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.

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Ten Reasons to Join REEF’s Field Survey to Grenada this May

Many cryptic species, including Frogfish, can be found in Grenada. Photo courtesy of Aquanauts Grenada.
An aerial view of True Blue Bay Resort.
One of Aquanauts' spacious dive boats.
The Grenada Underwater Sculpture Park is a unique attraction.

Known as the dive capital of the Eastern Caribbean, Grenada is located on the border between the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. Grenada’s diving includes famous shipwrecks, colorful reefs, and mind-blowing macro marine life. The island is also home to an underwater sculpture park and has plenty of land-based activities to enjoy during surface intervals, including hiking, visiting beautiful Grand Anse Beach, river tubing, and touring historic sites. Trip participants will collect data on marine fish species while diving, and enjoy fish ID classes each evening. 

Space is filling up quickly and the last chance to register for this trip is Feb. 10, so if you are interested, don’t wait to book! Trip details are available here.

Here are ten reasons to join REEF in Grenada this year:

10. Perfect time of year: While the dive season is year round, May is a great month to visit the island. It’s the end of the dry season, which means great visibility for diving – the average is 50-100 feet. Weather-wise, air temperatures in May are in the mid-80’s and there is always a nice breeze from the ocean.

9. Be a citizen scientist: REEF’s database currently has less than 500 surveys from Grenada. This is a great opportunity to collect data from a less-frequently surveyed location, while adding to your life list of fish sightings and surveys.

8. Expand your fish ID knowledge: Surveyors of all levels are welcome, from beginner to advanced, and daily classes will focus on different fish families and fun sightings from the day’s dives. 

7. Make a difference: When you travel with REEF, you make a difference in the health of our oceans by supporting marine research, education and conservation. REEF is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. The IRS may consider expenses associated with your work as a REEF Field Survey volunteer tax deductible. For details, visit www.REEF.org/fieldsuveys/taxinfo and consult your tax advisor.

6. Diving perks: Aquanauts Grenada is known for offering great service, valet diving, and having comfortable, spacious boats. Most dive sites are less than 30 minutes away via boat ride. For those who are Nitrox certified, free Nitrox is included with this trip, and the dive shop is located onsite at True Blue Bay Resort. 

5. Relaxing accommodations: True Blue Bay Boutique Resort is a family-owned and operated hotel overlooking the water. All rooms have a view of the bay, and there are many onsite amenities and activities including a spa, yoga studio, boutique, restaurant, rum tastings, free Hobie cats and kayaks, and several pools.  

4. Easy to get there: There are daily direct flights to Maurice Bishop International Airport (GND) from several major US cities. Once you’re there, getting around the island is easy via bus or taxi.  

3. Plenty to do on surface intervals: When you’re not diving, Grenada, known as the Spice Island, has many topside activities and beautiful scenery including hiking trails through rainforests, ending in fantastic waterfalls. Visit Georgetown’s spice market to sample nutmeg, clover, cinnamon, ginger, and cocoa, or tour the Grenada National Museum or Fort Matthew to learn more about the history of the island. 

2. Unique dive sites: Awe-inspiring wrecks, colorful reefs, and exciting drifts make Grenada a great place for divers of all levels. The island’s reefs, walls, and underwater sculpture parks are prolific marine ecosystems. One drift diving site, located where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, offers plenty of chances to see large schools of fish and lesser-seen migratory species.

1. Great spot for marine life: Surveyors will love the abundant marine life here. The dive site “Purple Rain” is named for the schooling Creole Wrasse that descend like purple raindrops over the reef. Blennies, frogfish, and seahorses can be found in shallows, and acording to locals, Grenada’s reefs and walls also provide a good opportunity to see the elusive Black Brotula – a fish on every surveyor’s bucket list!

If you’re interested in joining this trip or have questions, contact trips@REEF.org for more information or to sign up today!

Membership Madness a Success

REEF’s first Month of Membership Madness was a huge success! In April, lucky Michelle Rogers joined as our 60,000th member, and we far exceeded our goal, with 603 new members signing up. If you are a new member, WELCOME to REEF! The winner of the wetsuit giveaway will be announced April 15 on our Facebook page. If you haven’t yet seen the video that our brilliant intern Jack Fishman produced about joining REEF, we highly recommend it (visit www.REEF.org/membershipmadness)! From being a part of the largest marine citizen science project in the world to making new fishy friends, REEF’s community of members will guarantee you a fishy adventure. Also, included in this month’s activities was an infographic about our incredible REEF members. This graphic illustrates an amazing diversity of support that really highlights how REEF truly depends on our members and volunteers to expand our knowledge of our underwater world. Thank you for everything!

REEF Surveyor Find Rare Jawfish in Veracruz Mexico

The rare Swordtail Jawfish. Photo by Itziar Aretxaga.
The rare Swordtail Jawfish. Photo by Itziar Aretxaga.

Itziar Aretxaga, a long-time REEF surveyor who lives in Veracruz Mexico recently sent in this rare fish sighting report about finding a Swordtail Jawfish. What a great sighting! Here's Itziar's story:

"Earlier this year, I was taking part on an underwater photography competition in Veracruz, Mexico. Every year the diving operators and other supporting organizations launch it as a way to draw awareness upon the diversity and richness of the protected National Park of Veracruz. I had no hope of winning anything as I am a novice photographer with a very basic camera and no illumination, but I wanted to support their efforts. Each of us had a 90-minute time limit to take up to 100 photos.

I saw this jawfish on the sandy area immediately below the buoy in Cabomex, Anegada de Adentro, at about 14m depth. I knew it was not any of the jawfishes I had reported before: face markings, behavior, and burrow type gave it away as a different species. I was set on identifying it more than on making any impression on the competition jury, so I spent my allotted 90 minutes by the jawfish, as motionless as possible, and trying to make it get used to the camera just 15cm away from its burrow. The series of photographs allowed me to identify it as a Swordtail Jawfish (Lonchopisthus micrognathus) based on the body bars and the pointy protruding tail, as described in the sketches of the ReefNet Fish Identification DVD. In looking at the REEF database later, I realized it is extremely uncommon to see this species. So all in all, I felt I had won a big prize in that competition!"

Thanks for sharing, Itziar. If you have a rare sighting or fun find to share, please drop us a note.

March Membership Madness - Help Us Reach Our Goal

Thank you to everyone who spread the word about marine conservation this month… 554 new members signed up. Let’s try to make it 600 by March 31st, which is the last day to enter to win a free wetsuit.

Have a friend join REEF, and you will both be entered to win. If you are already a member, have your friend enter your name when they join by choosing "Other" under “How did you hear about REEF?” Good luck to everyone!

Review REEF on GreatNonprofits

Do you think REEF is doing great work? 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

Thanks to such great feedback by our members in 2015, REEF once again achieved "Top-Rated" status on the GreatNonprofits webpage. We need at least ten new reviews in 2016 to maintain this honored status. Please help us.

Here's an excerpt from a recent review from a fellow REEF member: "My daughter and I have been volunteer members of REEF for almost twenty years. She was seven when we joined, and became a certified junior diver at ten- In great part due to the fun we had together as REEF members & volunteers. Avid snorkelers, and divers, we love diving with a purpose. Our favorite "self-challenge" is to see how many species we can identify on outing; always trying to better ourselves!" Thank you!

The Grouper Moon Project - Protecting An Endangered Icon

Over 4,000 Nassau Grouper amass at a spawning aggregation during winter full moons off Little Cayman Island. Photo by Paul Humann.
A lone Nassau Grouper at the Little Cayman aggregation. Photo by Joshua Stuart.
REEF's Grouper Education Program works with Caymanian students to educate and inspire.

REEF scientists and volunteers are heading down to the Cayman Islands next week for another season of the Grouper Moon Project (www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject), a collaborative research effort with the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (CIDOE). In its 16th year, this important project focuses on one of the largest (and one of just a few) known spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper, an endangered Caribbean reef fish. Over 4,000 grouper will amass in one location for 7-10 days following the full moon.

Since 2002, REEF and our partners at CIDOE, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Oregon State University have used a variety of research techniques from diver surveys to state-of-the-art technology to study this amazing natural phenomenon. The research has yielded ground-breaking results that have led to improved conservation for Nassau Grouper in the Cayman Islands. On August 15, 2016, the Cayman Islands government enacted a comprehensive set of regulations aimed at recovering Nassau Grouper. The new rules are based on the more than a decade of collaborative fisheries research carried out by the Grouper Moon Project (click here for more information about the legislation).

In addition to the research, in 2011, with funding from Disney Conservation Fund, REEF launched an education program to engage students in the Grouper Moon Project. This exciting project brings the Nassau Grouper into elementary and high school classrooms through lesson plans and live-feed videos that connect classrooms with scientists in the field. Three live-feed webcasts are planned for our 2017 work. Anyone can watch the feeds live or archived. The live-feed schedule is:

  • Wednesday February 15th and Friday February 17 (11:45am - 12:30pm EST), from the Grouper Moon base of operations on Little Cayman, featuring scientists explaining the research objectives, day-to-day activities, and research equipment used during the project.
  • Thursday February 16 (1:00pm - 1:45pm EST), from underwater on Cayman’s famous Bloody Bay Wall.

The live feeds stream through the REEF Grouper Moon Project YouTube channel.

Do you want to learn more about the Grouper Moon Project? Watch this short PBS documentary about our efforts. And if you would like to support this important marine conservation program, please donate to REEF - https://www.reef.org/contribute.

Make a Difference for the Ocean: Join a REEF Field Survey!

The idyllic island of South Water Caye in Belize.
There are great birdwatching opportunities in Costa Rica.
Join a REEF Field Survey today to meet fellow ocean enthusiasts!

As climate change and tropical storms have increasingly drastic impacts on our blue planet, the marine conservation work we do at REEF is more important now than ever. The future of our ocean depends on each of us.

Are you a diver or snorkeler looking to make a difference in the health of our oceans? Join us on a REEF Trip and participate in our citizen science programs, which provide meaningful information about marine life. Scientists and resource managers use REEF survey data to better understand the changes happening in the marine environment. We have a great line-up of REEF Trips in 2018. Here are two unique opportunities planned for next summer to "Take a Trip That Counts": ecosystem studies in a remote and vulnerable reef system in Belize and a land and sea ecoventure in the cloud forests and reefs of Costa Rica.

REEF Expedition to South Water Caye, Belize - Aug. 18-25, 2018. Now taking signups! Click here for details

South Water Caye, Belize, is home to several endemic species, including the Social Wrasse and the Maya Hamlet. The goal of this exploratory trip is to study the effects of stressors such as invasive species and habitat loss on this remote area of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, with a special focus on how these impacts are affecting species that are not found anywhere else in the Caribbean. Participants will conduct fish surveys as well as lionfish research and removals. In addition, other underwater survey methods will be utilized to gather data on this infrequently-studied area to determine how to best protect this unique marine ecosystem.

REEF Expedition to Costa Rica - July 14-21, 2018. Click here for details

This eco-adventure will give REEF members a chance to experience many alluring facets of Costa Rica, including abundant marine life, vibrant tropical rainforests and active volancoes. The trip includes a unique itinerary featuring diving or snorkeling to conduct REEF surveys, as well as land tours in two diverse regions of the country - Guanacaste and Arenal. This weeklong family-friendly excursion also includes a wildlife boat tour, volcano hike, Hanging Bridges guided walk, and even a chocolate tour and tortilla making lesson! Divers and non-divers of all ages are welcome on this trip.

Join REEF on one of these trips today! To view full our full Field Survey Trips schedule, visit www.REEF.org/trips. For more information, e-mail Trips@REEF.org or call (305) 588-5869.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub