The Faces of REEF: 2011 Volunteer of the Year, Heather George

REEF proudly names Heather George as our 2011 Volunteer of the Year. Since becoming a member nearly a decade ago, Heather has conducted 192 REEF surveys throughout the world and is a member of the Advanced Assessment Team in the Tropical Western Atlantic and Hawaii. In 2010, Heather joined the volunteer research team for the Grouper Moon Project. Through the years, she has conducted fish identification trainings for dive shops and aquaria and has led several REEF Field Survey Trips. Heather also served on the REEF Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2010 and brought a wealth of knowledge about fundraising and membership development to the organization. In 2011, Heather assisted with the expansion of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project to the South Pacific as part of the field team to American Samoa. When Heather is not underwater looking at fishes or teaching others about the joys of fish watching, she is helping other ocean-related organizations such as the Aquarium of the Pacific and the Waterkeeper Alliance. We are so grateful to have a wonderful volunteer who contributes to REEF in so many ways. Thank you, Heather!

Outstanding in their Field: Featured REEF Field Station, Scuba Obsession

REEF is proud to partner with over 270 dive shops, dive clubs, individuals, and other organizations as REEF Field Stations. For more information on how to find one near you, or to become a Field Station in your area, visit the Field Station Directory.

This month we feature Scuba Obsession, Al Audet's independent instruction business located in Melbourne Florida. Al was introduced to the wonderful world of fish identification through a class through He attended as many classes as he could, and through the help of outstanding instructors and guides, he was hooked. He decided to incorporate fish ID into his teaching repertoire, and signed up as a REEF Field Station in November 2009.

Instructors have a lot of influence on their new open water students, and Al steers them toward fish ID all along the way. During the last Open Water dive, he normally takes his waterproof Fish-In-A-Pocket guide and points the fish they see on their dive out to the students. As his students move on to their Advanced Open Water courses (of which they can choose some that match their interests), he always encourages them to select Fish ID as one of their Adventure Dives. During the class, they learn about fish ID, do REEF survey dives together, and then are encouraged to join REEF and enter their data.

Al feels that the east coast of Florida is a great place to engage divers in fish ID. "The east coast of Florida has some of the best diving in the world. You never know what you're going to see. We also have the most popular muck dive in the world - the Blue Heron Bridge. You'll find fish under the bridge that you won't see any place else in Florida."

Al employs several different teaching techniques for his students. He offers Fish ID classes regularly and also attends REEF Fishinars, which he touted as one of REEF's best programs. He has also put together a video for his Fish ID students, online and available for viewing here:

One of Al's most exciting moments during a dive was when he was teaching a Fish ID Adventure dive for an Advanced Open Water class off Jupiter, FL. The boat captain gave them a sand drop, so after a few minutes of looking for the reef, the dive guide decided to ascend. On the way up... they looked up, and realized they were ascending into a whale shark! One of Al's students described it best, "I looked up, and I thought I saw the boat. Then I saw the fins." Thanks Al and Scuba Obsession for serving as a REEF Field Station!

Putting It to Work: Who's Using REEF Data, June 2013

Goliath Grouper and a REEF Surveyor. REEF sightings data for Goliath Grouper are critical to scientists and government agencies working to protect and manage this important species. Photo by Armando Jenik.

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 researcher from University of British Columbia is using REEF data to evaluate the efficacy of marine reserves in Canadian waters.

- A researcher from Florida State University has requested REEF data to study Goliath Grouper populations in Florida.

- A student at Coastal Carolina University is using data to study fish populations at Discovery Bay in Jamaica.

- Scientists from NOAA Fisheries and Scripps Institution of Oceanography are using data from multiple monitoring programs, including REEF, to evaluate new methods of evaluating population trends in fisheries.

Support REEF While Shopping on Amazon

Do you shop on Amazon? If so, we encourage you to use Amazon Smile. It's the same Amazon experience, same products, prices, and service. And a portion of your purchases will be donated to REEF.

Go to and select Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Inc. as your selected charity (or go directly to Thank you!

Putting It To Work: New Publication on Nassau Grouper Populations in the Caribbean

A Nassau Grouper at the spawning aggregation on Little Cayman, which is the focus of research in REEF's Grouper Moon Project. Photo by Christy Pattengill-Semmens.

REEF Grouper Moon scientists co-authored a recent groundbreaking paper in the journal PLoS One that highlights the importance of regional conservation efforts aimed at spawning aggregations in the Caribbean. This study evaluated genetic connectedness between Nassau Grouper populations throughout the Caribbean using DNA markers. The authors obtained genetic tissue samples from 620 Nassau Grouper from 19 sites across 9 countries, including the Cayman Islands. They found evidence for strong genetic differentiation among Nassau Grouper subpopulations throughout the Caribbean. These results suggest that, despite a lack of physical barriers, Nassau Grouper form multiple distinct sub-populations in the Caribbean Sea. Oceanography (regional currents, eddies) likely plays an important role in retaining larvae close to spawning sites at both local and regional spatial scales. These findings highlight the importance of conservation initiatives such at REEF's Grouper Moon program in the Cayman Islands. A PDF of the paper is available online here. You can see a complete list of all scientific papers that have included data from REEF programs at

The full citation of the paper is: Jackson AM, Semmens BX, Sadovy de Mitcheson Y, Nemeth RS, Heppell SA, et al. (2014) Population Structure and Phylogeography in Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus), a Mass-Aggregating Marine Fish. PLoS ONE 9(5): e97508. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0097508

New Tropical Western Atlantic Survey Paper

Are you an experienced REEF surveyor in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)? If so, you might want to check out our brand new underwater survey paper featuring an extended list of species. The double-sided list fits on the regular yellow slate. The longer list of species means less write-in species and more efficient data entry. When entering your data, just select the longer list in the "Species View" field at the top of the data entry field. You can find the new paper in REEF's online store here - The store also includes new paper for our Central Indo-Pacific and South Pacific/Fiji regions, along with handy ID guides, and REEF gear!

The Faces of REEF: Doug Biffard

Doug checking out a Red Irish Lord during a survey. Photo by Pete Naylor.
Doug with a little Northern Abalone.
China Rockfish. Photo by Janna Nichols.

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 Doug Biffard, a REEF member since 2000. An active surveyor who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Doug has conducted 455 surveys to date and is a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team for the Pacific region. Here's what he had to say about REEF:

How did you become involved with REEF?

Back in the 1990s I joined in on Vancouver Aquarium’s annual Lingcod Egg Mass Survey (still an active event). I learned through aquarium connections that REEF and Living Oceans Society were planning training sessions for the recently-developed Pacific Northwest protocol in 1999. I signed up for the Victoria session lead by Susan Francis, one of the first trainers for the Pacific Northwest region.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?

The really great thing about REEF is the people involved. Dana Haggarty, the young scientist that designed the PNW species list was a real inspiration to me. Janna Nichols, who I met early on as part of the AAT, is the enthusiastic and creative outreach coordinator. And then there are the people who I meet when we travel to the Caribbean on REEF survey trips, like expert surveyor Kenny Tidwell, who has become a good friend with whom I share a passion for fish, nature, and getting outside.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?

Most of my diving is around Victoria BC. We have a huge variety of diving here, from high current sites, walls, reefs, kelp beds, to sand flats. We often encounter seals and sea lions, which can be lots of fun and slightly intimidating.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why?

My favourite fish is the China Rockfish. When I started diving in the 70’s we would often see this fish in the Strait of Georgia, but now they are rarely observed. With increased marine conservation awareness through programs like REEF, I hope to see the China Rockfish return to my old dive sites. One of my favourite invertebrates to find is the Northern Abalone. In contrast, this invertebrate was over-exploited in the 70s and 80s. Harvest for this species was prohibited 20 years ago and now we are starting to see good numbers of juveniles at many dive sites. It is quite a joy to see a little abalone cruising along a reef of pink algae.

What is your most memorable fish find and why?

My most cherished memory of a fish find happened while diving with my wife, Bev (also a REEF surveyor) at a local dive site. Bev spotted what she thought was a common Bay Pipefish, and quickly drew my attention to it. After the dive, Bev asked why I squealed underwater, I explained she had found a fish I have been looking for since I was a young boy -- a very rarely spotted Quillfish!

Come See REEF at a Dive Show

Heading to any dive shows this spring? Check out the list of dive shows that REEF will be attending:

  • Our World Underwater in Chicago, IL, February 26-28
  • Boston Sea Rovers in Boston, MA, March 5-6
  • Beneath the Sea in Secaucus, NJ, April 1-3
  • SCUBA Show in Long Beach, CA, June 4-5

We hope to see you at the shows this year. Make sure to visit the REEF booth to say hello and check the seminar list for REEF presentations!

Fishinars This Summer - Learn About Bermuda Fishes and more

A "redback" wrasse, the unique looking Yellowhead Wrasse found in Bermuda. Learn about this and more in the Fishinar this summer with Ned and Anna DeLoach. Photo by Ned DeLoach.
Learn all about porgy and chub with Carlos and Allison Estape, in their Fishinar. Photo by Paul Humann.

Even though it's summer, we aren't slowing down on our Fishinar series ( We have two great sessions planed, reviewing fishes of the Virgin Islands and Bermuda!

  • Thursday, July 14th - Less Frequently Seen Fish of Virgin Gorda with Janna Nichols
  • Tuesday, August 30th - Fishes of Bermuda with Ned and Anna DeLoach

And later this year, we have even more on the schedule.

  • Thursday, September 8th - Underwater Residents of Barkley Sound, BC with Janna Nichols
  • Thursday, September 15th - Don't Forget the Chubs and Progies! with Carlos and Allison Estape
  • Wednesday, September 21st - Common Fishes of Micronesia with Christy Pattengill-Semmens
  • Tuesday, October 4th - Sea Saba Underwater with Jonathan Lavan
  • Wednesday, November 2nd - Digging Into Data: How to Use REEF's Database
  • Monday, Novemer 14th - Hawaii: Life in the Sand with Christy Pattengill-Semmens

Everyone, including divers, snorkelers, and devout landlubbers, is welcome to join in these free, online webinars. You don't need any special equipment (other than your computer or mobile device) to log on and join in. Be sure to visit to look over the entire 2016 schedule, get more details, and register for your favorite ones. We record all sessions for later viewing, and our archives are available for free viewing for REEF members.

Learn All About Chubs and Porgies During This Month's Fishinar

A Saucereye Porgy, one of the many species that Carlos and Allison will cover at the Fishinar this month! Photo by Paul Humann.

2016 wraps up with one more REEF Fishinar - this time by Carlos and Allison Estapé about those pesky look-alike Caribbean Chubs and Porgies. Join us December 15th at 8pm Eastern time for this live, online session. If you've never been to a REEF Fishinar, we welcome everyone! It's free, of course, and you'll have one hour of fun, camaraderie and learning. And keep an eye out for a brand new schedule of great Fishinars coming to you in 2017. While we have some of them already scheduled, we'll have the complete schedule posted soon!

Register here and be sent automatic reminders:

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