REEF fish survey data are separated into two categories based on experience level: Novice and Expert. These experience levels are determined by number of surveys completed and examination scores. REEF has 5 levels of experience for fishwatchers. Each of REEF's regions has its own levels (i.e. TWA Level 4 are only experts in the TWA, not all regions). Members must have the required number of surveys from that particular region.
The survey regions are:
- Pacific US & Canada (includes Pacific Northwest - PNW or California - CAL)
- Hawaiian Islands (HAW)
- South Pacific (SOP)
- Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP)
- Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
- South Atlantic States (SAS)
- Northeast US & Canada (NE)
- Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (EAM)
- Indian Ocean and Red Sea (IORS)
- Central Indo Pacific (CIP)
Level 1 - Beginning Surveyor
All new REEF members. Novice Level.
Level 2 - Beginning Surveyor
Requires an 80% on the Level 2 Quiz and the completion of two surveys. CAL, PNW, SAS and NE surveyors can choose between a Fish quiz or an Invertebrate quiz. There are 20-25 questions on this quiz. Most members participating on a REEF Field Survey Trip, taking the PADI Project Aware Fish ID Specialty course or other Introduction to Fishwatching course will attain this level. In addition, surveyors should complete 2 surveys (these can be done before or after taking the test). Novice Level.
Level 3 - Advanced Surveyor
Achieved by passing the Level 3 test with 80% and conducting 25 surveys. There are 100 questions on the test. (CAL, PNW, SAS and NE include both fish and invertebrates). Many members participating in a REEF Field Survey Trip will reach this level. This is the highest level of experience still classified in the Novice data category. 25 surveys must have been submitted prior to taking this test.
Level 4 - Expert Surveyor
Acquired by passing the Level 4/5 test with 90% and conducting 35 surveys. (CAL, PNW, SAS and NE include both fish and invertebrates). The 35 surveys must have been submitted prior to taking this test.
Level 5 - Expert Surveyor
Acquired by passing the Level 4/5 test with 95% and conducting 50 surveys. The 50 surveys must have been submitted prior to taking this test. Expert Level.
Advanced Assessment Team (AAT)
Members who achieve Expert status (Levels 4 and 5) are extended an invitation to REEF's Advanced Assessment Team (AAT). As a member of REEF's AAT, you may be invited to participate in special regional monitoring and assessment projects. AAT members must complete and submit at least 10 REEF surveys per year within that region to stay active and on the team. Current and past monitoring projects may be found here.
How to arrange to take an Experience Level test:
There are many ways/places you can take your test.
- on a REEF Field Survey Trip
- in a live GoToMeeting online session (from home, on your computer!) Email sierra.barkdoll@REEF.org to set up a session.
- in person at the REEF offices in Key Largo
- in person at select REEF Conservation Partners
You must have submitted 25, 35, or 50 surveys to the database before taking the level 3, 4 or 5 tests respectively.
For more information or questions, contact sierra.barkdoll@REEF.org
How to prepare to move up a level
We are often asked how to prepare to move up from Level 2 to Level 3, or from Level 3 to Level 4/5. The simpliest answer is to survey! The more experience you have surveying, the better prepared you will be. The REEF experience levels are intended to be a measure of your identification skills based on your in-water experiences, and that is why we have a minimum number of surveys requirement as part of the levels. That being said, we do have some general guidelines to offer:
- for Level 3, make sure you have a good knowledge of the top 125-150 species in the region (use the database reports to generate that), the Level 3 test does not include anything too cryptic or rare and it mostly reviews adult stages of fishes (not juveniles). You will also need to know the common name of the family to which each fish belongs.
- for Level 4/5, you will need to have a broader knowledge of the life history phases of fishes (juveniles, initial phases), as well as some of the more rare and cryptic things that experienced surveyors find on their dives, a good starting point is looking at the top 200 species in the region. You will also need to know the common name of the family to which each fish belongs.
Golden Hamlet Club
REEF members who have submitted at least 1,000 surveys are included in the Golden Hamlet Club. This special group of dedicated fishwatchers contribute a significant portion of REEF's database and they typically achieve Expert-level surveyor status along the way. Find out more about the Golden Hamlet Club and see profiles of members here - Golden Hamlet Club.