Offline Data Entry Program - The Next Generation of REEF Survey Technology

Earlier this summer, we proudly released the next generation of REEF survey technology, the REEF Data Entry Program. When surveying began in 1993, divers and snorkelers wrote out each sighted fish species on a slate and submitted the surveys to the database using paper scantron forms. In 1994, we developed pre-printed underwater survey paper to make surveying easier, and in 2005 we said goodbye to bubble-filling and premiered online data entry using the Internet. The time had come to innovate yet again.

With our members in mind, we looked to develop a data entry tool that would meet the varied needs of our surveyors, including those who are traveling or live in areas with limited Internet access. The REEF Survey Data Entry Program allows our volunteers to enter REEF surveys without an Internet connection. When they have access to the web, the entered surveys are uploaded to the REEF online entry portal. Users then logon to the portal, complete error checking, and submit the surveys to REEF. The program operates on both Mac and PC computers, and is available for all of REEF’s survey regions. Our Beta-testers and early users agree it’s a great program, and many of them prefer the offline data entry program over online data entry.

The program is free to download at: www.REEF.org/dataentryprogram. Give it a try next time you survey! We hope you enjoy the program as much as we do. Feel free to send feedback to data@REEF.org. REEF extends a huge thank you to programmer, Chris MacGregor, for his work on this project, as well as REEF members who encouraged us to pursue this option and made contributions to support its development.

Putting It To Work: New Publication on Reef Biodiversity Using REEF Data

REEF surveyors are great at recording diversity! There are at least 5 species of fish in this picture. Photo by Nathan Brown.

Data generated by the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project provide an unparalleled opportunity to examine patterns in reef fish diversity (the number and types of species) at the scales of reefs, regions, and even an entire ocean basin. Authors of one recent scientific study took advantage of the over 25,000 Expert REEF surveys conducted at 80 sites from 6 Caribbean ecoregions over 17 years. The authors of the paper, which was recently published in the journal PLoS ONE, used the REEF data to evaluate patterns of biodiversity across many spatial scales (from individual sites to ecoregions). They also incorporated factors such as fisheries impacts and how connected different regions are to each other through ocean currents. They compared levels of different types of diversity-- alpha diversity (α-diversity) that explains local diversity (the number of species found in a given place), and beta diversity (β-diversity) that explains the difference in diversity among sites. Their results showed that fish assemblages are more homogenous than expected, particularly at the ecoregion scale. Within each ecoregion, diversity was mainly attributed to alpha diversity, indicating that fishes within each ecoregion are a subsample of the same species pool. Studies like this one that examine regional patterns of diversity in coral reef systems are important because of declining biodiversity in many areas. The paper's citation is: Francisco-Ramos V, Arias-González JE . 2013. Additive Partitioning of Coral Reef Fish Diversity Across Hierarchical Spatial Scales Throughout the Caribbean. PLoS ONE. 8(10): e78761. To read the full paper, or any of the other 50+ scientific papers that have included REEF data and programs, visit the REEF Publications page.

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

Rainbow Parrotfish - one of the important grazers on Caribbean reefs. Photo by Ned DeLoach.

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’s Office of Protected Resources are using REEF data to evaluate populations of seabass and grouper in the Caribbean.

- A scientist from the University of Washington School of Marine and Environmental Affairs is using REEF data on fishes and invertebrates to evaluate MPAs in the Puget Sound.

- A professor from California State San Luis Obispo is using REEF data to evaluate populations of three large parrotfish species in the Caribbean (Blue, Midnight, Rainbow).

Announcing REEF's Inaugural Trip to the Central-Indo Pacific

An incredible table coral in Tubbataha Marine Park in the Philippines. Photo by Q Phia.
Atlantis Azores Liveaboard, host of our REEF trip April 16-23, 2016.
Atlantis Resort in Dumaguete.

We are excited to announce the first of our 2016 REEF Trips -- a land and sea adventure in the Philippines. On this inagaural REEF trip to the Central Indo-Pacific, we will explore this diverse region by land and by see during two weeks of adventure -- by land, based at the Atlantis Resort in Dumaguete, April 9-16, 2016, and then by sea, aboard the Atlantis Azores Liveaboard, April 16-23, 2016. Join us for either week or both! The area is known for some of the most interesting and beautiful fish and critters to add to your life list, including ghost pipefish, mandarinfish, pygmy seahorses, flamboyant cuttlefish, and much more. Visit the REEF Trips page to see all the details.

During the first week, we'll dive and stay at the all-inclusive Atlantis Resort, featuring first class accommodations and an on-site restaurant, spa, camera room, and five star PADI dive operation. On April 16th, we will transfer to Puerto Princesa, where we will board Atlantis Azores. Our at-sea itinerary includes the isolated Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park, which features dramatic underwater terrain, incredible biodiversity, and megafauna such as sharks and manta rays. The liveaboard package includes double occupancy twin share accommodations, all diving (up to 4 dives a day), all meals and snacks on board, local soft drinks, beer and wine.

The Philippines archipelago is home to more than 3,000 species of fish, and the dive sites combine unbelievable muck-diving with pristine coral reefs and shoals of schooling fish. The diving, accommodations, and amenities are all sure to make for a once in a lifetime adventure - sign up early to secure your space! Both weeks will be led by our Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens.

We have a few special offers: REEF members who sign up for both weeks will only pay one REEF Program Fee of $300 (a $300 savings), and discounted early bird prices for booking before June 1st. Visit the Philippines Land and Sea Package page to view all of the details. We'll be announcing more 2016 trips soon. Keep an eye on www.REEF.org/trips for more details.

REEF Fest 2015 a Success!

REEF Fest 2015 drew to a close last Sunday in Key Largo, Florida. Thanks to the over 200 members who came to the Keys to help us celebrate. The 4-day event featured diving, seminars, and parties. Seminar topics ranged from fish identification and behavior, to REEF's programs, to underwater encounters with animals big and small. A big thanks goes to all of our event sponsors and auction donors, including Florida Keys dive operators, hotels, and breweries. A special thanks to our platinum sponsors, Atlantis Dumaguete Resort, Explorer Ventures II, and M/V Caribbean Pearl. We especially appreciate Rob and Linda Blesser of Quiesence Diving Services for hosting our Saturday night party and providing lodging for our out-of-town staff.

Mark your calendar for REEF Fest 2016, set for September 29 - October 2, 2016. Watch the event webpage, www.REEF.org/REEFFest2016, for program updates. We hope to see you there!

Upcoming Fishinars: Lionfish, South Atlantic States, Scientific Illustration, and More

The beautiful hard bottom reefs of the South Atlantic States will be the topic of a two-part Fishinar in April. Photo by Greg McFall/NOAA.

Check out the great Fishinars we have planned for April! We invite everyone to join in the fun of learning in the convenience of your home, with these energetic and informative online webinars. Our Fishinars are free to REEF members, interactive (so you don't fall asleep), and chock full of tips and tricks to help you learn fish ID in many areas of the world.

In April, we have five Fishinars on the calendar:

  • Wednesday, April 6th - The Lionfish Invasion: Current Findings and Control Efforts, with Emily Stokes
  • Wednesday, April 13th - More Holy Moly Gobies, with Jonathan Lavan
  • Tuesday, April 19th - Fishes of the South Atlantic States (GA, SC, and NC), with Janna Nichols and Frank Krasovec
  • Thursday, April 21st - Invertebrates of the South Atlantic States, with Janna Nichols and Frank Krasovec
  • Tuesday, April 26th - You Do WHAT for a Living?, with marine science illustrator Val Kells. Val will be talking about what went into the drawings seen in her new book, A Field Guild to Coastal Fishes: from Alaska to California.

And coming up in May, we have even more exciting sessions in store:

  • Wednesday, May 4th - Hawaii Fishes: Life on a Coral Head, with Christy Semmens
  • Thursday, May 5th - REEF 2017 Trips Preview, with REEF trip leaders!
  • Tuesday, May 17th - The Wrasse Class: Back in School, with Jonathan Lavan
  • Thursday, May 26th - The Northeast's Less Frequently Seen Fish, with Janna Nichols and Jason Feick

Register and get more details here: www.REEF.org/fishinars. We hope to 'see' you online!

Great Annual Fish Count 2016 a Success

Happy surveyors in Virginia participate in the 2016 GAFC. Photo by Susan Sarrett.
A surveyor in Virginia. Photo by Susan Sarrett.

REEF’s 2016 Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC) brought together experienced and beginner fish watchers to count fish (and invertebrate) populations. Beginning fish ID classes were held, and then students were able to use their new skills out in the water during organized GAFC events. Participating groups and shops this year were based in several of REEF's regions, including the TWA, SAS, NE, CAL and PNW regions. The biggest GAFC events this year were held in our NE and California regions.

One group of note was a newcomer to the scene -- Lynnhaven Dive Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. They are located in the southern part of our Northeast region, and the sites in that area have only had a handful of REEF surveys done up until now. Volunteers Kathy O’Hara and Lindsey Hillier Hotchkiss organized the event and eight women motored 14 miles off the coast to Chesapeake Light Tower, where they conducted surveys. They found Oyster Toadfish, Tautog, Great Barracuda, and Invasive Lionfish, among many other species.

Thanks to ALL groups who participated this year – here’s to continued fish counting year ‘round!

REEF by the Sea - Annual Donor Event Planned for March

Poolside dining at Mango Manor.

To celebrate our sustaining donors and most active volunteer surveyors, we annually host REEF by the Sea. This year's special event will be held this March at Mango Manor, Paul Humann’s home in South Florida. This invitation-only event includes a special day of engaging presentations, socials, meals, and fun. We will celebrate pool-side and enjoy exploring Paul's award winning gardens in between exciting presentations by REEF staff and beautiful slide shows by renowned photographers. We are also organizing an opportunity to dive at the famous Blue Heron Bridge the day before. Donors who give at least $1,000 in a year are included in REEF's Sustainer's Club and are invited to REEF by the Sea and other special events and opportunities. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact Martha Klitzkie at martha@REEF.org or 305-852-0030.

Speaker Line-up For REEF Fest 2017

REEF Fest includes fun and festive socials each evening.
In addition to a great line-up of speakers, REEF Fest features a schedule of diving, snorkeling, and paddle boarding opportunities.

What will you be doing September 28-October 1 this year? Hopefully joining REEF board, staff, and members in Key Largo, Florida, for the annual REEF Fest event! This year, REEF Fest will kick off on Thursday, September 28, with a sunset picnic, including complimentary dinner and refreshments before our opening seminar. REEF Fest hosts an impressive line-up of scientists and conservation leaders during this year’s seminar series, including:

Diving Deep: Linking the Effects of Climate Change on Fishes to Future Fisheries Management and Conservation, Dr. Stephanie Green, Banting Fellow and REEF Affiliate Scientist

Ocean Conservation through the Eyes of a Whale, Natalie Barefoot, Executive Director of Cet Law

Cloudy Monster Engineering: How Red Grouper Transform their Environment, Creating Homes for Many, Dr. Scott Heppell, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University

Pelagic Marine Life, Andy Dehart, Vice President of Animal Husbandry at Frost Museum of Science, REEF Board of Trustees

Caribbean Coral: Is there Hope for the Future?, Dr. Margaret W. Miller, NOAA-NMFS, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

Diver Photos and Reef Biodiversity Changes: Citizen Science on Bahamian Coral Reefs, Dr. Kathleen Sullivan Sealey, Department of Biology, University of Miami

Conservation Successes: New Findings and Future Efforts to Enhance our Marine Environments, Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects

REEF Fest days are filled with diving, snorkeling and other eco-adventures. Evening social events continue on Friday, September 29 with the REEF Open House from 6pm to 9pm. 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 don’t forget to purchase your tickets for the Saturday banquet, For the Love of the Sea. Space is limited and 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!

Check out www.REEF.org/REEFFest for more event details or contact Events@REEF.org . See you in September!

Announcing REEF’s 2018 Fishinar Schedule!

Powderblue Surgeonfish, often found in Thailand's Andaman Sea. Photo by Paul Humann.

Fishinars are REEF's brand of fun, live, interactive webinars, and anyone who wants to know more about ocean life is welcome to join in. These short, free webinars will teach you the finer points of identifying fish and invertebrates underwater. In addition to marine life identification sessions for all of REEF's worldwide project areas, we also feature guest speakers who present a variety of ocean topics.

Coming up soon:

  • Unique Fish of Thailand – April 2 at 8pm Eastern
  • Artificial Reefs and Rigs in the Northern Gulf of Mexico – April 24 at 8pm Eastern
  • Tropical Pacific Wrasse Part 2 – May 1 at 8pm Eastern 
  • Diving in the Florida Keys – May 10 at 8pm Eastern
  • Dwarf and Pygmy Gobies of Fiji – May 21 at 8pm Eastern

To view the full list of upcoming Fishinars, and to register, please click here: www.REEF.org/fishinars

Can’t make it to the live event? All of our Fishinars are recorded and available to watch here: www.REEF.org/fishinararchives

REEF arranges private Fishinars and virtual meetings with school groups, dive clubs, and other organizations. If you are interested please email elliep@REEF.org.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub