this unique opportunity to celebrate the Valentines season and kick off 2008 as the International Year of the Reef.

 

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub