Making It Count - July 2017

Last Chance For a Brick in Pathway to Ocean Conservation

We are in the last few weeks of our summer fundraising campaign, and we need your help. Donations from our members are critical to REEF’s marine conservation efforts. In addition to supporting programs for marine biodiversity, fisheries management, and invasive species control, we are asking our members to make an extra donation this summer to help us build an Interpretive Center on the REEF Campus in Key Largo. Please help us continue to build our legacy of ocean conservation by being a part of this special campaign. Gifts of $500 or more will be honored with a personalized brick in the “Pathway to Ocean Conservation” that we are installing in front of the new center. Sunday August 13th is the last chance to get your inscribed brick, so please make your donation today. As a special bonus, every donation made before the end of August will be matched dollar-for-dollar. Click here to find out more about the Interpretive Center.

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Putting it to Work: New Publication on Method to Create Species Maps for Fisheries Management

Gag Grouper, one of the species mapped in the Gruss et al paper. Photo by Carol Cox.

We are excited to share the latest scientific paper to include REEF data, published this month in the journal ICES Journal of Marine Science. In this paper, authors use information on where REEF divers did or did not encounter three species of fisheries importance: red snapper, red grouper, and gag grouper. They then combined these data with 36 other data sets, each sampling different areas of the Gulf of Mexico, and created distribution maps for use in ecosystem models of the Gulf of Mexico. These distribution maps picked up fish hotspots that are not identifiable by any individual data set, highlighting the complementary nature of the REEF data. The full citation of the paper is: Gruss, A., Thorson, J.T., Babcock, E.A., and Tarnecki, J.H. 2017. Producing distribution maps for informing ecosystem-based fisheries management using a comprehensive survey database and spatio-temporal models. – ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi:10.1093/icesjms/fsx120. Visit www.REEF.org/db/publications for an entire list of publications that include REEF data and programs.

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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!

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Don't Miss REEF Fest 2017

REEF Fest 2017 is coming up -- September 28-October 1 in Key Largo, Florida. REEF Fest days are filled with diving, snorkeling, and other eco-adventures, and a seminar series with an impressive line-up of scientists and conservation leaders. Evening social events happen each evening. REEF Fest kicks off on Thursday night with a sunset picnic, including complimentary dinner and refreshments. The REEF Open House from 6pm to 9pm is Friday night, where 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 then the event culminates with the Saturday banquet, "For the Love of the Sea". 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! Space at the banquet is limited (ticket required). Check out www.REEF.org/REEFFest for more event details or contact Events@REEF.org . We hope to see you in September!

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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.

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Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub