How long have you been doing surveys?
Not long enough! I had been diving for well over 20 years when I did my first REEF survey in 2008. Linda Ridley put a Bonaire slate in my hand and said “just do it !” I attended her Fish ID classes and she mentored me up to Expert Level 5, it was a game changer for me.
When did you join the Golden Hamlet Club?
I did survey #1000 in September 2016. It’s worth noting that I have had the pleasure of meeting and diving with several other REEF Golden Hamlet members, all of them knowledgeable, helpful and inspiring.
Where do you survey?
Because we live full time aboard our sailboat, S/V Gabrielle, we can dive and survey in many places. The majority of my surveys are in Bonaire, and various parts of Venezuela, including the remote Islas de Las Aves, and Los Roques. Janna Nichols helped me set up 18 sites in Barlovento, Las Aves, and I have surveyed the patch reefs in this remote uninhabited area many times (>200) over the years. I’m a big fan of the shallow water habitat, and about 40% of my surveys are snorkeling. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to visit favorite sites many times, you really do get to know the neighborhood.
Do you have a favorite fish or invertebrate? Why?
I have a new favorite after almost every snorkel or dive. It can be an unusual fish, or a more common one, doing something interesting or unusual behaviorally. REEF surveys really changed how I see the underwater world.
REEF changed diving for me in a profound way, and as a result I have been active with help from Doug in teaching REEF Fish ID for several years. It is rewarding and fun, and I meet the most interesting people - whether it is someone starting out with level 2, or an experienced surveyor working up to Expert Level 5, or other REEF members who come to class. The REEF Fish ID series has become an annual event in Bonaire, with some participants returning year after year. I enjoy everyone in the classes, and in the last few years I have added a special series for the Bonaire Junior Rangers who have proven to be an outstanding group of youth, volunteers and leaders. It’s great getting them involved and excited about REEF, Fish ID, and their islands resources, creating new citizen scientists and nature ambassadors.
Feel free to share anything special about your 1,000th survey (site, location, special fish, etc.)
I chose “Something Special” in Bonaire as the site for survey 1000. We dinghy dive and it’s about 2 minutes from where our boat is moored. Because of the diverse habitat there it’s one of my many favorites and is appropriately named, because there is always something special to see. Doug and I have done this site 100+ times, but dive 1000 was truly special, I found 132 species (my highest species count on a single dive - so far) and it included a new-for-me fish, the Nassau Grouper, not often seen in Bonaire. It just seemed all my fish friends showed up on that dive and said “count me, too!” There are still many new fish for me to find … including the Golden Hamlet.
Feel free to share anything else about yourself and your diving adventures!
The opportunity to dive and snorkel remote areas that are largely free of direct human impact has been an obvious benefit to my sailing/diving lifestyle, and my surveys. I was able to document and extend the known range of many fishes and even found a few new ones for Bonaire, Curacao and Venezuela. I wish I had started surveying sooner, my entire life list would be in the database.