Making It Count - June 2017

150,000 REEF Surveys Have Been Submitted in the Tropical Western Atlantic

A REEF Volunteer conducting a survey in Key Largo, Florida, one of 150,000 conducted in the western Atlantic. Photo by Nathan Brown.

We are proud to announce that on July 1st 2017, the number of REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project surveys conducted by volunteers in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region topped 150,000! The 150k surveys have been conducted by 11,123 volunteers at 8,837 sites in the TWA region (which includes the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Gulf of Mexico). The first surveys in the TWA were conducted 24 years ago in Key Largo. Since then, REEF's citizen science program has grown to ocean waters world-wide and has generated the largest database on marine life population status and trends, recently surpassing 217,000 surveys! Visit our Top 10 Stats page to see the most frequently sighted species, the most species-rich locations, and our most active surveyors. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our volunteers, supporters, and those who make use of these data! We couldn't have done it without you.

REEF's mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community. The REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project is a key component of our success. The program allows volunteer SCUBA divers and snorkelers to collect and report information on marine fish populations in marine waters world-wide (and invertebrates and algae in temperate waters). Visit the About REEF page to find out more and to see where our volunteers are conducting surveys.

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Donate Today to Support Ocean Conservation!

Your donation will help ensure that REEF can continue our critical ocean conservation work, including our Grouper Moon Project. Photo by Joshua Stewart.
REEF is undertaking an ambitious transformation of the Headquarters Campus this summer. Get your name engraved on a brick in the "Pathway to Ocean Conservation".

On World Oceans Day, REEF kicked off our annual summer fundraising campaign. Thanks to our largest matching opportunity ever, every donation made this summer will be matched dollar for dollar up to $150,000! We are almost halfway to our goal, but we need your help so that we may continue to grow and build REEF’s ocean conservation legacy. Every donation makes a difference – donate today at www.REEF.org/contribute.

We recently announced our exciting plans to expand the REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida. This transformation includes adding an Interpretive Center building, installing new educational exhibits in the existing REEF Headquarters building, and creating a Native Plants Trail. This facility will engage 40,000 visitors annually while furthering our mission and supporting new programs.

As a special thank you, donors of $500 or more this summer will be honored with a personalized brick in the "Pathway to Ocean Conservation" that we are installing in front of REEF Headquarters as part of our campus expansion. Two sizes of brick are available (4” by 8” - $500 donation, 8” x 8” – $1,000 donation) and each can be personalized with an inscription of your choosing! Brick donations must be made by August 14th.

To find out more about our plans for the REEF Campus, visit the Interpretive Center webpage. There are a limited number of other sponsored landscape features along the new Native Plants Trail, including interpretive signs, benches, and picnic tables. Please contact us directly at giving@REEF.org or 305-852-0030 if you are interested in these opportunities.

From all of us at REEF, thank you to all of our donors! Our work would not be possible without your support. Please have a safe and fun-filled 4th of July!

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Putting it to Work: Who's Using REEF Data, June 2017

REEF data on California Sea Cucumber were provided to a researcher from Pacific Shellfish Institute to evaluate the status of the species in the REEF Pacific region. Photo by Steve Lonhart.

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:

- A researcher from the Ecology and Evolution Program at Rutgers University is using REEF data to understand bio-cultural homogenization on reefs.

- REEF data on California Sea Cucumber were provided to a researcher from Pacific Shellfish Institute to evaluate the status of the species in the REEF Pacific region (California through Alaska).

- REEF data on a wide variety of predatory fish species were provided to a graduate student at Florida Gulf Coast University who is researching the biogeography of ciguatera-causing dinoflagellates in the Florida Keys.

- Data from Mike's Beach in Washington State was provided to a PhD student at Oregon State in Fisheries in order to evaluate status and trends at that popular dive site.

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The Faces of REEF: Dottie Benjamin

Dottie with one of her underwater fishy friends, Nassau Grouper on Little Cayman. Photo by Mary Solomon.
A possible new species, "Dottie's Jawfish"! Photo by Dottie Benjamin.

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 Dottie Benjamin, a REEF member since 1996! After living on Little Cayman for years, Dottie moved to North Carolina a few years ago. During her time in the Cayman Islands, she was involved in REEF's Grouper Moon Project and she also found a possible new species of fish! Dottie has conducted 75 surveys and is a Level 5 Expert Surveyor in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA). Here's what Dottie had to say about REEF:

When and how did you first hear about REEF? I first learned about REEF while working in Belize as a Dive Instructor and a REEF Field Survey was taking place at my place of work. Ned & Anna DeLoach were the presenters and I became fascinated with the names and behavior of all the little critters that I was seeing on a daily basis. I learned all kinds of fun facts and the fishy bug bit. Moving to Little Cayman – I had the pleasure of getting to know Judie Clee (1000+ surveys) and she reinforced my love of fishes and shared in my excitement at finding a tiny Goby or Blenny. She helped me achieve my Level 5 TWA rating and got me interested in teaching others about all the incredible diversity under the waves.

What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced? Living in Little Cayman for 18 years, I was honored to help with REEF's Grouper Moon Project and being able to swim with 3000+ groupers during their annual aggregate spawn is simply breath-taking. And your diving career is not complete until you have had the chance to rub the cheeks of a big old friendly Nassau Grouper. They are amazing creatures.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? I now live in North Carolina and dive & work at Olympus Dive Center… the fish are a little different, but once you know your fish families… you can figure out what you are looking at. The diversity here is amazing and there is always something cool to find… whether it be a few dozen Sand Tiger Sharks cruising by or an Ocellated Frogfish or a bevy of juvenile Cubbyu… I am never disappointed.

What is your most memorable fish find and why? Possibly discovering a new species of fish is my most memorable fish find. Swimming along the sheer wall of Little Cayman at about 90 feet and looking into a little alcove and seeing a jawfish (blue spotted at that!). I couldn’t find the fish in any ID book, and so I contacted REEF for some help… It's still being worked on, but I am keeping my fingers crossed that it is a new species that I will get to name. Dottie’s Jawfish has a nice ring…don’t you think? I have had the chance to meet some incredible people in my diving career and the fishy ones are the best!

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Calling All Citizen Scientists: Join REEF on a Dive Trip in 2017!

REEF's first trip to the Galapagos earlier this year.
REEF divers have a great time aboard the Solomon Islands Field Survey.
Take a Dive Vacation That Counts with REEF!

It’s not too late to join REEF on one of our fantastic Field Survey Trips this year! We have a couple openings left on some upcoming trips this fall and winter. Join us and become part of one of the world’s largest ocean citizen science efforts, featuring an itinerary of diving, seminars and fun.

Invasive Lionfish Research Trip: Curacao, Aug. 19-26 – led by Lad Akins, REEF Director of Special Projects and Peter Hughes, REEF Board of Trustees Want to learn more about the lionfish invasion and what you can do to help combat invasive species? Join REEF's ongoing effort to minimize the Indo-Pacific predator's impact on native fish populations. Participants will gain hands-on experience in lionfish collection and dissections of specimens to document prey. More details here

Fish Survey Trip: Grand Cayman, Oct. 1-8 – led by Paul Humann, REEF Co-Founder From walls adorned with spectacular corals, wrecks that are home to a diverse array of marine life, or shallow reefs with plenty of tropical fish species, the dive sites of Grand Cayman will delight REEF surveyors, who may also take advantage of unlimited shore diving directly in front of Sunset House. More details here

Fish Survey Trip: Hornby Island, British Columbia, Oct 15-19 – led by Janna Nichols, REEF Citizen Science Program Manager Hornby Island is known for good visibility, gentle currents and colorful marine life including Giant Pacific Octopus, Wolf eels, various rockfish species, colorful anemones and nudibranchs. Cold water diving enthusiasts. More details here

Fish Survey Trip: British Virgin Islands, Cuan Law Liveaboard, Dec. 3-9 – led by Ellie Splain, REEF Education Program Manager The British Virgin Islands have more than 100 dive sites to explore, including coral gardens, pinnacles, and wrecks. Weather permitting, a unique Northside itinerary is planned, to allow surveyors to collect fish abundance data from less frequently-dived areas in the BVIs. More details here

We also have a full schedule of trips planned for 2018, so if you’re already thinking about next year’s dive vacation, check out our trip lineup at www.REEF.org/trips/2018.

Contact us at Trips@REEF.org or call (305) 588-5869 to sign up today!

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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!

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Great Annual Fish Count 2017 -25 Years of Fun!

Celebrating it's 25th year - the Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC) kicked off this weekend! During the entire month of July we encourage you to try your hand at conducting your first survey if you're new to our Volunteer Fish Survey Project, or to do a few more if it's been a while.

The GAFC began in 1992 when a small group of recreational divers and marine biologists conducted a visual fish count in California's Channel Islands National Park. The effort was modeled after the Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count and has now grown into an international event coordinated by REEF.

Check out the GAFC website (www.fishcount.org) to find everything you need to join in the fish counting fun as a participant or to organize your own local event. It can be as simple as hosting a survey dive (throw in a BBQ), or an ID class or presentation about your local fish. We especially encourage shops, dive clubs, marine science centers and others to organize a GAFC event.

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