REEF Fest 2015 Coming Up This Month

Have you registered for REEF Fest 2015 yet? It’s not too late! Join REEF, September 24th-27th, for a celebration of marine conservation success in the Florida Keys!

  • Don’t miss out on our free series of educational seminars, beginning at 1:30 PM each day, Thursday - Saturday. Topics include Fish ID, Sharks, Invasive Lionfish, Coral Restoration, Grouper Moon, and more!
  • Dive spaces are still available, Friday - Sunday mornings, with our generous partnering dive shops. Please call the shop directly to book your spot on fish surveying, lionfish collection, and artificial reef dives! Check out the list of shops and dives available on the REEF Fest website.
  • Join us for our evening socials, Thursday at the Caribbean Club and Friday for the Open House at REEF Headquarters.
  • Tickets are still available for the Saturday Evening Celebration Dinner Party, a night that you won’t forget! Tickets include a 3-course meal, live music, and silent and live auctions.

Get full event details and register for REEF Fest at www.reef.org/REEFFest2015

Connecting With Classrooms in the Grouper Moon Project

Elementary students in the Cayman Islands working on one of the REEF Grouper Education Program lessons.
Live video feed from 2013, connecting researchers diving at the aggregation site with classrooms. Photo by Joshua Stewart.
In collaboration with a team of engineers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography we are using a cutting-edge underwater microscope with plankton net attached to study the habitat around the spawn cloud. As water flows through, two high speed cameras within an underwater microscope capture images of zooplankton and eggs.

Scientists and volunteers from REEF, and our partners at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, are wrapping up two weeks of field work on Little Cayman for the Grouper Moon Project. Since 2002, the collaboration has conducted ground-breaking research on the Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations in the Cayman Islands, to help ensure that populations of this iconic species recover. Around winter full moons, Nassau Grouper leave their home reefs and aggregate in mass to spawn. January didn't turn out to be the big month for spawning, and therefore our team will return for the February full moon. Nevertheless, many of the fish (at least 1,000) showed up at the aggregation site and our team kept busy collecting ongoing monitoring data (counts, size of fish, and documenting behaviors), field testing cutting-edge tools such as an underwater microscope, and running the Grouper Education Program.

In 2011, with funding from Disney Conservation Fund, REEF launched the Grouper Education Program to engage Caymanian students in the Grouper Moon Project. This exciting effort brings the Nassau Grouper in to elementary and high school classrooms through lesson plans and live-feed videos that connect classrooms with scientists in the field. The curriculum presents a multi-faceted view of Nassau Grouper in which students create their own understanding of this important fish. Key curricular concepts include the historical role of the species as an artisanal fishery throughout the Caribbean region, the grouper’s value as a keystone predator and its impact on local reef health, its role in today’s tourism-based economy in the Cayman Islands, and the conservation challenges facing Nassau Grouper given steep declines in populations. 

In January, we conducted four live-feed webcasts - three topside chats with scientists and one from underwater at a coral reef site along Bloody Bay Wall. All webcasts are archived on YouTube on TheGrouperTeacherREEF channel online here. Over 200 students from 17 schools participated.

Several interesting video clips and stories from the field were posted on REEF's Facebook page.

The work of the Grouper Moon research project – a collaboration between REEF and the Cayman Island Department of Environment has led to fishing restrictions at the aggregation sites and an increase in numbers of the endangered fish. To find out more, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject. The Grouper Education Program is supported by a grant from the Disney Conservation Fund. In-kind logistics and technical support is provided by Peter Hillenbrand, Southern Cross Club, Little Cayman Beach Resort and Reef DiversCayman Airways, and FLOW Cayman.

Fish Tales from Our Members

"Did you ever have a fish experience that both excited and sadden you?"

That feeling recently happened to me at the dive site Kalli's Korner in Bonaire. My husband, Chile, and I were having a great day of diving with our friends Bryan and Phyllis McCauley in their boat, Pufferfish. Towards the end of our second dive that day, I noticed a pair of eyes peeping out of some coral rubble. As I watched suddenly a small eel darted out and raced few feet before hiding again. I was immediately intrigued and, using my rattle, got my buddy Phyllis' attention. Pointing out the location, we watched as once again the little conger eel slipped out of his cover and moved away. We slowly began to approach in hope of a better look. The process continued as we sought to identify him and he continued his trek. Each time we were able to get a bit closer and look for characteristics. Finally he seem comfortable enough to look at us, as we looked at him. Suddenly, a barred hamlet appeared above him and scooped him up. Imagine our shock and horror!!! Anger raced through my body and instinctually I reached for my dive knife and took off after that (blank blank) hamlet. The chase continued as the hamlet, with his full tummy, eluded me and viewed me as if to say 'why are you after me?' What was my plan I thought later? Well, I only know if I had caught the sucker, oops fish, he would have been disemboweled in the search for the little conger eel. The sound of laughter underwater reaches me. By this time, my dive buddy is in stitches as I sheepishly return. Later research found a margaintail conger that matched our descriptions. 

Now as I continue my search for what I hope are his companions, I will be keeping a wary eye out for hamlets in the surrounding area. So that’s my fish tale and now for the question: Should you report to REEF a fish, found, identified but not longer living in the underwater world?

You can bet I did.

 

REEF Parts - Things to Know (Oct 07)

Here are a few notes and news bits we'd like you to know about:

  • Catch up with REEF at DEMA! The biggest annual dive and travel trade show is in Orlando again this year from Wed. October 31 - Sat. November 3. REEF is at booth 1133 and is running 2 seminars on the new home-study DVD for Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas: Reef Fish Identification-A Beginning Course. We hope to see you there!
  • If you're lucky enough to be in the Dominican Republic this time of year, come say hi to REEF at the annual meeting of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) held November 5-9. REEF will be presenting findings on two artificial reef monitoring projects and Nassau grouper research through the REEF Grouper Moon Project. 
  • Keep an eye on your mailbox for /REEF Notes/, our annual print newsletter, coming soon!
  • Field Survey Update (2007-2008): Thanks to all who have made our 2007 Field Survey year a successful year with just a few trips left!

REEF Benefit A Success

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Suzanne Holmquist, Amy Slate, Peter and Alice Hughes and Evelyn McGlone enjoy a photo op. Photo by Matt Standal, Keys Weekly.
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Ned DeLoach, Leda Cunningham and Paul Humann gave presentations on REEF and new underwater wildlife photography. Photo by Matt Standal, Keys Weekly.

On Saturday, February 9, REEF hosted the first annual For the Love of the Sea benefit dinner and auction at Amy Slate's Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo, Florida. The event was a huge success! More than 150 guests attended a sold-out event, enjoying a picturesque sunset set to island music and the awe-inspriring underwater photography of authors and REEF founders, Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach. REEF raised more than $25,000 thanks to successful silent and live auctions and the generosity of event sponsors in the Keys and greater REEF community. Proceeds of the event will support ongoing citizen science projects to engage volunteers in marine conservation.

Many thanks to event sponsors for their support and to the local REEF "Fun Raisers" event planning committee. Please click here for more information on the event.

Bigger Than Ever – Lionfish Research Continues

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Lad Akins and Andy Dehart capture a lionfish during a recent REEF Lionfish Research Project. The lionfish was measured, tagged, and released. A team subsequently recaptured the lionfish to learn more about site fidelity and growth in this species.
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A juvenile lionfish recently found in Little Cayman by Dottie Benjamin, a local divemaster and avid REEF surveyor. REEF's program serves as an early warning program for the arrival of exotic species. Photo by Matt Lewis.
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REEF volunteers give the lionfish sign at Stuart Cove's Dive Bahamas in May

The recent invasion of Indo-Pacific lionfish into Atlantic waters has been causing great concern among researchers, marine park and fisheries managers, and divers. REEF, in partnership with Bahamian dive operators Stuart Cove and Bruce Purdy, NOAA, the United States Geological Service (USGS), the National Aquarium in Washington DC, the Bahamian Government and university groups, has spearheaded the field research for this rapidly expanding problem. As part of REEF’s Lionfish Research Program, over the last two years REEF has coordinated 12 research projects that have involved over 175 REEF volunteers. This research has generated a wealth of in-situ observations and over 1,000 lionfish specimens, which have led to great advances in the understanding of the biology and potential impacts of this most unwanted invader.

REEF’s most recent field project at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in May 2008, involving over 20 volunteers and researchers, found that the problem continues to get worse. The team gathered data on nearly 200 specimens of lionfish to determine relative abundance, size increases, reproductive status, growth rates, predator prey relationships and movement.  Findings included:

Lionfish continue to grow in size: Tagging data show growth rates exceeding 190mm/year, far larger than necessary to reach sexual maturity.

Site Fidelity: All 12 previously-tagged specimens that have been recaptured indicate strong site fidelity even after 6 months.

Prey: Lionfish continue to amaze us during stomach content studies. The recent effort turned up new records including two entire spotted goatfish, a large brown chromis, a small reef octopus, and even a small mollusk in its shell. Lionfishare eating nearly anything that will fit into their mouths.

Reproduction: Lionfish reproduction occurs throughout the year – many gravid females and a small recently settled juveniles have been found.

REEF’s future fieldwork will concentrate on lionfish movement, trap design, habitat preference, and local control measures. Our next project is scheduled to take place at Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas in Nassau from September 14-20. If you would like to help with our ongoing work please consider joining us as a field volunteer and/or making a contribution to REEF’s Exotic Species Program.

For more information on REEF’s Exotic Species Program, to volunteer on a future research project or to discuss funding opportunities, contact REEF Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins, Lad@reef.org.

REEF News Tidbits for October

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  • Just added to the REEF Online Store -- Columbia Sportswear Bonehead Long Sleeve REEF Shirts. These Performance Fishing Gear (PFG) long sleeve shirts provide protection from the sun and chilly waterfront breezes, with the flexibility to roll up your sleeves making it the perfect REEF Fish Survey attire. They are generously cut, 100% cotton, and discretely but proudly let the world know that you support REEF and Diving that Counts! Also recently added to the online REEF store -- Limited Edition Lionfish Print by Rogest and stylish REEF caps.
  • The Cozumel REEF Trip in December, which has been sold out for almost a year, just had 3 spaces open up. These trips are led by REEF Expert and Cozumel Naturalist, Sheryl Shea, and are extremely popular. Please give us a call for more information and to reserve your space 305-852-0030.
  • A special thanks to all the REEF members who volunteered at our DEMA booth -- Park Chapman, Andy Dehart, Chris Flook, Heather George, Stephanie Green and Sue Thompson, and to Evelyn McGlone and Janet Bartnicki for holding down the fort at REEF HQ. We couldn't have done it without you!
  • Please remember to support REEF during our Fall Fundraising campaign.
  • Cozumel 2008 Double REEF Week a Smashing Success!

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    The dwarf surfperch, a rare find, was added to the Cozumel species list by REEF surveyors during the 2008 Field Survey. Photo by Alex Griffin.
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    Some of the Cozumel trip participants.
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    Even more Cozumel trip participants.
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    Another rare find -- the dwarf frogfish, was found by Tracey Griffin a few days after all of the REEF trip was over. Photo by Don Moden.

    The annual REEF Cozumel Field Survey started out like all the rest, but there were so many folks anxiously waiting for a spot on the team that a second week was added. Then, several divers from the first week just couldn't tear themselves away and stayed over for the second week. So we ended up as just one big two-week team. So (whew!) we turned out around 225 surveys and our species list FINALLY topped 200!

    We had a lovely mix, once again, of Cozumel Field Survey regulars and some new faces. It's always so good to welcome back old REEF friends, meet new ones and together do our bit to help the ocean that we all love so much. For the first time, we missed a dive day due to sea conditions but those extraordinary REEFers were not about to daunted by a gale or two. Most made up their survey dives on other days and even did extra dives.

    Debby Bollag and Jamie Gigante made the giant leap from novice to expert fishwatchers. Welcome to the Advanced Assessment Team! A helpful addition to our classroom setup was a projector donated to REEF by Ray Bailey at Camcor.com.

    The reefs are really looking beautiful again after the double whammy of Hurricanes Emily & Wilma of 2005 - multicolored sponges, lettuce & finger corals which are home to juvenile and tiny fish are coming back strong. On some sites the Cherubfish have bounced back big-time, 75 were counted on Dalila Wall site. Bluelip & Greenblotch parrotfish are once again everywhere. Some Yellowline gobies were found, which had disappeared along with the tube sponges during hurricane Emily.

    A highlight of the week was the Dwarf Sand Perch - never previously reported in Cozumel. This fish hovers over the sand where you might find Harlequin Bass, and since they are both black and white, it would be easy to confuse them. They were later found at other dive sites since the initial sighting at Paradise Reef by Doug Harder. As usual we couldn't get Kenny Tidwell out of the water, so he added quite a few of those shore-loving species to the list like Reef Squirrelfish & Reef Scorpionfish. You never know what you might see diving in Cozumel - and of course as luck would have it, a week after the trip ended REEF member Tracey Griffin spotted a Dwarf Frogfish!

    As always, this trip is already filling up for 2009, so if you're interested it would be best to get your name on the list, and airfare to the area is really good right now. To find out more, visit the REEF Field Survey schedule. Please call 1-877-295-REEF (7333) to make your reservations or you can e-mail our dedicated REEF Travel Consultant at REEF@caradonna.com. Hope to see you all in Cozumel in December!

    NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program and Conservation Foundations Support REEF/SFU Lionfish Research Efforts

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    REEF's work in Puerto Rico and USVI aims to prevent reefs there from becoming infested with lionfish like this one in the Bahamas. Photo by Rich Carey.

    REEF is continuing our ground-breaking research and outreach on the lionfish invasion with projects in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The project is supported with funding from the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Grant and the Buck Island REEF National Park and long-time supporters Henry Foundation, Oceans Foundation and Munson Foundation. REEF researchers have teamed with Simon Fraser University (SFU) and will be collaborating with the St Croix Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to implement an 18 month project aimed at increasing awareness, conducting hands-on training and determining effectiveness of removal strategies to deal with the recent lionfish invasion.

    In August and October of this year project teams joined up with local dive operators, NGOs, and state and federal agencies to conduct numerous lionfish workshops and seminars as well as initiate studies of local reef areas. REEF volunteers and researchers from the National Aquarium, National Park Service, and SFU spent more than 24,000 minutes underwater conducting detailed surveys of 16 sites in each area. In addition, the team initiated meetings to develop response plans and increase awareness of local communities about the lionfish issue. REEF is looking for funding to continue this effort beyond the current December 2010 project endline. For more information or to contribute to this or other lionfish research efforts, contact lad Akins at Lad@reef.org or call (305) 852-0030.

    If you see a lionfish on a survey while in the western Atlantic, or any non-native species, please report it through REEF's Exotic Species Sightings form here -- http://www.reef.org/programs/exotic/report

    Youth Paint With Rogest To Benefit REEF

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    Members of Alki Elementary School proudly stand in front of their artwork being displayed and up for auction at the NW Dive and Travel Show.

    Internationally renowned marine artist, Ron Rogest Steven recently spent time with youth in Seattle, Washington, to create individual marine art paintings in Rogest's 'dotty' style. Over two days, 13 members of Alki Elementary School Girl Scout Troop #40766, painted whales, turtles, fish, and more. Their paintings were then on display and up for auction at the NW Dive & Travel Expo in Tacoma (WA), with proceeds benefiting REEF! During the show, several members of the troop met with REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, and Christy will also be visiting the elementary school to give a presentation on the marine life of the northwest.

    Through creating their artwork, students learned more about the marine life they choose to paint; discovered new ways to conserve; and found out how they can do more to protect what is right in their back yard. Rogest has championed the philosophy to “Think locally and act locally.” This philosophy is passionately shared by the members of this troop. These girls are some of the most socially responsible 8 and 9 year old junior citizens you'll ever meet. Caring, proactive future keepers of the flame, the girls are dedicated to the protection of animal friends above and below sea level. REEF was proud to be a part of this program and we greatly appreciate being included in Rogest's Kid’s Gallery Program.

    Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub