REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) has announced its 2012 Volunteer of the Year recipient, Jonathan Lavan. Lavan joined REEF in 2004 and since then, has logged 324 REEF fish surveys and become a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Teams for both the Tropical Western Atlantic and Pacific Coast survey regions, gathering key data on marine fish and invertebrate populations for REEF's publically accessible online database. He has submitted surveys in five of REEF's six regions.
Lavan's involvement with REEF has been instrumental in spreading the word about REEF and its programs. In 2012, he helped to expand the Volunteer Fish Survey project by instructing for REEF's online webinars, called Fishinars. His background in theatre, sense of humor and teaching style quickly made his Fishinars popular with both new and experienced fishwatchers. He has also assisted by serving as an administrator for REEF's experience level tests.
As a former diver and staff member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and a current diver at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Lavan actively seeks opportunities to educate others about marine life, conservation and REEF. He is often a guest speaker at dive clubs and shows, and especially enjoys educating youth.
An avid underwater photographer, he uses his images gathered over the past 10 years to educate others about marine life, and many of his photos appear in art shows as well as online resources such as FishBase, Encyclopedia of Life, the Florida Museum of Natural History, and more. Lavan has also written several articles for online underwater photography publications.
Selecting just one outstanding volunteer each year is difficult. REEF volunteers are the cornerstone of the organization. The success of REEF’s marine conservation programs are in many ways dependent on our dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. They are central to the REEF Volunteer Survey Project, in which over 12,000 divers and snorkelers have submitted their sightings information to create the largest marine life database in the world. To date, over 168,000 surveys have been submitted.