Key Largo, FL. On November 4, 2002, the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) surpassed a long awaited milestone. On that date, the 50,000th volunteer fish survey was entered into the REEF database! REEF's Field Operations Coordinator, Leslie Whaylen reports "When I was hired by REEF in 1999, approximately 20,000 surveys were housed in REEF's database. Each year, the numbers of surveyors and surveys have increased exponentially". Historically, most surveys were conducted during the Great Annual Fish Count and REEF Field Surveys. But now, REEF receives surveys throughout the year from dedicated divers and snorkelers that are surveying almost every time they go diving. Adding to the swell of incoming surveys are the expansions of the Fish Survey Project to new regions such as the Tropical Eastern Pacific, Hawaii, and Northeast US and Canada as well as an invertebrate monitoring project in the US and Canadian Pacific Northwest.
Currently, more than 2,000 surveys pour into the REEF office each month. Each data form is processed, reviewed, scanned, quality checked, and finally uploaded to REEF's database. All data are publicly accessible and searchable through REEF's Website at http://www.reef.org/.
"If a picture says a thousand words, what does 50,000 surveys say?" asks Dr. Steve Gittings, Science Coordinator for NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary program. "Dedication is what it says! I think it says REEF is doing some of the best volunteer work of any citizen-based organization on the planet! It never ceases to amaze me the dedication of REEF members to providing quality information on the world they love. These first 50,000 REEF fish surveys and REEF's 24,000 members say that the ocean is still worth exploring, still worth the investment, and still worth fighting for, with REEF and its members in the front lines!"
Divers of all experience levels are encouraged to join REEF. Membership is free and members can view their life species list and practice their identification skills through regional learning quizzes on the site. Survey and training materials for each region are also available online.
REEF staff would like to thank all REEF members who continue to contribute to the world's largest database of marine life sightings and are looking forward to seeing even more surveys come through the office over the next year. If you would like to find out more about the REEF Fish Survey Program or to join REEF, please feel free to contact the organization at P O Box 246, Key Largo, Fl 33037, visit the website at www.reef.org, or call (305) 852-0030.
Reef Environmental Education Foundation is a grass-roots, non-profit organization comprised of recreational divers and snorkelers who regularly conduct fish surveys during their dives. The data collected by REEF members are used to track marine life populations, assist in the evaluation of management decisions, and educate the public about marine resources.