The Faces of REEF: Alice Ribbens

Alice, with husband Will, in Indonesia.
The spectacular Pajama Cardinalfish. Photo courtesy WikiMedia.

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 Alice Ribbens, a REEF member since 2010. Despite being based in snowy Minnesota, MN (USA), Alice is an active surveying member who has conducted over 70 surveys in four of REEF's regions (TWA, PAC, TEP, and CIP). She is a member of Advanced Assessment Team in the TWA, and she is a SCUBA instructor who enjoys sharing her love of fish ID. Here's what she had to say about REEF:

How did you become involved with REEF?

I had always been interested in identifying creatures seen on my dives. My husband bought me the ReefNet fish ID software for my birthday in 2010. Through that, I found out about REEF. I joined right away and was hooked on Fishinars from our very first one!

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?

My first REEF trip was to the Sea of Cortez in 2012 aboard the Rocio del Mar. Diving with such an experienced group of divers and surveyors was incredible. Also very exciting to see my first whale shark (with Christy and Brice reminding us to put down “whale shark” and “remora” on our surveys)!

Do you have a favorite local (or not) REEF field station or dive shop?

I am an instructor at Scuba Center in Eagan, MN. They became a REEF Field Station in 2014. I have been running “Fish Nights”: we use a combination of REEF materials and fish photos to teach about fish ID. When a Fishinar is on a night that our classroom is free, we try to participate live. Otherwise, we pick recorded fishinars based on an upcoming trip or people’s interests. Although we don’t have a lot of active surveyors yet, the Fish Nights are very popular, a number of our instructors and divers have joined REEF, and everyone is learning a lot.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate?

Diving in Minnesota is not too exciting in terms of fish, so I love to travel to dive. I always look in nooks and crannies for fish and critters. I’m a little obsessed with cardinalfish right now, probably because they are generally so shy. I was so happy to find pajama cardinalfish in Raja Ampat. I know they are not unusual, but they are so cute! (I loved anemonefish until one bit me—I had a fish hickey on my forehead for several days.)

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

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first start. Fishinars are great to get the basics. With surveys, start slow, learn a few new fish every day, and write down what you know. (Photos are great, but work on your buoyancy skills before adding a camera.) Dive with a likeminded buddy so you can help each other with mystery fish. REEF Trips are like fish boot camp so if you can join one, do it. I thought I knew my TWA fish before my first REEF trip there, but was amazed at how much I learned!

Upcoming Fishinars: Hawaii, Wrasses, the US Northeast, and Blue Heron Bridge

Join us Wednesday night for a Hawaii Fishinar. Arc-eye Hawkfish photo by Jim Spears.

Check out the great Fishinars we have planned for May! 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 May and June, we have several great sessions in store:

  • Wednesday, May 4th - Hawaii Fishes: Life on a Coral Head, with Christy Semmens
  • 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
  • Wednesday, June 1st and Tuesday June 7th - Blue Heron Bridge: Life in the Muck, a two part class, with Carlos and Allison Estape
  • Wednesday, June 22nd - Super Duper Groupers, with Jonathan Lavan

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

Check Out New Items In REEF Store - Lionfish Jewelry, Mask Straps, and More

If you haven't checked out the online REEF Store lately, you might want to head over and get a jump on your holiday shopping! We have added several new items, including Lionfish Jewelry Making Kits, pre-made Lionfish Jewelry Pieces, REEF Mask Straps, several new T-shirts, and a lionfish polespear. And be sure to check out our new Conservation Creatures plush series. Each plush comes with a Conservation Card that provides information about the critter's habitat, characteristics, potential threats, and global distribution in REEF's Survey Project regions. Visit www.REEF.org/store today!

Putting It To Work: Who's Using REEF Data, February 2017

Tiger Grouper are one of several species being evaluated by the IUCN Red List group, with the assistance of REEF data. Photo by Jeff Haines.

Every month, scientists, government agencies, and other groups request raw data from REEF’s Fish Survey Project database. Recent examples of data requests and uses include:

- Data on several species of grouper species world-wide were requested for use in the IUCN Red List Assessments.

- Survey effort data from Veracruz, Mexico, are being used as part of a monitoring gap analysis being conducted by The Nature Conservancy.

- Data from Florida and the Bahamas were requested by researchers from Rutgers University to understand bio-cultural homogenization on reefs.

- Data on fish assemblages on rocky reefs around British Columbia are being evaluated for status and trends by scientists at the University of Victoria.

REEF's 2016 Annual Report Released

We are proud to release REEF's 2016 Annual Report, reviewing accomplishments from our ocean conservation and education programs. Click here to view the Annual Report. In the report, we highlight many achievements and successes in 2016, such as:

  • Hosted our annual REEF Fest in Key Largo, attended by more than 400 ocean enthusiasts, divers, and conservationists 
  • Provided research to support legislation in the Cayman Islands that permanently protects endangered Nassau Grouper populations from overfishing 
  • Hosted 34 ocean education programs at REEF Headquarters for groups ranging from school children, to universities, to adult travel groups 
  • Received funding from Monroe County Tourist Development Council for improvements, additions, and renovations to REEF Headquarters 
  • Published the second edition of The Lionfish Cookbook, featuring more than 60 appetizer and entrée recipes designed to encourage the removal and consumption of invasive lionfish 
  • Presented scientific findings at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii, including an analysis of REEF survey data collected by volunteers in Bonaire Marine Park over the last 20 years 
  • Coordinated the first Field Survey Trips to the Central Indo-Pacifc region, resulting in more than 1,500 REEF surveys from the Philippines, Palau, and Yap 
  • Continued to host our popular monthly Fish & Friends event, a marine science seminar and social, featuring presentations on diving, marine biology, and underwater photography 
  • Honored Janet Eyre as our Volunteer of the Year

REEF was founded in 1990, out of growing concern for the health of the marine environment and the desire to provide ocean enthusiasts with ways to actively contribute to improved understanding and protection of marine environments. Looking back on more than two decades of hard work, REEF’s impact is remarkable. The most important part of this grassroots organization has always been the members who make it possible. Whether you’ve been with REEF since it was founded, joined somewhere along the way, or just became a member this year, we are profoundly grateful of the time, skills, and financial resources you give to make such a significant difference in marine conservation.

This Summer, Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project on REEF's Key Largo Field Survey

The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is home to a wide diversity of fish species. Photo by Daryl Duda.
The hotel, Marina del Mar, is located on the Port Largo canal, a fun and centrally-located spot in Key Largo.

Twenty-five years ago, REEF began collecting data on the abundance of marine fish populations, and since then the Volunteer Fish Survey Project has grown to be the world's largest marine life sightings database, made up of more than 200,000 surveys conducted by over 15,000 volunteer divers and snorkelers worldwide. To celebrate 25 years of citizen science, REEF is hosting a 25th anniversary Field Survey this summer in Key Largo, Florida, where the very first REEF Trip was held in 1993. Key Largo is nicknamed the "dive capital of the world" and is also home to REEF Headquarters, making this a perfect location for REEF members to celebrate the success and future of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project.

Key Largo’s shallow reefs are perfect for both divers and snorkelers. Participants will visit some of the same sites visited by attendees on the first REEF trip, to observe how fish populations have changed over time and collect important data to help scientists and resource managers continue to protect and study ocean life and habitats. The trip is June 23-30, 2018, and will be led by REEF’s co-founder Paul Humann, in addition to providing the opportunity to dive with some of REEF’s staff and interns. For more information or to register for this trip, visit the Key Largo trip webpage here.

There is also a week of Ocean Explorers Summer Camp during the same week (June 25-29) as this trip, so plan to bring your entire family! Camp is recommended for children ages 7-13. For more information or to register for camp, visit our Ocean Explorers Camp page.

 

Unusual Fish Sightings from our Members (August)

Scrawled Trunkfish: (Scrawled Cowfish/Smooth Trunkfish Hybrid). Photo by Linda Baker.Scrawled Trunkfish: (Scrawled Cowfish/Smooth Trunkfish Hybrid). Photo by Linda Baker. Orange Moray: Photo by Todd Fulks.Orange Moray: Photo by Todd Fulks. Striped Bass: Photo by James Guertin.Striped Bass: Photo by James Guertin.

REEF to Host Holiday Open House in Key Largo, FL

If you plan to be in the Keys at the end of the month, please join us!

 

What: REEF Holiday Open House

When: Friday, November 30 at 5 PM

Who: Friends, family, members of REEF

Where: REEF HQ: 98300 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL (yellow conch house on the median)

Why: Educate the community about REEF conservation programs

 

Renowned photographers and authors Ned and Anna DeLoach will be on hand to sign books and CDs-perfect for holiday gift-giving! There will also be food, drink, raffle prizes and survey materials for sale. This holiday season, give a gift that counts!

Panel Discussions Bring Citizen Scientists Together in the Florida Keys

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REEF hosted a variety of speakers, including partners from these organizations.
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On Tuesday, February 26 and Wednesday, March 12, REEF hosted two citizen science panel discussions about how volunteers contribute to understanding and preserving the Florida Keys environment. The first discussion, held in Key Largo, featured speakers from the Breeding Bird Survey project, Coral Restoration Foundation, and John Pennekamp State Park native plant nursery. The second event, held in Key West, featured speakers from The Nature Conservancy, Mote Marine Laboratory and the National Weather Service. Both discussions were led by guest speaker Rick Bonney, a pioneer in the citizen science field from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, NY. Leda Cunningham presented on the REEF Volunteer Survey Project.

Forty-two people participated in the discussions, most of whom were themselves volunteers in a local or national citizen science project. "Most scientists usually only get to attend 'niche' meetings, where everyone in the room is talking about variations of the same subject matter," said Alison Higgins of The Nature Conservancy. "What was amazing about REEF's Citizen Science symposium is that the approach was the same (engaging the public in collecting important observations), but the subjects were varied.  I specialize in land conservation issues, but got to brainstorm and engage with fish, bird and weather scientists - It was a really great and necessary experience"

Each discussion group brainstormed next steps for the citizen science movement in the Florida Keys. Ideas included forming an informal coalition of citizen science projects, doing integrated data analysis across project taxa (effect of weather on fish or bird population trends, e.g.), starting a regular citizen science column in a local newspaper and developing a citizen science booklet for residents and visitors to learn about local projects. For more information, please contact Leda Cunningham: Leda@REEF.org.

 

REEF Hosts ICRS Field Trip

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2008 International Coral Reef Symposium Field Trip in Key Largo
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11th ICRS Hosted 100's of Talks and Had Over 3,000 Attendees

In addition to attending the 11th ICRS, REEF also hosted one of the conference Field Trips.  REEF and Horizon Divers hosted 14 participants from various locations around the world including Australia, Japan, Kenya, and several U.S. institutions.  Dr. Jim Bohnsack, NOAA Research Fisheries Biologist and Science Advisor to the REEF Board of Trustees, gave a workshop presentation on applying REEF fish survey data towards Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary management decisions and Paul Humann, renowned marine life photographer and author, taught fish and invertebrate identification classes.  Lad Akins, REEF Special Projects Director, gave an overview of REEF and our programs along with a detailed update on what he and REEF partners are working on with the Lionfish (Pterois volitans) invasion in Florida, the Bahamas and Caribbean islands. Participants also had the opportunity to conduct 6 REEF survey SCUBA dives out on our local reefs to get a sense of how Roving Diver survey data are collected.

The survey data our members collect fall into two general categories.The first is the Volunteer Survey Project category that includes all of our Field Surveys and individual members surveying efforts conducted while diving or snorkeling wherever they live or travel to on vacation. The second type of data collected by our surveyors are from our monitoring and research programs in partnership with NOAA sanctuaries, the National Park service, and regional NGO’s and other non-profits as well as various universities.  It was this second category of data that our ICRS Field Trip focused on for classroom discussions. REEF data are used by resource managers include artificial reef monitoring, restoration site monitoring, marine protected area assessments, and invasive species collections and fish surveys to name a few.  One message that ICRS brought home to all attendees is that now more than ever, there is a critical need for coral reef related research, including studies addressing fish assemblages. There is also a critical need for scientists and policy makers to communicate their research and conservation strategies to the general public, conveying the message about just how vulnerable coral reefs are to anthropogenic disturbances and their importance to our collective well being. REEF will continue our efforts to engage our membership in worthwhile conservation projects that address tropical and temperate fish assemblages.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub