The Faces of REEF: Member Spotlight, Doug Harder

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One of Doug's favorite finds -- a sailfin blenny. Photo by Ned DeLoach.

REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 43,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Doug Harder (REEF member since 1996). Doug lives in Monument, Colorado, and has conducted 759 REEF surveys. Doug is a member of the Advanced Assessment Team in both the Tropical Western Atlantic and Hawaii. Here's what Doug had to say about REEF:

What inspires you to do REEF Surveys?

For me, jumping in the ocean with a slate is the ultimate, there is just nothing better. The ocean is always a mystery as to what I will find. Even if I have been on a site before, I have learned that the sea and its habitants are always changing and moving. I have become quite aware of the overall reef ecosystem and have learned about fish, such as where on the reef they live, how they behave, and what they eat. Are they vegetarians or are they carnivores, are they the hunters or the hunted, dine in or dine out?

What is your favorite fish find?

When I survey in the Caribbean I am always be on the lookout for the sailfin blenny, which is only 1 ½” long. It will flap its pectoral fins and wave its dorsal fin at me. How could you miss that fish? Then there is the 14’ manta ray off the island of Molokini, Hawaii, how do you compare?

In addition to doing surveys, what else do you appreciate about REEF?

Of course giving back to Mother Earth is a part of the good thing that REEF is. Looking after our mostly unknown and least observed animals on earth and trying to help scientist understand what is going on with the fish. That to me is what REEF really is and how it is helping. The fact that I get to be a part of it makes me feel lucky.

Any tips for surveyors out there?

Do you want to see more fish, the unusual fish, the hard to find fish? Well here is a tip for the REEFers -- be the first off the boat and the last one up. Unless of course I am on the boat, then second will work!

Have You Signed Up For a 2012 REEF Trip Yet?

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REEF Field Surveys are a great introduction to fish identification for novice fishwatchers, and are a fun way for experienced surveyors to build their life list while interacting with fellow fishwatchers. REEF staff, board members, and other REEF instructors lead these trips, and each features daily classroom seminars and a full diving schedule. Don't miss out, spaces are filling up for our 2012 trips. The schedule and more details are posted online at www.REEF.org/trips. We have an exciting lineup of destinations planned and we hope you will join us. 2012 destinations and dates:

  • Nevis, April 21-28, led by Christy Pattengill-Semmens
  • Belize, lionfish expedition aboard the SunDancer II, May 26-June 2, led by Lad Akins and Peter Hughes
  • San Blas Islands in Panama, June 9-16 and June 16-23, led by Paul Humann
  • Dominica, lionfish research trip, July 14-21, led by Lad Akins
  • San Salvador in the Bahamas, July 29 - August 4, led by Paul Humann
  • Sea of Cortez/Baja Mexico, aboard the Rocio del Mar, September 22-29, led by Christy and Brice Semmens
  • Hornby Island in British Columbia*, September 26-30, led by Janna Nichols
  • Bermuda, October 6-13, led by Ned and Anna DeLoach
  • British Virgin Islands, aboard the Cuan Law, November 11-17, led by Heather George
  • Cozumel, December 1-8, led by Tracey Griffin
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    To inquire about a trip and to reserve your spot, contact the REEF Travel Consultant at Caradonna, 1-877-295-7333 (REEF), or via e-mail REEF@caradonna.com. *Hornby Island trip is being booked directly with the resort; contact owner/operator Amanda at info@hornbyislanddiving.com, or 250-335-2807.

    Top of the Charts: Survey Stats, February 2012

    A big fish thanks to the 222 volunteers who conducted REEF surveys in the last three months (Dec '11-Feb '12). A total of 1,746 surveys were conducted and submitted during this time!

    REEF members who have conducted the most surveys in the last three months:

    TWA – Dee Scarr (78), Franklin Neal (45), Michael Phelan (43)

    NE – Joseph Mangiafico (13), Michael Murphy (5), Eric Heupel (5)

    PAC – Randall Tyle (38), Phil Green (32), Georgia Arrow (15)

    TEP – Pam Wade (20)

    HAW – Judith Tarpley (41), MJ Farr (35), Patricia Richardson (30)

    To date, 157,298 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.

    Remembering Mike Phelan

    One of Mike's passions was studying and protecting the aggregation of Goliath Grouper near his home in Jupiter.

    We are saddened to share news about the passing of one of our most active REEF members, Mike Phelan, earlier this month in Jupiter, FL. Mike's enthusiasm for fishcounting was infectious and he often taught fish ID. He had participated in many REEF projects and was a member of our Advanced Assessment Team. REEF co-founder, Paul Humann, remembers Mike’s unsurpassed passion for marine life and conservation. "REEF's database is much more meaningful thanks to Mike's contribution of nearly 1,500 fish surveys over the last 14 years. Working with State of Florida officials he did a great deal of volunteer research on the Goliath Groupers and wrote several scientific reports. His information was used as part of the government decision-making process to continue the Goliath's protection as an endangered species. On one of his last dives he counted 114 Goliath Groupers in a single aggregation, the largest ever recorded. As a personal friend, I along with everyone that knew Mike will miss him greatly - as will the Goliath Groupers who have lost one of their staunchest advocates."

    REEF Director of Special Projects and original Executive Director, Lad Akins, regarded Mike as a top-notch team member and an all around great person. "Mike Phelan was a friend of REEF and a friend of mine. If I had to pick a team for anything, Mike would be one of the first I’d pick. He was a joy to be around – always quick in wit and a true professional in his approach to almost any situation. I first met Mike on a REEF fish survey trip in 1998. He quickly became a mainstay of REEF fish survey activities and achieved Golden Hamlet status with over 1,000 fish survey dives. His dedication to protecting marine resources, especially Goliath Grouper, was widely known and his efforts were far reaching in helping to better understand this keystone species. Mike was certainly a member of the REEF family and we’ll miss him much."

    Mike will be sorely missed in the REEF community. Our thoughts and sympathies go out to his wife and their children. If you would like to read more about Mike's efforts with REEF, you can read the monthly member spotlight that featured him in June 2011. Mike's obituary and remembrance page is posted here.

    Visit REEF at a Dive Show This Year

    We have a full line-up of dive show appearances planned this year. If you are in the area of one of these shows, please stop by the REEF booth to find out what new and exciting things are happening. In 2013, we will be at: Our World Underwater (Chicago, February 15-17), Beneath the Sea (NJ/NY, March 22-23), Northwest Dive & Travel Expo (WA, April 20-21), and Northern California Dive & Travel Expo (Bay Area CA, May 11-12). We are always looking for volunteers to help at the booth. If you are interested in being a REEF ambassador, contact Martha at martha@REEF.org.

    Putting It To Work: Two Papers Published Using REEF Data From Monterey Peninsula, California

    A Young-of-theYear rockfish. Photo by Janna Nichols.
    A member of the Pacific Advanced Assessment Team conducting a REEF Survey in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo by Pete Naylor.

    We are pleased to share the publication of two new scientific papers that utilize data collected by REEF volunteers in the Monterey Peninsula area of California. Co-authored by REEF Pacific Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) member, John Wolfe, and REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, the companion papers were published earlier this summer in the journal CalCOFI Reports. The first paper, Estimating Fish Populations From REEF Citizen Science Volunteer Diver Order-of-Magnitude Surveys, describes several mathematical models to convert order-of-magnitude count data (the type of data collected during REEF Roving Diver Technique surveys) to a numeric mean. The second paper, Fish Population Fluctuation Estimates Based on Fifteen Years of REEF Volunteer Diver Data For the Monterey Peninsula, California, used the best-performing model technique to evaluate population trends in rocky reef fish species along the Monterey Peninsula. Over 3,000 REEF surveys have been conducted in this region over the last 15 years. Many of these data were collected during an annual project within the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary conducted with the help of members of the Pacific AAT. Changes in relative density over time were reported for 18 fish species, including several fisheries-targeted species. Strong concordance was also found between REEF data and those collected by Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO), a consortium of academic institutions. Results showed that data collected by REEF have great potential to augment and strengthen professional research data and serve as a valuable baseline to evaluate marine reserves. Both of these papers can be found on the REEF Publications page here - www.REEF.org/db/publications (as well as downloadable from the CalCOFI Reports webpage).

    Upcoming Fishinars Include Guest Instructors, Ray Troll and Dr. Milton Love

    Marine life artist and author, Ray Troll, will be giving a REEF Fishinar on April 16th

    Our 2014 Fishinar schedule is off to a great start! We've got lots of exciting, fun, and educational REEF Fishinars in store for you this year - featuring your favorite instructors and special guests alike. Check out the full schedule at www.REEF.org/fishinars. Fishinars coming up include:

    • Top 25 Fish of Roatan - Special ScubaBoard Session - Jonathan Lavan, March 20th
    • Butterflies and Angels: Kings and Queens of the Reef - Jonathan Lavan, April 1st
    • A Few Mind-Blowing Fish Every Ichthyo-Geek Should Know About - Ray Troll, April 16th
    • What I Did On My Fall Vacation – Research on the Fishes of Southern California Oil/Gas Platforms - Dr. Milton Love, April 22nd

    REEF Fishinars are a free benefit of REEF membership, and did you know that REEF members can also access and view any of our archived Fishinars from previous years? A great way for new fish surveyors to learn, or for experienced fish surveyors to brush up on their ID skills.

    Explore our Fishinar webpage, register for the sessions you like, and we'll see you online!

    The Faces of REEF: Janet Eyre

    Happy after doing a survey in Fiji.
    Janet with fellow "fish nerds" Doug Harder and Kreg Martin.
    Surveying in Hawaii.
    The amazing Madarinfish. Photo by Luc Viatour.
    Checking over her data after a dive.

    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 Janet Eyre. Janet has been a REEF member since 2002, and has conducted 1,125 surveys. She is on the Advanced Assessment Team as an Expert Surveyor in four of REEF’s regions! Janet happily describes herself as a true fish nerd, and she has taken a lead role in assisting with REEF’s expansions to the tropical western Pacific. Here's what Janet had to say about REEF:

    When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member?

    A letter from REEF in 2001 was my first exposure to the organization. The letter mentioned the Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) Expert Surveyor program and I remember thinking “wow, that would be cool to dive, count fish, AND do something good for the planet all at the same time.” So, on my next dive trips to the Caribbean in 2002 and 2003, with Reef Fish Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas in hand, I started doing REEF surveys. On my first REEF Field Survey Trip, to Belize in 2003, I tested into the Caribbean AAT. I also started doing surveys in Hawaii, and ended up as an Expert AAT surveyor there in 2004. I have conducted the majority of my surveys on the Kona Coast of the Big Island (Hawaii) where I am lucky to be able to dive with a group of like-minded friends and professionals at Jack’s Diving Locker. We all love diving deep as well as bobbing around in the surge zone in the search for as many species as possible on every dive.

    Do you have a favorite REEF highlight or experience to share?

    Even before REEF officially started the Survey Project in the South Pacific, I had been sending in the species lists from my Pacific trips. Now that the South Pacific is a “REEF Zone,” I have attained the top surveyor status in that region. The highlight of my REEF survey “career” came on the Field Survey Trip to Fiji in May 2013 when I counted 233 species on one dive! What a rush that was! It was also on that trip that I did my 1,000th REEF survey, so it was a double- milestone trip.

    What inspires you to complete REEF surveys?

    I come by my “fish nerdiness” honestly – my parents and grandparents were all birders. I never got into that, but once I started diving I was fascinated by identifying the fish, which I realize is basically underwater birding. I can (and do) spend hours just “reading” fish ID books.

    Surveying for REEF is a passion for me because it satisfies me on several different fronts – (1) challenging me to find as many fish on a dive as I can, (2) giving me a reason and the means to learn to identify more fish, (3) doing something good for the planet, and (4) making each and every dive a new adventure (which gets harder and harder to do after 1,700 dives).

    Do you have a favorite fish find or a fish quest?

    One of my favorite fish is the Mandarinfish – its color pattern is just so incredible and gorgeous! I get a total charge out of seeing any “new-to-me” species but there are some fish I really would like to see – Psychedelic Frogfish, Gurnard Lionfish, Helfrich’s Dartfish, and Mola Mola (Sunfish) are at the top of that list.

    Last Chance to Donate and Receive Limited Edition Print of Goliath Grouper

    Thank you to everyone who supported REEF during our annual fundraising campaign! With your help, we raised enough to continue our critical marine conservation programs in 2015. These programs make a huge IMPACT worldwide and protect iconic species, such as Goliath Grouper, Nassau Grouper, manta and mobula rays, parrotfish, and rockfish. REEF also protects ocean habitats through addressing invasive species like the Indo-pacific Red lionfish.

    Saturday, February 28th is the last chance to donate to REEF's annual fundraising campaign - and receive my limited edition Goliath Grouper print. For more information on how I captured this amazing moment, please check out www.REEF.org/impact. Don't miss this opportunity to share a once in a lifetime moment I was lucky enough to witness with these gentle giants of the sea.

    Thank you again for your support! We rely on individual donors so we can provide quality data to researchers and scientists who are exploring our underwater world. With your help, I look forward to another year of ocean adventure and discovery!

    Putting it to Work: New Publication Updating Fishes of Alligator Reef in the Florida Keys

    Tessellated Blenny, Hypsoblennius invemar, one of the 41 species added to the species inventory of Alligator Reef as part of the publication. Photo by Carlos Estapé.
    Allison Estapé, one of the paper's co-authors surveying in the Florida Keys. Photo by Carlos Estapé.
    Spotfin Jawfish, Opistognathus robins, one of the 41 species added to the species inventory of Alligator Reef as part of the publication. Photo by Carlos Estapé.
    Carlos and Allison Estapé, active REEF volunteers and co-authors on a new paper on the Fishes of Alligator Reef.

    We are excited to share a new publication recently co-authored by active REEF volunteers, Carlos and Allison Estapé. Carlos and Allison are members of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team and were honored as REEF's Volunteers of the Year in 2013. In that same year, Carlos and Allison became aware of an extensive historical study that had been conducted documenting the fishes of Alligator Reef, which happened to be their "home" reef. From 1958-67, Walter A. Starck II conducted marine biological studies and fish collection efforts in the area of Alligator Reef, off of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. In 1968, he published A List of Fishes of Alligator Reef.

    After reading Stark's study, Carlos and Allison undertook a four-year census of the fishes of the area with a goal to photo-document as many of their sightings as possible. This effort subsequently entailed 1,039 combined dives devoted to fish counts, photographic documentation, or both. During these surveys, they photographed 278 of the species reported by Starck (1968) plus 35 additional and/or newly described or reclassified species not recorded in the earlier study. During this time, Carlos and Allison started working with Dr. Stark to update the classic publication. The updated paper was published in Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation in August 2017.

    An update of the checklist of fishes of Alligator Reef and environs some fifty years later provides an unparalleled opportunity to evaluate the species richness for a limited reef area, as well as a unique opportunity to explore changes in diversity over a half-century time scale. In the updated study, the authors added 107 species and subtracted 5 from the original total of 516 species: thus the checklist now totals 618 species, of 122 families, the most recorded for any similarly sized area in the New World. The additional species records are made up from a number of subsequent collections as well as from Carlos and Allison's sightings. Over the half-century since the original Alligator Reef survey, there have been great advances in the taxonomy of Greater Caribbean reef fishes, with numerous changes in scientific names and classification. These changes were addressed in the updated publication so as to bring the list to current status.

    The authors used the REEF database for analysis and comparison including three photos from Ed Martin, also a REEF member. REEF maintains an online database of worldwide visual fish-count surveys conducted by volunteer researchers and fish-count enthusiasts. While such surveys can be biased towards easily observed species, they are indicative for a large portion of the reef fish fauna and comprise a valuable source of comparative information (Schmitt & Sullivan 1996, Pattengill-Semmens & Semmens 2003, Holt et al. 2013). The local REEF data includes that of the Estapés, who have conducted 185 roving-diver REEF surveys on Alligator Reef. An additional 1,807 surveys at 94 sites in the study area have also been conducted by other REEF volunteers (as of July, 3, 2016).

    To view a link to the Stark and Estapé paper, as well as all other publications that have included REEF data and projects, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications.

    Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub