Making It Count - October 2010

Introduction

We are proud to share our completely revised e-newsletter, “Making It Count”. We have put more focus on how REEF members, partners, and the survey project database are making an impact in communities and marine conservation. We hope you enjoy the new format! Feel free to send us feedback. A special thanks to California REEF member Jackie Patay for designing the newsletter banner.

Putting it to Work: Who’s Using REEF Data

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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:

- A biologist from Fisheries and Oceans Canada is evaluating fish and invertebrate populations in Race Rocks outside of Victoria BC, in preparation for the establishment of an Marine Protected Area.

- A researcher at the University of Texas is conducting a large-scale study of evolutionary ecology in Caribbean reef fishes using REEF data and other publically available sources of morphological and phylogenetic data. 

- A scientist from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is conducting an analysis on goliath grouper populations for a NOAA Fisheries stock assessment. 

- A researcher from University of East Anglia is using the entire REEF Caribbean dataset to conduct a large-scale analysis of species diversity.

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The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight

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REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 40,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Pam Wade (member since 1998). Pam lives in California and has 381 REEF surveys under her belt as a level 4 surveyor. Through REEF, Pam’s interest in fishwatching has encouraged her not only to dive more, but to explore the world’s oceans in other regions. Earlier this month, Pam was on a REEF Field Survey in the Sea of Cortez with REEF scientists, Drs. Christy and Brice Semmens. Here’s what Pam had to say about diving with REEF:

What is your favorite thing about being a REEF member?

When you join REEF you have the opportunity to do more than just send in a donation and get a beautiful calendar. You actually get to be an active participant in fulfilling the mission of conserving marine ecosystems. I love feeling that my dives have a purpose. You don't have to change the way you dive, the only difference is that you know what you are looking at, you see a lot more and the enthusiasm transfers to everyone you dive with. Pretty soon, everyone wants to know the names of the fish and everyone is learning and appreciating and protecting the treasure we have under the sea!

What was your experience with REEF trips?

The very first trip I signed up for was a REEF Discovery trip to Bonaire with Paul Humann in July 2001. Those classes gave me a good foundation in fish identification: what to look for, where to look, fish anatomy and the identification clues that really matter. Paul pointing out a Yellow Tube Sponge, said you can always add one more fish to your survey; those sponges are home to the Short Striped Goby! I met Ann B. from Arkansas on that trip, and I’ve been following Ann across the oceans identifying fish and invertebrates ever since. In August 2008, I participated in the REEF Critter trip to Saint Vincent with Paul and Ned. That’s where I passed the level 3 test. Bill Twees was invaluable in his help pointing out the Black Brotula, Sunshine Fish, Flag Fin Blenny…..I’m looking forward to diving Saba with REEF in 2011!

Do you have any surveying tips to pass along to other REEF surveyors?

Lately I have been working on ways to more efficiently record my survey information on my slate to ensure that it’s complete and ready to enter on the computer when I get home. As part of this, I’ve been using the various tools and reports available on the REEF website, including the Geographic Zone Reports for the specific area that I am going to dive and the Geographic Zone Code lists with site names. This gives me more time between dives to enjoy getting to know the other divers and identifying fish for everyone else onboard. The enthusiasm is catching! Why else would a dedicated photographer on the Sea Hunter at the Cocos Islands be excited enough about capturing a Cocos Barnacle Blenny feeding that they missed the whale shark passing overhead?

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Outstanding in their Field: Featured REEF Field Station

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REEF is proud to partner with over 130 dive shops, dive clubs, individuals and other organizations as REEF Field Stations.

This month we feature Naknek Charters and Diving, based in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island in Washington State. They became a REEF Field Station in October of 2008. Owners Kurt and Peggy Long first got involved with REEF about 10 years ago when they were on a liveaboard dive charter in the British Virgin Islands, and took an onboard REEF Fish ID class. Since then, Kurt has gone on to submit many surveys and has advanced up to REEF Level 5, and is now on the Pacific NW Advanced Assessment Team. One of the reasons that they became a Field Station was because they were very interested in educating divers and the public in general about the wonderful critters that live under the water. Peggy writes, “We live in a beautiful area with an abundance of wildlife. We want the public to realize that the beauty extends to the underwater world. This is America’s best year-round cold water diving destination - we have walls, current, fish life. In other words we have it all!”

So what Field Station activities have they chosen to put into action? “Our goal is to hold a REEF weekend at least twice a year. This involves a Saturday morning class with a two-tank boat dive in the afternoon. We also offer an optional two-tank dive on Sunday. This is a great way for divers to learn about fish ID and helps them put that knowledge into practice. We sell REEF slates in our shop and our boat is identified with REEF decals.” Peggy and Kurt have a 45' charter boat that can hold 14 divers and they run charters year round.

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Reports from the Field: October 2010

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Field Surveys – Eighteen REEF members joined Drs. Christy and Brice Semmens earlier this month on a Field Survey to the Sea of Cortez aboard the Rocio del Mar live-aboard. The team conducted over 300 surveys in 20 locations around the Midriff Islands, many of which were new to the REEF database. It was a great trip, with 130 species of fish found, beautiful topside scenery, and pods of sperm and pilot whales! Find out more about REEF Trips.

Lionfish Derby – The second of three lionfish round-ups in the Florida Keys was held last week off Marathon (FL). During this one-day event, several teams participated to collect this voracious predator off local reefs. The third derby is scheduled for November 13 in Key West. Find out more about REEF’s Lionfish Program.

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Top of the Charts: Survey Stats

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An arrow blenny is a great find during a Caribbean survey. Photo by Doug Champion.

Current Most Active Surveyors

Conducted the most surveys in the last three months:

TWA – Peter Leahy (169), Michael Phelan (67), Dave Grenda (48)

NE – Jason Feick (9), John Feehan (8), Michael MacDonald (7)

PAC – Rhoda Green (36), Jan Kocian (34), Betty Bastai (31)

TEP – Carol Cline (16), Daniel Richards (12), Gerald Winkel (3)

HAW – Don Judy (41), Rick Long (34), Flo Bahr (23)

To date, 140,234 surveys have been conducted by REEF volunteers.

Visit www.REEF.org/db/stats to see the Top 10 surveyors with the most surveys conducted to date, the most species-rich locations, and most frequently sighted fish species.

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Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub