REEF members are the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Divers, snorkelers, and ocean enthusiasts worldwide stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Annette Felix, who has been a member since 2006. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, and frequently dives and surveys in the Gulf of California, not far from where she lives. Annette recently passed the Level 5 Tropical Eastern Pacific test, which makes her an expert level surveyor in this region! Congratulations on this achievement, Annette! Read more about her experience with REEF below.

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
I became a member of REEF in 2006, but I did not start surveying until 2014. I was taking a marine biology class at our local community college in Tucson when I found information about REEF. As an “older” college student (actually very near retirement age), I knew wasn’t going to become a marine biologist. REEF afforded me an opportunity to share my passion for studying marine life while diving and snorkeling through participating in citizen science through fish surveys.

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
I have been on two REEF Field Survey trips. One to Kona, Hawaii, on the Kona Aggressor and the other on the Rocio del Mar in the Sea of Cortez. I enjoyed both trips immensely. I have a son who lives on the Big Island in Hawaii, and I dive there when visiting him. I like to call the Gulf of California my backyard. It is where I do most of my diving. Living in Arizona, it is the closest ocean. For me diving with experts who can help further my knowledge of the fish from a certain area is very rewarding.

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
I have tried to dive without my yellow REEF slate and underwater paper, but I just can’t! I find that as I do surveys, fish that I haven’t seen before seem to appear in areas I have been diving for years. I feel I am more focused when I am surveying and I am learning where different species like to hang out, such as sandy bottom, splash zone, hidden in cracks, etc. I enjoy spending extra time watching the behaviors of the fish, too.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
REEF has many benefits, but my favorites are the extensive database that can be searched many different ways, Field Survey Trips, a great group of mentors/experts, and fun Fishinars that improve my fish ID skills with handy characteristic clues. Our scuba club in Tucson just signed on to one of their newest endeavors - being a Conservation Partner.

If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
REEF is a place that you can make your diving experience more enriching not only to yourself, but also to the world of marine science. Sharing what you see underwater and entering it into REEF’s database is an important way to help track the health of our oceans.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
REEF does many things, but I think that their citizen science Volunteer Fish Survey Project is the most important. They are now surveying in all parts of the world, adding even more regions as I write! I believe the vision to create this comprehensive database through engaging the general public to contribute will have far-reaching rewards to help the fate of our oceans in the future.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
I think that it is really hard to choose just one favorite. Each species have characteristics that make them unique. But, if I must choose, it would be the Pacific Seahorse. I never get tired of finding them and tend to spend extra time during my dive observing and photographing them.