Golden Hamlet Inductions in 2015

The Golden Hamlet. Drawing by Eleanore Pigman.

We are pleased to welcome two REEF surveyors to the Golden Hamlet Club in 2015 – Georgia Arrow and Janna Nichols. What is the Golden Hamlet Club? No, it is not a club of Shakespearean enthusiasts, but rather a club of citizen scientist superstars - those REEF members who have conducted 1,000+ surveys in the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Georgia was the first member to complete almost all of the 1,000 surveys in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest. Although many of Janna’s surveys were also conducted in the Pacific Northwest, as REEF’s Outreach Coordinator, Janna has conducted surveys in almost all of REEF’s project regions. She recently did her 1,000th on the Cozumel REEF Field Survey.

The very first Golden Hamlet member was Linda Baker, achieving the status in 2005. Today, there are eighteen members of the Golden Hamlet Club. A plaque hangs at REEF HQ in Key Largo, with the names of our honored volunteer surveyors -- Lad Akins, Georgia Arrow, Linda Baker, Judie Clee, Janet Eyre, Dave Grenda, Doug Harder, Lillian Kenney, Peter Leahy, Rob McCall, Franklin Neal, Janna Nichols, Mike Phelan, Bruce Purdy, Linda Ridley, Dee Scarr, Linda Schillinger, and Sheryl Shea. Congratulations to you all. To see pictures and profiles of these surveyors, visit the Golden Hamlet Club webpage. Thanks to their dedication, and those of the 16,000 other volunteers who have participated in the Survey Project since its inception in 1993, we have generated the largest marine fish sightings database in the world. Who's going to be the next Golden Hamlet surveyor?

The Faces of REEF: David Thompson and Luanne Betz

David and Luanne in the Philippines
Exploring topside
David surveying in the Caribbean.
David and Luanne with friends on a REEF Trip.

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 one of our many REEF couples - David Thompson and Luanne Betz, members since 2011. David and Luanne have collectively conducted 250 surveys and are active surveyors in several REEF regions. Both have achieved Level 5 Expert status in the TWA and Level 3 status in the CIP. Here's what they had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? We love diving and having been married in Key Largo under the sea it was a natural fit for us. We first heard about REEF from a fellow REEF member, Penny Hall and in 2011 we signed up as members and started our fish education online. In April 2012 we completed our first survey on the Nevis REEF trip led by Dr. Christy Semmens and we were hooked!

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight? We have been on many! Caribbean destinations include Nevis/St Kitts, St Lucia, Utila/Honduras, Curacao, and we are going on the Bonaire trip this fall. Our favorite trip so far was to the Philippines. The highlight was when a Whale Shark unexpectedly emerged from a massive school of Bigeye Trevally. Tubbataha marine preserve was the most fascinating place we’ve ever experienced; the diversity of life was mind-blowing. We have also attended all of the REEF Fests in Key Largo.

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? Learning about the fish and fish ID has added a whole new aspect to our diving. We love watching the fish behavior, the changes at night, and seeing how many different species we can find.

What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey? While on the field survey in the Philippines we learned the Three-spot and Reticulated Dascyllus make a throated buzz that sounds like a cat purr when defending their territory.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member? We love having an expansion to a hobby we already loved. REEF has given us many new friends. We actually have gone on vacations with members we have met on REEF survey field teams. And they have stayed with us to go diving locally or just to visit. We also joined other REEF members in Hawaii last April. We also introduced REEF to our children and that has expanded our participation with them as well. Our son, Landen, went on a lionfish trip to Curacao with us and proved to be a very good shot!

If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them? REEF is a citizen science program in which we are active participants. They have many programs to participate in, including invasive lionfish control and study, the Grouper Moon Project, and provide a giant database for scientists to monitor sea life around the world.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? We love to dive near our home in Coral Springs, FL. We are close enough to dive in the Keys, Delray, Boynton, and West Palm. Our favorite local spot is (of course!) Blue Heron Bridge.

What is your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to? Black Brotula in St. Lucia, Ghost Pipefish in Dumagete, Philippines, and flouders mating in Tubbataha. Still on our wish list — Manta Rays!

Exciting Opportunity to Sleep Under the Sea

We are excited to share with you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join REEF on a special expedition next spring. In partnershp with Florida International Univeristy (FIU), we have arranged for a small team of REEF members to experience another level of ocean exploration. Our team will venture beneath the waves and spend a night in the FIU Aquarius Reef Base, the world’s only undersea research laboratory. Deployed 60 feet beneath the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the Aquarius Reef Base is the world’s only undersea research station and is used to study the ocean, test and develop undersea technology, and train astronauts. Less than 1,500 people have ever ventured inside Reef Aquarius Base, and even fewer have spent the night in the underwater habitat.

The project dates are March 5 - 10, 2017, and includes 4 nights of lodging in Marriott Bayside Resort in Key Largo, 3 days of 2-tank dives with Quiescence Diving Services, a night spent in the Aquarius Reef Base, and classroom sessions with REEF and Aquarius staff each day. Note that the time spent in the Aquarius is not a saturation dive. The pressure inside Aquarius will be adjusted during the overnight stay, and participants will not be allowed to venture outside of the Habitat until departure from the Habitat. Cost to participate is $4,500. If you are interested in finding out more, visit the Aquarius Expedition website.

Join REEF’s British Virgin Islands Field Survey, featuring a special itinerary aboard the Cuan Law

It’s not too late to become a citizen scientist in 2017! We still have a couple spaces remaining on our British Virgin Islands Field Survey this winter, December 3rd - 9th, and REEF surveyors of all levels are invited to participate. The British Virgin Islands (BVI) offer world-class diving and our REEF trip promises to be great. We have arranged a special itinerary with the Cuan Law liveaboard and the boat will explore some of the lesser-dived areas on the north side of the islands. Ellie Splain, REEF’s Education Program Manager, is leading the trip and will teach daily fish identification classes for participants to expand their knowledge of fish in the area while contributing to REEF’s marine sightings database.

At 105 feet long and 44 feet wide, the Cuan Law is the world’s largest trimaran. There are 10 spacious and air-conditioned two-person cabins onboard, each with a private bathroom. The boat’s top deck has hammocks to relax in after the day’s dives.

With more than 100 dive sites, diving in the BVI is suitable for all skill levels. The water temperature in December is a comfortable 80 degrees F and the dive sites have clear blue waters with spectacular coral formations and plenty of fish life, plus sea turtles and rays. The islands are also home to some of the most famous wreck dives in the Caribbean, including the RMS Rhone and the Chikuzen. The planned itinerary for this trip is unique and will also feature some diving on less crowded, north side reefs and pinnacles, weather and conditions permitting.

When not diving, you can enjoy snorkeling during surface intervals, and there’s plenty to do on this trip for non-divers as well. The boat has hobie cats, sea kayaks, and paddle boards available for all guests to use. The week ends with a fun beach BBQ ashore.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-reach destination for hassle-free pre-holiday travel, the BVI are a great fit. Located only 60 miles east of Puerto Rico, they are easily accessible. Tortola is the largest island and is easily reached by flight from San Juan, PR, or by ferry from St. Thomas, USVI. The currency in the BVI is the US dollar, so there is no need to worry about exchanging money either.

We welcome divers and non-divers, as well as fish surveyors of all levels. Escape from the busy holiday season, and expand your knowledge of marine life! For more information, visit our British Virgin Islands Field Survey webpage . To register for the trip, e-mail trips@REEF.org or call 305-588-5869.

Lionfish - What We Know and What We're Learning

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Lionfish photo by Tom DeMayo
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Juvenile Lionfish photo by Tom DeMayo

If you’ve read recent REEF releases, you’ve heard the news that Indo-pacific lionfish are now well established along the eastern US coast and throughout the Bahamas. REEF has been and continues to work with researchers to learn as much as we can in order to most effectively address the invasion. Since January of this year, REEF has organized and led 5 week-long projects in the Bahamas to document the extent of the invasion and gather samples and information needed by NOAA and Bahamian researchers.

 
Here is what we’ve found:

  • Lionfish are being found as deep as 350’ and as shallow as 2’.
  • Lionfish have been documented in almost all habitat types including patch reefs, artificial reefs, walls, and even mangroves
  • Lionfish have been captured as small as 25mm and as large as 389mm
  • Most lionfish have been in the 200mm size range
  • Lionfish prey has included fish, shrimp and crabs
  • Lionfish appear to have high site fidelity (they don’t move much)
  • Lionfish appear to be reproducing year-round in Bahamian waters
  • The lionfish invasion appears to have come from a small founding population (not a large release of many fish)
  • Stomach content analysis has documented lionfish predation of cleaner fish
  • Every site visited in the Berries in April contained lionfish – most contained multiple fish

 
Here is what we are working on with NOAA and Bahamian researchers:

  • Continuing documentation of lionfish distribution and impacts on local fish populations
  • Documentation of lionfish at cleaning stations and subsequent predation on cleaning fish
  • Predation by other species on lionfish
  • Genetic relationships of lionfish in one area (NC, northern Bahamas) to those in other areas (S Bahamas) to determine dispersion pathways.
  • Parasitology of lionfish (they appear to have few parasite compared to native fish)
  • Larval occurrence at different locations using larval light traps
  • Juvenile recruitment preference using small shallow water nets and trawls
  • Trap preference of adult lionfish
  • Lionfish recruitment rates to sites denuded of lionfish (i.e., recruitment pressure)
  • Recruitment of lionfish to artificial structures
  • And more!

As part of this effort, REEF has planned more research efforts through the end of 2007. Each project will include participation of scientists, researchers, and/or REEF staff. For a list of upcoming projects visit http://www.reef.org/exotic/lionfish/ or e-mail lad@reef.org

The Call of the Deep Blue on a Landlocked Intern

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Joe Cavanaugh with our wonderful new intern Lauren.

As we continue to showcase our valuable interns, I mentioned in last months newsletter that we would introduce our remaining fall intern. With that thought in mind please join REEF in welcoming Lauren Finan.  Lauren is a student at the University of Colorado Boulder, pursuing her studies in Environmental Policy which is why she was such a good candidate for our program.  She has a strong passion for the quality of our reefs and the ocean and diligently championed for our last remaining fall intern slot.  An avid diver since age 14, she became interested in the quality of our delicate ecosystem, however, due to her locale in Boulder, she was totally landlocked and did not have the ability to get out and dive, and she will be doing plenty of that now, along with working her way through the various levels of our Fish Identification Course.  Lauren role here at REEF will be the coordination of our presence at DEMA this year, as well as maintaining our membership data updates and working on the improvement of our educational/outreach program.  We're fortunate that both our fall interns will be with us until December.

Introduction

Happy 2008! REEF is looking forward to a great year for marine life everywhere as 2008 has been designated the International Year of the Reef by the International Coral Reef Institute. In this first editon of REEF in Brief 2008, learn about recently completed biological monitoring at the M/V Wellwood restoration site in Key Largo, Florida, a proposed research only site at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary in Georgia and a host of upcoming REEF Field Surveys to tempt your travel bug. Also read about an upcoming dinner and auction to benefit REEF in its hometown Key Largo and meet new office manager, Bonnie Greenberg. Finally, REEF remembers long time member and friend, Chile Ridley, who will be remembered for his generosity to the marine environment.

Best fishes for a healthy, happy start to the new year,

Leda

Meet the 2008 Summer Intern/GAFC Coordinator

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Stephanie Roach, REEF Summer Intern 2008

REEF is pleased to welcome Stephanie Roach from Camp Hill, PA as the 2008 REEF Summer Intern and Great Annual Fish Count Coordinator (GAFC). Her internship is supported by the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society.  The REEF internship program provides college age juniors, seniors and graduate students the opportunity to experience working at a nonprofit environmental organization. REEF interns assist REEF staff with education, outreach and a multitude of programming. Many REEF interns move on to successful careers in conservation and the marine environment, including natural resource agencies, academics and conservation non-profits (including REEF). In fact, REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., is a former REEF intern.  

The Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society is a nonprofit, educational organization whose mission is to promote educational activities associated with the underwater world. For over 35 years, they have fostered the development of future leaders of the marine environment through their scholarship and internship programs.

Stephanie graduated this May from Denison University with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology as well as Studio Art. She attended the Skidmore College Summer Six Art Program and the School for Field Studies in the Turks and Caicos where she experienced open water research.  By the end of her time in the British West Indies she said, "I realized I wanted to work toward a better understanding of the world's oceans and eco-systems."

As this year's summer intern, Stephanie will act as the primary GAFC coordinator for REEF, along with assisting staff with various activities and preparing and presenting REEF talks and fish ID classes to the Florida Keys community. She will also have an opportunity to present and implement a project which aligns with her interests in combination with REEF needs and activities. She begins her internship June 2 and you can greet her with a happy hello by sending an email to gafc@reef.org or call 305-852-0030 ext. 1#.

If you would like to support future REEF internships, please send your tax-deductible donations to REEF, P.O. Box 246, Key Largo, FL 33037 or click here and make a secure donation online today. For more information, please call 305-852-0030 or email reefhq@reef.org.

 

 

 

REEF Team Completes Sixth Year of Monitoring on Washington's Outer Coast

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Pacific Northwest surveyors spent a week in the Olympic Coast NMS.
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Advanced Assessment Team member, Dave Jennings, shows his REEF spirit! Photo by Janna Nichols.
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A scalyhead sculpin is a common find on Pacific surveys. Photo by Janna Nichols.

Members of the REEF Pacific Northwest Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) recently conducted the 6th annual survey of the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS) near Neah Bay, Washington. Porthole Dive Charters transported the 8 member dive team to ten sites over the course of a week. A total of 89 surveys were completed and the team documented 85 species of fish and invertebrates, including many unusual sightings such as the tubenose poacher, lobefin snailfish, and rosylip sculpin.

The OCNMS covers over 3,300 square miles of ocean off Washington State's rugged and rocky Olympic Peninsula coastline. Sanctuary waters host abundant marine life. A small but important stretch of coastline along the Strait of Juan de Fuca features some of the best diving in Washington State, yet is rarely visited because of the remote location and limited diving facilities. In 2003, REEF started conducting annual assessments at a set of key sites in the northern portion of the OCNMS in order to generate a baseline of data that can be used to evaluate the status and trends of marine communities.

To date, REEF volunteers have conducted 353 surveys in the OCNMS (290 hours of observation time!) and have documented 61 species of fish and 31 invertebrates. The 2008 project summary data is posted here. REEF staff are currently preparing a summary report for the Sanctuary based on the data collected to date.

Funding and support for this year's OCNMS project was generously provided by the National Marine Sanctuary Program, the Seattle Biotech Legacy Foundation, the Winter's Summer Inn in Seiku, and the REEF survey participants. A bunch of spectacular photos have been posted (from both above and below the water) by the team participants. Online galleries include: Janna NicholsPete NaylorApril TheodRon Theod, and David Jennings.

Cozumel 2008 Double REEF Week a Smashing Success!

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The dwarf surfperch, a rare find, was added to the Cozumel species list by REEF surveyors during the 2008 Field Survey. Photo by Alex Griffin.
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Some of the Cozumel trip participants.
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Even more Cozumel trip participants.
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Another rare find -- the dwarf frogfish, was found by Tracey Griffin a few days after all of the REEF trip was over. Photo by Don Moden.

The annual REEF Cozumel Field Survey started out like all the rest, but there were so many folks anxiously waiting for a spot on the team that a second week was added. Then, several divers from the first week just couldn't tear themselves away and stayed over for the second week. So we ended up as just one big two-week team. So (whew!) we turned out around 225 surveys and our species list FINALLY topped 200!

We had a lovely mix, once again, of Cozumel Field Survey regulars and some new faces. It's always so good to welcome back old REEF friends, meet new ones and together do our bit to help the ocean that we all love so much. For the first time, we missed a dive day due to sea conditions but those extraordinary REEFers were not about to daunted by a gale or two. Most made up their survey dives on other days and even did extra dives.

Debby Bollag and Jamie Gigante made the giant leap from novice to expert fishwatchers. Welcome to the Advanced Assessment Team! A helpful addition to our classroom setup was a projector donated to REEF by Ray Bailey at Camcor.com.

The reefs are really looking beautiful again after the double whammy of Hurricanes Emily & Wilma of 2005 - multicolored sponges, lettuce & finger corals which are home to juvenile and tiny fish are coming back strong. On some sites the Cherubfish have bounced back big-time, 75 were counted on Dalila Wall site. Bluelip & Greenblotch parrotfish are once again everywhere. Some Yellowline gobies were found, which had disappeared along with the tube sponges during hurricane Emily.

A highlight of the week was the Dwarf Sand Perch - never previously reported in Cozumel. This fish hovers over the sand where you might find Harlequin Bass, and since they are both black and white, it would be easy to confuse them. They were later found at other dive sites since the initial sighting at Paradise Reef by Doug Harder. As usual we couldn't get Kenny Tidwell out of the water, so he added quite a few of those shore-loving species to the list like Reef Squirrelfish & Reef Scorpionfish. You never know what you might see diving in Cozumel - and of course as luck would have it, a week after the trip ended REEF member Tracey Griffin spotted a Dwarf Frogfish!

As always, this trip is already filling up for 2009, so if you're interested it would be best to get your name on the list, and airfare to the area is really good right now. To find out more, visit the REEF Field Survey schedule. Please call 1-877-295-REEF (7333) to make your reservations or you can e-mail our dedicated REEF Travel Consultant at REEF@caradonna.com. Hope to see you all in Cozumel in December!

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub