Making It Count - June 2018

Putting it to Work: Who’s Using REEF Data, June 2018

REEF data are being used to evaluate the status and distribution of Bull Kelp in Washington State. Photo by John Wolfe.

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

-       Staff from MacArthur State Beach Park in Florida are using REEF data to evaluate fish populations in the park.

-       Researchers at SeaDoc Society and Washington Department of Fish and Game are using REEF data to evaluate Northern (Pinto) Abalone in Washington State

-       A researcher at Washington Department of Natural Resources is also using REEF data from Washington State in an agency evaluation of the status of Bull Kelp and other algae and marine plants.

-       A research associate from the IUCN Marine Biodiversity Unit is using the Caribbean REEF dataset to identify Caribbean fishes that are most vulnerable to invasive lionfish predation.

-       A graduate student at FIU is evaluating fish populations in the USVI National Parks.

-       A scientist from Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Bermuda is evaluating REEF data on local seahorse sightings.

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The Faces of REEF: Don Gordon

Don Gordon diving in the waters near Vancouver Island.

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. More than 65,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission. 

This month we highlight Don Gordon, REEF member since 2011. Don recently achieved Golden Hamlet status, and has conducted 1007 surveys to date, mostly in the chilly waters of British Columbia, Canada. Don is a member of the PAC Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) and is active in several of REEF’s special monitoring projects. Here's what Don had to say about REEF:

How did you first hear about REEF?

I met Lad Akins at the International Marine Conservation Congress in Victoria, BC. As a former manager of protected natural areas I had a good deal of experience with citizen science and I was really impressed by REEF. I knew this was a place that I could make a meaningful contribution to the marine environment. 

Have you ever been on a REEF Field Survey Trip?

Shortly after meeting Lad I had a chance to go on a REEF Field Survey Trip to Hornby Island, British Columbia, led by Janna Nichols. On that trip I discovered that REEF was also a community. I also learned so much about our local fish and invertebrates that in no time I was able to join the AAT for the PAC region. Through the AAT I’ve been privileged to participate in a couple of long-term scientific studies and to learn from experts at the very top of their field. 

Do you dive close to where you live?

I am very grateful to have moved to Victoria on Vancouver Island from the Great Lakes region. Here we can dive 12 months of the year and there are easily a dozen good shore dives within 40 minutes of my home, making weeknight diving a reality. Vancouver Island also has an extensive dive infrastructure and an active dive community. One local operator describes it as, “The best cold water diving in the known universe.”

In the last few years I’ve dived in the Philippines, Red Sea and Bahamas and can state that the best diving I’ve ever experienced is at the north end of Vancouver Island. Beneath cold seas you can encounter a diversity and abundance that defies belief.

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REEF Fest 2018: September 20 – 23

REEF’s annual celebration of marine conservation is just 4 months away! Event registration is now open. Please visit for event details, to register, and to purchase a ticket to REEF’s annual banquet, For the Love of the Sea. We hope you will join us for a weekend of diving, ocean-themed seminars, social events, and mingling with fellow marine life enthusiasts!

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In Memory Of

REEF is made up of passionate members who champion for our oceans and contribute their time and talents to preserving our environment. Many have been members for years and a few recently departed, before their time. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and their family’s desire to recognize the importance of REEF in their lives by designating REEF as a recipient of donations in lieu of flowers. 

Darcy Mellen-Sullivan, Naples, FL 

John Craig Nunez, Anacortes, WA

Michael Kevin Forgatch, Palm Beach, FL. 

In addition to designating REEF to be their choice of memoriam, Michael’s family and friends contributed to have a recognition plaque installed in his honor along our native plants trail at REEF Headquarters in Key Largo, FL.

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Ocean Reef Community Foundation Grant Awarded to REEF

Thanks to the Ocean Reef Community Foundation’s grant funding opportunities, REEF is partnering with the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter to provide its resident children and clients with summer programs that include outdoor and water-based field trips and ocean learning. The unique habitats, plants, and animals of the Florida Keys offer a one of a kind childhood experience to those with the resources to venture outside. Educational opportunities like snorkeling, kayaking, or fishing can build a lifelong interest in and ownership of Florida's marine resources, which are economically and ecologically important. REEF is excited to provide these educational field programs to children who otherwise may not have the opportunity.

Participants for this program include clients physically living at the Shelter’s Tavernier residential facility and local children being served by the organization's community-based counselors. Programs and activities are designed to encourage positive self-esteem, self-reliance, problem solving, and positive social behaviors. For some of these children, Nature Days may be a life-changing experience inspiring career aspirations. 

Thank you, Ocean Reef Community Foundation for sponsoring this focused learning program to support REEF and the Florida Keys Children’s Shelter!

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Miami Lionfish Derby

Kick off your summer by joining us for the Miami Lionfish Derby on June 10! We are excited to be hosting this event in partnership with Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. Thank you to Whole Foods Market® for sponsoring our 2018 Lionfish Derby Series. 

Below is a schedule of events for this weekend's Miami Lionfish Derby. We hope to see you there!

Friday, June 8: Captain's Meeting at 6:30 p.m. at Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. This meeting is mandatory for all derby participants. 

Saturday, June 9: Derby participants may begin hunting lionfish at sunrise.

Sunday, June 10: Check in and scoring begins at noon at Museum Park (directly beside Frost Museum.) All participating teams must check in by 1 p.m to be eligible for derby prizes.

The event will feature scoring, lionfish dissections and filleting demonstrations, lionfish tastings and raffles. Attendance at this event is free and open to the public.

Derby award categories include most lionfish, biggest, and smallest. New prize categories include a "Golden Fish Award" in which all participating teams are eligible to win $1,000 cash. There is also a first-timer category for teams consisting of members who have never participated in a REEF Lionfish Derby before. 

For more information and to register, visit

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Ways to Celebrate World Oceans Day!

Did you know that the ocean regulates our climate, generates most of the oxygen we breathe, and is home to millions of different living creatures? On June 8, people will come together to honor and help protect our world’s oceans. Whether you live near the coast or inland, you can take part in this special day to reflect on what the ocean means to you. Here are some ways you can join REEF in celebrating World Oceans Day. 

Watch a Fishinar: We are kicking off the World Oceans Day celebration with a free Fishinar! Join us on June 7 from 8-9 p.m. for an engaging online presentation that will commemorate the 25th year of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project while discussing the past, present, and future of this monumental citizen science program. Can’t make it to the live session? All Fishinars are archived so you can watch at your convenience. Visit for more information or to register. 

Remove a Lionfish: Our Miami Lionfish Derby will be held June 8-10 at the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. The event will feature scoring, cash prizes, raffles, lionfish tastings, and dissection and filleting demonstrations. Prizes will be awarded to derby teams who bring in the most, largest, and smallest lionfish. For more information as well as the full event schedule and registration, visit

Conduct a Fish Survey: Get involved in citizen science and ocean conservation by snorkeling or diving to conduct a fish survey in any of our project regions. When you conduct a survey, you are contributing to the world’s largest database of marine life sightings. All you need to get started is a slate and pencil. To learn more or get started, visit

Donate to REEF: From mapping biodiversity, to combating invasive species and helping protect special places such Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations, we are proud to be making an difference in conservation, and your support makes this possible! You can donate by visiting

We hope you will join us in recognizing the importance of conserving our marine environments this World Oceans Day.

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Fishinars in June

Barberfish, a common fish of the Eastern Pacific. Photo by Carol Cox.

Tune in this month for two new Fishinars, including:

Thursday, June 7: World Oceans Day: Celebrating 25 years of the VFSP, taught by Ellie Place

Thursday, June 21: Common Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific, taught by Christy Semmens

Fishinars are REEF's brand of online, interactive webinars. You can attend them live or watch the recording in the archives. Most of these fun, information-packed, hour-long sessions target fish identification in REEF's worldwide survey regions. You don't need to be a REEF member to participate in the live sessions. No webcam or microphone is necessary- all you need is an internet connection and your computer or mobile device. For more details, links to registration, and the rest of the 2018 schedule, visit:

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Welcome Summer 2018 Marine Conservation Interns!

We are happy to welcome four new Marine Conservation Interns to REEF. These individuals will play a vital role in the organization by assisting with numerous summer projects including Lionfish Derbies and Ocean Explorers Summer Camp, while working to support daily office operations and other mission-oriented tasks. They will also have many opportunities to dive, conduct fish surveys, and volunteer with environmental organizations in South Florida and the Florida Keys. Each group of interns brings a unique perspective and skill set to REEF. Our Summer 2018 interns include:

Lisa Burton from Flagstaff, AZ: Lisa has a B.S. in Biology from Northern Arizona University. She has worked as a fisheries technician and aquaculturist for the AZ Dept. of Game and Fish, and is interested in expanding her focus from freshwater fishes to pursue a career dedicated to preserving marine ecosystems.

Sophie Costa from Austin, TX: Sophie has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a minor in Spanish from Rhodes College. Sophie has studied the threats facing the Meso-American barrier reef while conducting conservation work and studying invasive lionfish in Belize, and hopes to use scientific research and outreach to support marine life.

David Ehlert from Lexington, KY: David is currently pursuing a B.S. in Natural Resource and Environmental Science from the University of Kentucky. David has studied abroad in Mexico, where he assessed lionfish effects on fish populations and participated in coastal cleanup efforts. He hopes to one day develop a conservation program that gives college students from non-coastal states an opportunity to learn about the ocean.

Ronnie Noonan from Halifax, Nova Scotia: Ronnie is currently pursuing a B.S. in Marine Biology with a certificate in Leadership in Science and Communication from Dalhousie University. She has interned at a research lab in Zavora, Mozambique, and discovered her passion for communicating ocean science while working as a touch tank interpreter. Her goal is to become a science communicator. 

We are so happy to have Lisa, Sophie, David, and Ronnie with us this summer. Our interns are a crucial part of REEF and we couldn’t accomplish our mission without them! For more information about the Marine Conservation Internship or to apply for a future semester, visit

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