Free Fish and Invertebrate ID Classes in California

REEF classes are a great way to learn more about what you are seeing during your dives!
Want to know what this is, go to a free REEF fish ID class in California (it's a Cabezon). Photo by Dan Grolemund.
You can also learn how to ID 63 common invertebrates and algae (this is a Leather Star). Photo by Janna Nichols.

Tired of not knowing who’s who on your underwater adventures? REEF is again offering FREE marine life ID classes this year in California. REEF Instructor and Outreach Coordinator Janna Nichols will be teaching these fun and informative classes at several locations. Learn how to identify many common California fish, invertebrates and algae, and how to do REEF surveys and become part of this worldwide citizen science program. This class will change the way you dive. Find one near you and join the fun!

California Fish ID: 

- Saturday, June 5th, 10am-2pm, Long Marine Lab, Santa Cruz

- Wednesday, June 23rd, 6-9pm, Ocean Institute, Dana Point

- Thursday, June 24th, 6-9pm, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

California Invertebrate/Algae ID:

- Friday June 25th, 6-9pm, Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach

Practice Survey Dives, experienced or new surveyors all welcome!

- Friday, May 14th, Sundiver Express. Special for REEF: $95

- Sat, June 26th, Sundiver. Special for REEF: 3 tanks $100

Sign up and pay for dives by calling Sundiver at: 562-594-6968

Register for one, or any combination of events, online

Sponsored by REEF with support from Aquarium of the Pacific, UCSC Long Marine Lab, The Ocean Institute and Sundiver.

Classes are informative, fun and free, but registration is required. To register go to:

The REEF program has been active in California since 1997 and has accumulated over 6,500 California marine life surveys in the Volunteer Survey Project. There are currently over 137,000 surveys in the REEF database worldwide. The database is online and accessible to anyone.

Creature Book Auction Raises Money For REEF


Earlier this month, REEF auctioned five pre-release, signed and numbered copies of the Tropical Pacific edition of Reef Creature Identification by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach. The authors donated to REEF the first five pre-release copies of this spectacular book, which is set to be released in mid-November. The long-awaited, 500-page reference detailing 1,600 animals with 2,000 photographs and descriptive text is not only the most comprehensive visual field guide to marine invertebrate life inhabiting the waters from Thailand to Tahiti, but also a pictorial tour de force skillfully bridging science and the aesthetic. Copies #1 - #5 were auctioned off through Missionfish in eBay. In total, $1,735 was raised in the auction. These funds will go directly to support REEF's critical marine conservation programs. We extend a heartfelt thank you to the five generous REEF members with the winning bids. Congratulations, and enjoy the book.

The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Franklin Neal

Redface Moray, a rare find! Photo by Cassandra Neal.
A cute little Snowy Grouper that Franklin found while diving with Ned DeLoach in Bonaire.

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 Franklin Neal (REEF member since 2000). Franklin and his wife Cassandra (also an active REEF member) spend much of their time in Bonaire these days, but they originally called New York home. Franklin has conducted 1,179 REEF surveys! and he is a member of the Advanced Assessment Team in the Tropical Western Atlantic. Here's what Franklin had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF? How did you first hear about REEF?

Cassandra wasn’t diving when I had my first encounter with a REEFer. We were on Bermuda in 2000 with several friends. I was the only diver, so I buddied with strangers on the dive boat. On the second or third day, a woman came aboard who was doing surveys. Between dives I asked her about what she was doing, and she invited me to buddy with her. That woman was Judie Clee, long time REEF member and REEF's Volunteer of the Year in 2005. Judie told me about REEF and the website, so when we returned home, I joined. The following year we signed up to be with Paul Humann on Bonaire for his first “Discovery” trip. We did that because it was advertised for inexperienced fish and critter watchers. After doing those first surveys, I was hooked. I have been on over a dozen Field Survey Trips and/or AAT projects, in locations from the Florida Keys and the Biscayne National Park to Barbados. I really like diving with other REEF members. They are very friendly, and we share a common interest. The excitement level on the boat after a dive can be very high as the previous dive and the sightings are discussed.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? If you don’t dive nearby, where do you most often dive? Where is your favorite place to dive and why?

We retired in 2006, and moved from Long Island New York to Michigan and Bonaire. We own a condo at Sand Dollar on Bari Reef, the #1 site for species diversity in the Tropical Western Atlantic. That is also the year that Cassandra started diving. With Bari in our front yard, Cassandra now has over 950 dives. Bonaire is wonderful because of the shore diving. You don’t need a boat … just a “dive truck.” Starting and ending a dive in one foot of water allows for many more habitats to explore with a greater variety of species. To prove my point, go to the ReefNet Reef Fish ID DVD and look at the video for the nineline goby.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?

Everyone loves the queen angelfish because of its beauty. I think the male rainbow wrasse is equally beautiful. I love the combination of colors and patterns on the redspotted hawkfish. Several years ago, Cassandra discovered a redface moray eel (also known as the orange moray) just a ten minute swim from our dock. We have now seen almost 20 of these rare fish (Check them out in the REEF database if you doubt my use of the term “rare.”). Cassandra has a photo of a redface sharing the same hole as a chestnut moray. It is wonderful. I use it as my computer wallpaper.

Putting It to Work: Who’s Using REEF Data, September 2011

rainbow parrotfish_deloach.jpg

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 Fisheries are using REEF data to conduct stock assessments on parrotfishes in Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands.

- REEF Advanced Assessment Team members joined the Living Oceans Foundation's Global Reef Expedition in the Bahamas. Scientists from LOF are now using the REEF data collected to generate species distribution maps of remote areas including Cay Sal Bank.

- A researcher from the Gilbert Ichthyological Society at the Burke Museum in Washington is evaluating the distribution of the two sub-species of blue rockfish along the west coast.

Upcoming Fishinars - Lionfish and Fish Behavior Added to the Schedule

Butter hamlets spawning. Photo copyright Ned DeLoach.

If you haven't had a chance to attend one of our Fishinars yet, you should! New sessions are continually being added, so check out the Webinar Training page ( to see the current schedule and to register for one or more sessions. These popular online training sessions (webinars) provide fishie fun in the comfort of your own home. Fishinars are open to divers, snorkelers, and devout landlubbers alike. Participation is free but you need to register for each session you want to attend. No special software is required, just a web browser. You don't need a microphone or a webcam to be able to participate. Great for first-timers or those wanting a review. Upcoming sessions include:

QUE PASA? THE TOP 12 FISH OF THE NORTHERN SEA OF CORTEZ  - Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) region REEF Fish ID: Learn tips from REEF Expert and fish geek, Jonathan Lavan, on how to ID Sea of Cortez fish. Wednesday, April 18th at 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT

LIONFISH 101  - Join REEF's Special Projects Director, Lad Akins for an hour long update on the lionfish invasion, biology/ecology, impacts and what is being done throughout the region. Lad's talk will be followed by a 15 minute Q&A session; Wednesday, April 25th at 8pm EDT

SPEED DATING FISHY STYLE: HOW FISH SPAWN AND WHEN YOU'RE LIKELY TO CATCH THEM IN THE ACT- Ned DeLoach, world renowned marine life photographer/author, Co-Founder of REEF, fish behavior guru and all-around nice guy, will teach you about making fish babies. Ned's talk will be followed by a Q&A session. Wednesday, May 9th at 8pm EDT

THE NORTHEAST'S DIRTY DOZEN - What those die-hard drysuit divers in the North Atlantic are seeing on their dives. A great way to prepare yourself for the Great Annual Fish Count in July. Friday, May 18th at 7pm EDT

New Webinars Coming Up

A Graysby, one of the grouper that will be covered in the Super Duper Grouper webinar next week. Photo by Paul Humann.

New Fishinars have been added! Check out the Webinar Training page ( These popular online training sessions provide fishie fun in the comfort of your own home. Fishinars are free, and open to all REEF members. You need to register for each session you want to attend. No special software is required, just a web browser. Upcoming sessions include:

Super Duper Grouper  - Are you groping for groupers? These carnivores of the reef are often hard to tell apart. Let REEF fish geek Jonathan Lavan help guide you through the tricks of the trade, and soon you'll be a Super Duper Grouper Sleuther! Thursday, October 11th at 8pm EDT. REGISTER

The Grunt Club!- Grunts, Grunts, everywhere - but how to tell them apart? Join the Grunt Club! REEF fish expert Jonathan Lavan will teach you simple tricks for keeping all the stripes separate on these buggers. Tuesday, November 6th at 8pm EDT. REGISTER

Caribbean Hit Parade! Top 25 Fish - Caribbean REEF Fish ID: Learn tips from REEF Expert and fish geek, Jonathan Lavan, on how to ID the top 25 fish in the Caribbean. An interactive format makes it ideal for asking questions and learning while having fun. Essential for dive travelers heading to Cozumel, Bonaire, and any other Caribbean destination. [Note: This will be a LONG course. Two hours, not the usual one hour length, so plan accordingly.] Thursday, December 6th at 8pm EDT. REGISTER

Test Your ID Skills Online

We recently updated our online quizzes to add several more regions, including the South Pacific, the Northeast, California Invertebrates, and the South Atlantic. If it's been a while since you have visited this resource on our website, check it out today. These fun quizzes are a great way to test your ID skills. You can take the quiz as many times as you want, and questions are randomly generated so it will always be a bit different. Have fun!

Looking for a Great Dive Vacation?

The MV Caribbean Pearl II
Photo by Carol Cox.

REEF Field Surveys are a great way to take a dive vacation that counts! We offer trips throughout our project regions. The 2014 trip schedule includes many sites in the Caribbean and Pacific Northwest, as well as several Lionfish Research Expeditions.

One of our featured destinations in 2014 -- Honduras aboard the MV Caribbean Pearl II Liveaboard, June 21-28, 2014. REEF's Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, and her husband and reef fish scientist, Dr. Brice Semmens, will lead a great week of diving, learning, and fun! We'll spend the week cruising around the Bay Islands of Honduras aboard the luxurious MV Caribbean Pearl II. We will begin our diving journey in Utila, then explore hidden sea mounts and search for whale sharks enroute to Roatan. After diving in Roatan we will head back to the home port on Utila. The week ends with a walk around the charming town of Utila. The trip costs $2,610 per diver double occupancy, and includes lodging for 7 nights in a Deluxe Cabin with private bathroom, unlimited diving, and all meals and drinks while on board. An additional REEF Program Fee of $300 is added to cover the program costs, seminars, and survey materials. Click here to find out more about this trip. Or visit the REEF Trips page at to see the complete schedule.

We hope to see you on our Honduras liveaboard trip, or one of our other Field Surveys in 2014! These trips are are a great introduction to fish identification for novice fishwatchers, and a fun way for experienced surveyors to build their life list while interacting with fellow fish watchers. 

Upcoming Fishinars - Hawaii's Wrasse, East vs. West, and more

The initial phase Bird Wrasse, a common sight in Hawaii and throughout the tropical western Pacific. Photo by (c) Paul Humann.

We've got lots of exciting, fun, and educational REEF Fishinars in store for you this year - featuring your favorite instructors and special guests alike. Check out the full schedule at Fishinars coming up include:

  • Hawaii's Wrascally Wrasses - Heather George, Liz Foote, and Donna Brown, May 13th
  • Coralinar! - Dr. Marilyn Brandt, May 29th
  • Eastside vs Westside: Lookalike Fish from the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts, Andy Lamb and Andy Martinez, June 19th
  • Playing in the Sandbox: Top 12 Sand Dwellers of the Caribbean - Jonathan Lavan, October 7th
  • That Face, That Face, That Wonderful Face! Top 12 Blennies of the Caribbean - Jonathan Lavan, November 4th

REEF Fishinars are a free benefit of REEF membership, and did you know that REEF members can also access and view any of our archived Fishinars from previous years? A great way for new fish surveyors to learn, or for experienced fish surveyors to brush up on their ID skills.

Explore our Fishinar webpage, register for the sessions you like, and we'll see you online!

New REEF Ray Troll Shirt and Other New Store Additions

If you haven't checked out the online REEF Store recently, now is a great time to do some shopping. It's a great place to get field ID reference guides, REEF survey materials, REEF gear, and lionfish field gear. We have added several new items recently, including:

- Ray Troll's "Dive Bar" shirt with REEF logo, click here

- Lionfish 3-D Puzzle, Lionfish Plush, and Lionfish Phone Case, click here

- New Underwater Survey Paper, including an extended list version for the Caribbean and new paper for the Central Indo-Pacific, click here

- Expanded and Revised 4th Edition of Reef Fish Identification- Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas, click here

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub