REEF Trip Leader Bios

Meet our REEF Trip leaders! All REEF trips are led by experts in their respective fields, providing you the unique opportunity to study and explore the marine world alongside industry legends. All REEF trip leaders are passionate and extremely knowledgeable. These renowned individuals are always eager to share their experiences and their love for the ocean with others, so here is your chance to learn from the best!

 Lad Akins | Ned and Anna DeLoach | Carlos and Allison Estape | Heather George | Tracey Griffin | Peter Hughes | Paul Humann | Jonathan Lavan | Janna Nichols | Christy Pattengill-Semmens and Brice Semmens

Lad Akins

Lad, REEF’s Director of Special Projects, is known as the leading expert on invasive species, specifically lionfish. He served as the Founding Executive Director of REEF and led the organization in that capacity for 16 years, helping to design and develop REEF’s widely recognized marine conservation programs. In 2005, he stepped down to focus his efforts solely on the lionfish invasion. A professional diver and Coast Guard Captain, Lad has successfully bridged the gap between science academia, management, commercial interests and the public. His broad perspective includes consulting numerous state, federal, and international boards, panels, and working groups on management of invasive lionfish. His current focus is on addressing the lionfish invasion including developing and implementing research, outreach, training, and control programs throughout the region. He has helped develop many of the lionfish control programs and practices throughout the invaded range.

Ned and Anna DeLoach

Ned is a celebrated marine photographer who has made innumerable contributions to our understanding of the underwater world. Co-author of over nine marine life indentification books and co-founder of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, Ned’s passion for the ocean seems to match his subject in one fundamental way: it knows no bounds.

Ned spent his early adult life working as a teacher in Jacksonville, FL, a facet of his life that is still regularly manifested in his work today. Ned has an undeniable gift for didacticism, which, in combination with his inexhaustible enthusiasm for the marine world and all its inhabitants, makes him a skilled trip leader who makes studying the ocean accessible to people of all ages.

Ned’s extensive work in his field is evident in his contributions to a variety of media. He founded New World Publications in 1972 and published his Diving Guide to Underwater Florida in 1979. In 1985, he assumed the post of editor-in-chief of Ocean Realm magazine. Ned has written and supplied photos for numerous other literary publications as well, including Alert Diver and Scuba Diving Magazine. He has also produced multiple underwater documentaries.

Anna is a talented videographer, underwater naturalist, computer scientist, and founder of the blog BlennyWatcher in 2011. She is a zealous traveler and a determined researcher, constantly striving to see even the most obscure species in their natural habitats. Anna is also a member of the Board of Trustees for REEF.

Just like her husband Ned, Anna has been a very active contributor to a number of popular literary magazines, having written for Alert Diver, Ocean Realm, and Scuba Diving Magazine, among others. In 2004, Anna produced the DVD Sensational Seas, which was hugely successful and led to a sequel.  The video she produced for REEF, REEF Fish Identification: A Beginning Course, won a Telly Award. National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, NOAA, and many other reputable organizations have utilized Anna’s exemplary work. In 2011, Anna was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.

Ned and Anna write a regular column entitled "Critter Hunt" for Scuba Diving Magazine. For the past seven years, the pair have been the resident naturalists at Buddy Dive resort in Bonaire teaching fish identification and behaviors.

Carlos and Allison Estape

Carlos and Allison Estape are Level 5 TWA REEF Fish ID Experts, members of REEF's Advanced Assessment Team, published underwater Photographers, fish id lecturers, and the creators of the 100 Fish ID website (, which provides tools to learn how to identify TWA fish species. They are passionate about diving, underwater photography, fish id & marine archaeology/history. Carlos and Allison are Islamorada residents who dedicate their time to being "citizen scientists" and greatly enjoy sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm for the underwater world with others. They frequently participate in REEF's research and data collection, for both the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and Invasive Lionfish Program. Carlos and Allison were chosen as REEF Volunteers of the Year in 2013.

Heather George

Heather has been a multifaceted contributor to REEF since becoming a member over a decade ago. She has consistently provided a plethora of useful knowledge about fundraising and membership development to the organization. In addition, she has led multiple REEF Field Survey Trips and conducted countless fish identification training courses for dive shops and aquaria. Heather has completed over 200 surveys and is an expert-level REEF surveyor in Hawaii and the Tropical Western Atlantic, making her a member of the Advanced Assessment Team in both regions. Heather served on the REEF Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2010, and in 2010, she joined the volunteer research team for the Grouper Moon Project. In 2011, Heather assisted with the expansion of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project to the South Pacific as part of the field team to American Samoa. She was also chosen as the REEF Volunteer of the Year in 2011.

Tracey Griffin

Tracey is a REEF fish expert who loves sharing her passion for marine life. A full time local resident of Cozumel, she has led the REEF Field Survey Trip there for many years.  Under Tracey’s leadership the Cozumel Field Survey Trip has become one of REEF’s most popular trips, and the only destination we return to every year.  Tracey has completed over 700 surveys, is part of the Advanced Assessment Team in the Tropical Western Atlantic region, and shares her fish identification expertise in REEF’s Fishinars. Over the years, she has participated and contributed to all of REEF’s projects including the volunteer Fish Survey Project, Grouper Moon Project, and Invasive Lionfish Project.

Peter Hughes

Peter is the Founder of the DivEncounters Alliance, a group of independent live-aboard dive operators, and a member of REEF’s Board of Directors. Peter is one of the diving world’s foremost live-aboard operators, having spent more than forty years in the dive industry. Peter received the DEMA Reaching Out Award for his work in the live-aboard diving industry and subsequently joined the DEMA Hall of Fame in 2011. Peter grew up in the Caribbean and has since witnessed the many changes occurring in the coral reefs. His observations and wealth of knowledge and experience make him an extremely adept REEF Field Trip leader.


Paul Humann

Paul is co-founder of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation and co-writer of ten fish identification field guides, is a celebrated scuba diver and an expert underwater photographer. Paul’s work has been featured in numerous magazines including Ocean Realm, Sport Diver, and National Geographicand he has been recognized as a leader in the study of fish. Paul’s detailed photographs have been key to positively identifying many species. In fact, many of his photos were the first ever documentation of living species in their natural habitats. What is more, Paul’s meticulous work observing, photographing, describing, and categorizing marine species has been incredibly impactful in expanding the general public’s knowledge base.

Paul started diving in the early 1960's. In 1970 he bought and captained the M/V Cayman Diver which is considered the Caribbean’s first successful live-aboard dive boat and thereby helped initiated the live-aboard diving trend that has since ballooned into a mainstream industry. In 1980 Paul moved back to the States to begin his career as an underwater photographer, author and book publisher. Paul has been frequently recognized for his work. He received DEMA’s Reaching Out Award in 2006, was inducted into the International Diving Hall of Fame the year after, and received the NOGI award in 2009.

Jonathan Lavan 

Jonathan became a REEF member in 2004 and since then, has become a member of REEF's Advanced Assessment Teams for both the Tropical Western Atlantic and Pacific Coast survey regions. He has logged over 400 fish surveys across the world, has submitted surveys in five of REEF's six regions, and has been instrumental in gathering key data on marine fish and invertebrate populations for REEF's publically accessible online database. In 2015, Jonathan joined REEF staff, and he serves as the Volunteer Fish Survey Project Program Assistant.

Jonathan instructs for REEF's online webinars, called Fishinars. His background in theatre, sense of humor and teaching style has made his Fishinars popular with both new and experienced fish watchers. Jonathan’s work truly epitomizes what it means to be a citizen scientist. In 2012, he was named REEF’s Volunteer of the Year.

Jonathan is a passionate advocate of REEF and its programs. As a former diver and staff member of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the John G. Shedd Aquarium, and current volunteer at the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, Jonathan 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, Jonathan 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. Jonathan has also written several articles for online underwater photography publications.

Janna Nichols

Janna is REEF’s Outreach Coordinator, focusing on member relations, field stations, and working extensively with the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Janna is passionate about underwater photography and marine life identification and her efforts were integral to the design and photography on REEF’s many laminated fish identification cards. She has completed over 800 surveys and is an expert level REEF surveyor in the Pacific Coast region. Janna is a PADI certified SCUBA instructor (retired), and the leader of REEF’s Pacific Coast Advanced Assessment Team. In 2003, she received REEF’s Volunteer of the Year award and in 2013, she received Dive News Network’s Diver of the Year Award.

Christy Pattengill-Semmens and Brice Semmens

Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., has been a member of the REEF family since 1993 and took up the post of REEF’s Director of Science in 1998. Her commitment to the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and precise data collection makes her an irreplaceable member of the organization. What is more, Christy has written for numerous notable publications including the Bulletin of Marine Science, the Marine Ecology Progress Series, and the Environmental Biology of Fishes. Christy is an authority on fish identification, having completed nearly 800 surveys in locations around the world. She is an expert-level REEF surveyor in all of REEF's program regions.

Brice Semmens, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. Brice’s ongoing research focuses on quantitative ecology. He also is the lead scientist on REEF's Grouper Moon Project. Like his wife Christy, Brice has a keen interest in data collection. He has also studied fisheries management, which gives him a unique perspective to share with those participating in the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Brice has been a REEF member since 1993, has completed over 700 surveys, and is an Expert-level REEF surveyor in all of REEF's program areas.

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