REEF Marine Conservation Internship Summaries

Spring 2004

Josh Wittmer came to REEF from Allegheny College. He feels that his time with REEF provided invaluable opportunities for personal growth and career development. Learning the daily operations of an environmental nonprofit business, sharpening his teaching and presentation skills, learning how to use a Nikonos, and expanding his knowledge of Caribbean fishes were the highlights of his tenure with REEF. Working alongside the REEF staff and volunteers showed him that dedication and hard work mean a lot in the marine conservation world. In addition to the day-to-day office duties of a REEF intern, Josh worked on the 2nd annual Earth Day fish count challenge, taught middle school students about fish at the Dolphin Research Center for earth day, completed his dive master certification and became a Level 5 Expert REEF surveyor.

Fall 2003

Ellen Minichiello took leave from her Teacher/Naturalist position with Mass Audubon and freelance work in order to concentrate on the marine ecosystem. She was able to incorporate her love of diving and acquired her Advanced Open Water and Divemaster Certifications. As a cold-water diver, she was given the unexpected and perfect opportunity to partake in a field survey on the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary in California. It proved to be a HUGE added bonus! The Giant Kelp Forest is now a life experience she can share with students and teachers.

Learning the Florida Keys Reef fish, the survey process and sites, office procedures, volunteering with National Marine Sanctuaries Coral Reef Classroom, and maintaining a weekly journal was challenging but exciting. Still, Ellen felt like she could not waste a day of this internship. She snorkeled in the Tarpon Basin Mangroves on days off, which introduced her to another incredible habitat and provided her first sightings of a seahorse and a manatee in the wild! Helping choose appropriate photographs for Artificial Reef Monitoring projects, writing a field trip summary and the Fish of the Month articles for the website were rewarding. Being enlightened about the Grouper Moon Project (and reading that great book!) has inspired Ellen to offer future workshops that will incorporate Grouper conservation efforts.

Intern volunteer opportunities with the Florida Native Plant Society connected Ellen to many like-minded individuals while pulling invasives in the Everglades. She absorbed a great deal of knowledge on many diverse environmental issues, and ongoing restoration projects. Ellen feels strongly that the wide range of experiences REEF has provided, will have far-reaching positive effects through her outreach and public programming within the Environmental Education field for marine life everywhere.

Summer 2003

Joanna joined REEF after graduating from Texas A&M Galveston with a degree in Marine Biology. As their first experience with REEF, she and Steve helped staff the booth at Ocean Fest in Ft. Lauderdale. While in the office, she helped out with the usual headquarter duties including the membership database, online orders, and data checking, but spent as much time as she could in the water counting fish. The highlights of her internship include all of the great diving, helping out with the 10-yr anniversary celebration, artificial reef monitoring, giving a fish ID presentation for her university's open water class, joining the majority of the REEF Board members on a field survey trip to Panama, reaching level 3 TWA and level 2 TEP for fish surveying, and meeting so many wonderful life-long friends! Joanna is currently still wandering the Keys, but plans to pursue her Masters degree. She would like to thank everyone at REEF for being so wonderful. Best Fishes!

Davita Burkhead-Weiner came to REEF in June 2003 after graduating from Swarthmore College in Philadelphia with a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies. While in the Keys, she completed her Advanced Open Water, Emergency First Responder, and Rescue Diver Courses through various generous dive instructors. While in the REEF office, Davita processed orders through the online store helped to update the membership database and visited the Key Largo seniors group to give a presentation with fellow interns. She also had the opportunity to help out with the 10 year anniversary events which included some play time in the aquatic center's pirate ship! Davita is currently doing research abroad, and hopes to attend medical school within the next several years; and, she hopes to remain involved with the marine conservation community in the future whether through vacationing dives, helping out fellow interns with their research work, or as the physician on a remote tropical island.

Growing up on Long Island, NY close to the shore, marine conservation has always been close to Steve Saul's heart. He first heard about REEF in college from a family friend, and after reading about their internship program, Steve was hooked. After arriving in Key Largo, he quickly swung north again to assist at the annual Ocean Fest Dive Show in Ft. Lauderdale, where REEF had a booth. For much of June and July, Steve worked with Laddie to organize and launch the Great Annual Fish Count (GAFC). He also had the opportunity to participate in the annual Upper Keys Coral Reef Monitoring Project, as well as conduct artificial reef monitoring off of Long Key for the State of Florida. In early July, REEF celebrated its 10-year anniversary, a mile stone for any non-profit. The interns helped out and participated in the weekend long event, and Steve provided piano music for the cocktail party Friday evening. In mid July he spent a day in Biscayne National Park assisting with a GAFC talk and dive and in August, spoke at Key Largo Public Library about the REEF organization and marine conservation. Finally, before leaving “the rock” Steve completed his rescue diver certification. Steve is forever grateful to the REEF staff for making this summer such a wonderful learning experience and to REEF’s field stations in Key Largo for graciously allowing him and the other interns to dive and survey with them.

Spring 2003

Kayte Hansen graduated from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin in June 2002 with a major in Environmental Studies. While attending Lawrence, she participated in a Marine Term for which she conducted research on coral reef ecosystems at various dive sites in Grand Cayman. During her time at REEF, she assisted Lad in artificial reef monitoring dives, wrote the advanced quiz for the REEF website, helped maintain the membership database, and filled orders. The most exciting part of her experience was diving to conduct surveys and seeing all kinds of new fish and learning to identify them. Kayte plans to move to Oregon and attend graduate school after spending a balmy summer in Wisconsin.

Fall 2002

Julie Fleming is from Connecticut and came to REEF from Arizona. Julie graduated from Prescott College in Arizona with a degree in Conservation Biology with an emphasis in Marine Science. The majority of her time in college was spent in Central America were she studied fisheries, community based management, marine mammals and sea turtles. While at REEF, Julie has worked extensively with the public, helped run the member database and the online store. The most exciting part of her internship with REEF has been working with local field stations, becoming familiar with tropical Atlantic fish species and conducting fish surveys. Julie plans to stay in Florida to pursue her carrier as a marine educator.

Sarah Goldman came to REEF from Biscayne National Park in Homestead, Florida where she was a biological technician intern. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, she graduated from Bowling Green State University in May with a B.S. in Biology. She finds it much easier to study marine biology in the Keys than in the cornfields of northwest Ohio. During her time at REEF she processed new members, orders, incoming data, and conducted numerous fish survey dives, although she is convinced she was hired only for her ability to lift heavy objects. Sarah also helped make contacts for the exotic species project, participated in American Shoals and Spiegal Grove monitoring, and worked on several projects in conjunction with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. She remained on the dive team at Biscayne while working with REEF and helped with water quality testing and coral propagation, and she worked on a live rock aquaculture project off Plantation Key. During her time in the Keys she completed her rescue diver training and dive master certifications with Conch Republic Divers in Tavernier. In the future, Sarah hopes to pursue an M.S. in Marine Biology.
read about Sarah's Ride for REEF

Summer 2002

Lauren Bunnell arrived in Key Largo in early May 2002 following a semester abroad in Kenya, East Africa with the School for Field Studies. She is working on a liberal arts B.A. with a concentration on natural sciences at the University of Arizona and plans to graduate in May 2003. During her time with REEF she was able to attend a field survey in Chinchorro Banks, Mexico where she learned to identify over 100 fish species and conducted 20 surveys. Lauren worked on a personal project based on the National Marine Sanctuary Wellwood Restoration project. She participated in the initial fish monitoring of two modules, which were recently placed in June. She was able to visit the National Undersea Research Center’s (NURC) Aquarius habitat located on Conch Reef under 60 feet of water, and helped the Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) work on Upper Keys monitoring. Lauren also helped manage the member database and online store, and assisted with the creation of an educational tool for a teacher’s conference in Mystic, Connecticut. After her internship she will be attending a language study abroad program in Sevilla, Spain.

In May 2002, Jay Gardner joined the ranks of REEF’s interns. He holds a B.S. in Marine Biology, with a minor in both Chemistry and English. He will be finishing his M.S. in Marine Biology with an emphasis in Fisheries in December 2002 at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi. Jay dove in quickly when he joined the Chinchorro Banks Field Survey the first week he was here! After picking up the basics, Jay taught several fish ID seminars, one with the Keys Marine Lab as well as with the local Horizon Divers field station. In addition to the “normal” office duties, Jay assisted in what turned out to be the largest GAFC event to date, helping with press releases and the tidal wave of scanforms at the new REEF headquarters. He tested regularly and achieved level 5 fishwatcher before the end of his term. He was able to visit the UNCW/NURC Aquarius habitat, and helped with various REEF monitoring projects including the Wellwood, the Speigel Grove, and the AAT Florida Keys project. Jay is currently pursuing a career in Marine Fisheries/Marine Ecology Education.

Kari Forrest arrived at REEF HQ at the beginning of June (just in time to help Leda repaint her office). She is a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, majoring in international and environmental studies. Kari joined us through a scholarship with the John Motley Morehead Foundation. A Coral Reef Ecology course at Chapel Hill focused her search for a summer internship in reef conservation. Since arriving at REEF, she’s been working with the Carolina Environmental Program to increase student awareness and interest in coral reef ecology. Kari taught a Beginning Fishwatching course during the Great Annual Fish Count in July. She recently worked with Christy to complete REEF’s online Fish Gallery, adding Northeast Fish and Pacific Northwest Invertebrate descriptions to the site. She also got the opportunity to dive in Little Cayman and Cayman Brac during REEF’s Field Survey—adding lots of new species to her list and nearly doubling her number of surveys. Kari is heading back to North Carolina in August for school and hopefully some diving in the Outer Banks.

Basia Hajduczek came to REEF eager to learn the fishes of the Atlantic coast and to dedicate her energies to supporting a worthy non-profit organization. She arrived in early June and has helped REEF design a brochure for an exciting new Field Survey schedule, collect fish data, and process orders and memberships for new REEF members. Her favorite summer moments in Key Largo include the seven spotted eagle rays she saw at Elbow Ledge with Horizon Divers, and the bioluminescent ostracods she saw while night diving. . The bioluminescent male ostracods appear as a collection of bluish lights that ignite in rising strands from the reef at night. They are amid their mating ritual - luring females to the top of the strand where they will spawn. Magic! Basia was able to join the REEF team this summer thanks to the generous support of the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society. She came to Key Largo from California, where she is pursuing a M.S. degree in Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley. She enjoyed being a part of the inner workings of REEF, and upon her return to the golden state, Basia will continue to conduct REEF surveys in the chilly kelp forests that border the Pacific shore.

The interns want to give special thanks to the dive operators and crew that generously supported their underwater exploration and data gathering in the Keys. Thank you Horizon Divers, Amy Slate’s, Lady Cyana, and Kelly’s Aquanut Divers for filling this summer with great dives! And thank you to Scott Fowler for generously supporting their efforts to become better divers in his scant free time!

Spring 2002

The Spring 2002 intern, Amy Freidank, came to Reef Environmental Education Foundation from Huntington, NY. She holds a B.S. in marine science with a concentration in biology from Long Island University, Southampton Campus. During her time with REEF, she assisted with the Elderhostel seminars, including fish identification and coral and other creatures. Part of the seminars included taking the participants on a local snorkel trip where they could see first hand what they had learned about. Amy also attended two sea turtle seminars - one on the local management between residents and the government, and the other on the history of capture and new rescue and rehabilitation techniques. She efficiently ran the online store single handedly and managed the member database. After her internship she took an instructor position for the Nature Study Program at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

Fall 2001

Shannon Lyday arrived at the end of August from Colorado. She recently graduated in Environmental Science from the University of Colorado and was seeking work experience and immersion in fish counting. She quickly became involved during the FKNMS/NURC Aquarius mission and was able to dive to the habitat. At the office Shannon processed memberships, orders, incoming data, and helped with the move to the new office. She also designed and produced a brochure on exotic species that will be available soon. Shannon tripled her total number of dives in the Keys and during the Bermuda Field Survey. During her 4 month internship, Shannon volunteered in several different areas, including teaching fish ID seminars for Coral Shores High School, and working a few times at the Dolphin Research Center and with the Dolphin Ecology Project. Before leaving REEF, Shannon passed the advanced fish quiz and is now a Level 4. Shannon is looking for a position on the west coast to pursue a career in marine conservation.

Late one night in the computer rooms at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Jon Moss stumbled upon REEF’s website while completing his thesis on overfishing in Indonesia. Intrigued by the simple, yet effective idea of using recreational divers to collect survey data, Jon applied to be an Intern and arrived at the REEF offices in September. REEF was in the midst of moving office and Jon was busy helping with the move and setting up the new computer systems. He got the chance to attend the Dry Tortugas field survey trip and enjoyed some superb diving there, and got to see first hand what REEF was all about. He volunteered for the dolphin ecology project with Laura Engelby and witnessed the mud circle fishing technique the dolphins use which is thought unique to the area. Jon has recently graduated with a MSc in Marine Resource Development and Protection and is returning to England where he plans to pursue a career in marine conservation.

Summer 2001

Molly Myhr, one of two REEF interns for the summer of 2001, arrived at REEF from Memphis, Tennessee in late May. Molly will graduate in May 2002 from Vanderbilt University with a B.S. in Biology. Over the summer with REEF, Molly quickly got involved in conducting fish surveys primarily with Lisa Canty, REEF’s other summer intern. She also conducted numerous surveys on a trip to Grand Cayman’s East End in mid-June. Throughout the summer, she aided the Florida Audubon’s Mangrove Ecosystem Research Project (MERP) conducting fieldwork and fish surveys in the Florida Bay mangroves. Molly periodically helped in the efforts of the Dolphin Ecology Project learning about dolphin habitats and feeding patterns with a local dolphin researcher, Laura Engelby. Molly plans to continue her education in the biology arena after graduating from college, possibly focusing on a career in veterinary medicine.

REEF’s other summer intern, Lisa Canty, is a Florida native. Born and raised in Orlando, Lisa has visited many beaches along the coast of Florida but loves nothing better than the aquamarine waters of the Keys. Nearly every summer she and her family spend a week in Marathon so Lisa relished the opportunity to become familiar with a different Key this year. Lisa is a recent graduate of the University of Hawaii at Hilo. She has a B.A. in marine science and plans to tackle an M.S. degree in the same field someday. . . but not just yet. With experience being the best teacher of all, Lisa wants to have a little more under her belt before making any big decisions. REEF has given her a good start! In addition to her 30-something fish surveys, Lisa has been volunteering at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton, dolphin monitoring with Laura Engelby, and had the opportunity to meet Sylvia Earle when the Dry Tortugas was proclaimed an ecological preserve this past July. In the near future, she hopes to join fellow intern Molly Myhr on Florida Audubon’s Mangrove Ecosystem Research Project.

Spring 2001

REEF’s intern for Spring 2001 was Jennifer Stuart from St. Joseph, Missouri. Born and raised in California before moving to Missouri, Jennifer attends Truman State University in Kirksville, MO. In 2003 she will receive a B.S. degree with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and physics. She arrived at the REEF headquarters in Key Largo, FL just after the New Year in early January. During her semester long stay, Jennifer performed REEF surveys, worked with the Coral Shores High School SCUBA club in monitoring their artificial reef ball, participated in REEF’s AAT monitoring in the Dry Tortugas, and led fish identification games for a Key Largo Girl Scout Troop. Once a week, Jennifer volunteered at the Marathon Turtle Hospital, helping with the strange “loggerhead series” struck throughout Florida. Sick turtles began appearing in October. An estimated 300 turtles per day washed up on Florida’s shores. The turtles were sluggish, unresponsive, unable to lift their heads, eat, and some unable to open their mouth to eat. As a result of their weakened condition, many turtles succumbed to pneumonia. Jennifer aided in administering IVs, tubing nutrient fluids into the turtles and working with the loggerheads as they regained their strength. Across Florida, thousands died but a few have been rehabilitated and will be returned to the wild when fully recuperated. The number of strandings decreased in early spring. However, the cause of this illness is still unknown. Jennifer has returned to spend the summer with her family in Missouri and hopes to continue her education after graduation with a PhD in Marine Biology or Marine Ecology. Eventually, she wishes to focus on field research in the coral reefs and perhaps teach marine biology at the university level.

Fall 2000

Leda Cunningham arrived in Key Largo in early September and quickly became involved with the Sustainable Seas/National Geographic Foundation program, teaching middle school student from cites around the U.S. about ocean chemistry. During her 3 months with REEF, she also taught Broward County Girl Scouts about reef fish, assisted Laddie in conducting a fish ID seminar for the National Marine Park in Cozumel, Mexico, and met Sylvia Earle aboard the NOAA Ship Gunther. Leda obtained her rescue and divemaster certifications during her stay. Leda plans to pursue her dream to teach children about the reef ecosystem when she travels to Zanzibar, Tanzania this winter.

Born and raised in the Big Sky country, Montanan Katie Gaut, who is studying marine biology at Southern Oregon University, was also a REEF intern in the fall. She maintains that her love of the ocean is due to too many Jacques Cousteau documentaries on National Geographic! Her three months in Key Largo flew by and were filled with building a cooperative effort between the Mangrove Ecosystem Restoration Project, Audubon Society, and REEF to expand REEF’s survey area to the mangroves. She also presented seminars to Coral Shores High School’s marine biology class and participated in REEF’s field survey to Bonaire! Katie has returned to Oregon's cold climate to finish her degree in marine biology and computer science, but she looks forward to working in our warmer waters eventually.

Leda and Katie Ann designed the exotic species brochure to help educate REEF members and the public about the danger of introducing non-native fish from home aquariums into Keys waters. They also developed the color version of the ever-popular fish ID game FISH-O (think BINGO). Outside of REEF HQ, Leda and Katie gave seminars to girl scout troops, participated in Discovery of Canada’s filming of REEF, and represented REEF at the 5K Run for the Manatees (up at 5 am – that’s dedication!). The two interns also conducted many underwater fish surveys with the ‘family’ at Lady Cyana in Islamorada. We thank them for their hard work and contributions and for continuing the high quality of our interns.

Design by Joanne Kidd, development by Ben Weintraub