ORLANDO, Fla. - The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) last week presented its Blue Diver award to retired schoolteacher Lillian Kenney for her conservation work through scuba diving. Kenney conducted the 100,000th fish population survey of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project, a conservation initiative that enlists divers to collect census data on fish. The award was presented at the DEMA Show in Orlando, the dive industry’s largest trade show.
Kenney is one of 10,000 volunteers who have contributed more than 4,000,000 fish sightings to the Fish Survey Project, now in its thirteenth year. The Project trains divers to collect information on marine life throughout the coastal Americas, the Caribbean and Hawaiian Islands and the tropical eastern Pacific. REEF works with scientists, government agencies and conservation organizations to facilitate use of the data in research, resource management and public education.
“There are lots of awards for ‘green’ conservation initiatives on land,” said REEF Executive Director, Leda Cunningham. “Lillian’s Blue Diver award recognizes the contributions of all divers to preserving the ‘blue’ environment by providing much-needed information about what happens below the ocean’s surface.”
“When we started REEF 15 years ago, we had no idea it would get this big this fast.” added Paul Humann, REEF co-founder and marine life photographer. DEMA recognized Humann for contributions to the sport of scuba diving.
REEF is an international marine conservation organization that engages scuba divers and other marine enthusiasts in citizen science and conservation. Since 1993, REEF volunteers have contributed data on distributions, abundances and trends of marine organisms that fills in the gaps for large-scale monitoring initiatives with limited resources. Other REEF conservation science projects include the Grouper Moon Project, which studies reproductive behavior of the endangered Nassau grouper in the Caribbean, and an exotic species reporting project.
“I am honored,” said Lillian. “There’s a limited number of scientists and grant money to survey [fishes of] the world. If you have citizens helping out wherever they are, it adds valuable data that scientists wouldn’t have funds or the time to go out and collect. I feel like I’m contributing to science and I’m having a lot of fun!"
REEF manages the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and other conservation initiatives out of its headquarters office in Key Largo, Florida and satellite office in Seattle, Washington. For more information, visit www.reef.org.