Citizen Scientists Converge in Monterey (CA) to Document Ocean Populations

RELEASE DATE
06/17/2009
CONTACT
Christy Semmens PhD, REEF Director of Science, (206) 910-4822, christy@reef.org Cyndi Dawson, Reef Check California Director of Science, (831) 331-5189 cdawson@reefcheck.org John Wolfe, REEF Advanced Assessment Team, (510) 812-9313, john.wolfe@tippingmar.com

On Saturday morning, June 20, SCUBA divers will converge on Coral Street Cove, a popular dive site in Pacific Grove, to collect marine life population information on the nearshore rocky reefs. The surveys are part of two citizen science programs that train volunteer recreational SCUBA divers and snorkelers to conduct field surveys - REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation, www.reef.org) and Reef Check (www.reefcheck.org). The survey methods of both organizations differ in complexity and training required to conduct surveys. Both groups produce important information that helps better understand and monitor California’s coastal ecosystems and increases awareness about the value of healthy ocean ecosystems.

Reef Check divers, led by Cyndi Dawson, Director of Science, will meet at 8:00am. Diving along thirty meter transect lines, divers previously certified by Reef Check’s California program (RCCA), will count the number of 73 “indicator species” of fishes, invertebrates, and seaweeds; record sizes of economically or ecologically important species such as urchin and abalone; as well as characterizing the sea floor habitat. The Coral Street survey is part of RCCA’s partnership with state agencies and academic institutions to monitor 65 reefs located from Eureka to San Diego. Upcoming training opportunities for divers to join RCCA’s efforts are posted on the Reef Check website.

The REEF program at Coral Street, which will be led by John Wolfe, REEF Advanced Assessment Team volunteer, will begin at 9:30am. Experienced REEF surveyors will be paired with divers new to fish and invertebrate identification and REEF survey methods. Two dives focusing on learning fish identification will be conducted. In the afternoon, following the dives, Gil Falcone, Senior Dive Safety Officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and John, will present a seminar on underwater identification of local marine fish species at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. All interested divers are welcome to participate in both the dives and the free afternoon workshop. The day’s activities are kick-off events for REEF’s Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC, www.fishcount.org), held every July and modeled after the Audubon Society’s annual bird counts. Additional REEF fish and invertebrate identification seminars and dives, organized as part of the GAFC, have been scheduled in California in June and July and are posted online.

Reef Check and REEF play a critical role around the world building educated communities engaged in monitoring their local marine resources. These citizen science organizations not only build long-term databases of marine life, but also deepen divers’ knowledge and appreciation of the underwater world they explore. Both groups post their data online (http://ned.reefcheck.org/map.php and http://www.reef.org/db/reports) and make the datasets available to researchers, government agencies, and all other interested parties.

RCCA has trained over 300 citizen scientists in California since 2006, and monitors 65 rocky reefs from Eureka to San Diego. Reef Check has completed 6,440 surveys at 3,201 sites around the world since 1997. Over 1,300 REEF volunteers have conducted 15,200 surveys at 1,139 sites from British Columbia (Canada) though California; 6,000 of those surveys have been conducted in California. The world-wide REEF Volunteer Survey program has generated over 128,000 surveys.

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