REEF members are the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. A diverse community of divers, snorkelers, and ocean enthusiasts support our mission to conserve marine environments worldwide.

This month we highlight REEF member Byron Bishop from Seattle. He enjoys traveling and attending REEF Trips, and has conducted surveys in multiple regions. He is a Level 3 surveyor in the Central Indo-Pacific (CIP) and Indian Ocean-Red Sea (IORS) regions, and a Level 2 surveyor in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) and Pacific Coast of the US and Canada (PAC) regions. Thank you, Byron, for being a dedicated member of REEF!

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
In 2016, I had an opportunity to join a joint project between The Nature Conservancy and the University of Guam which combined a traditional scientific survey of Chuuk’s reefs with a ‘rapid reef resilience assessment’ that could be carried out by citizen scientists and local communities. The idea was to see how lower cost and wide spread assessments could be used to supplement the more rigorous and focused studies of which characteristics of the reef suggested great resilience in the face of climate change, and thus demanded more concerted conservation efforts.

I instantly became hooked on being a ‘clipboard’ diver. I had heard about REEF during my daughter’s PADI training a few years earlier and even attended a fish ID seminar, but it hadn’t quite clicked then. But soon after returning from Chuuk, I booked my first REEF Trip and have been off and running (or should I say surveying) since then.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
While there are many high-minded reasons for joining REEF, it is also an opportunity to hang out having fun with a bunch of other fish nerds. I have learned so much from my fellow travelers and REEF Trip Leaders during the trips.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
One of the things I love about REEF and the Volunteer Fish Survey Project is that it is such a tangible example of collective action. While doing a survey I know that my survey by itself is nearly worthless, but throw it in with thousands of other people’s “worthless” surveys and you wind up with something worthwhile and useful. It is a nice reminder that collective action can and does work.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
Living in Seattle I have an opportunity to dive our colder waters as well as travel to warmer waters. This year, for obvious reasons, there has been no travel and even opportunities to join our local club dives have been limited. Thus over the last year most of my dives have been as a volunteer diver for the Seattle Aquarium. Admittedly, diving in a 400,000 gallon tank lacks the glamour of a south seas tropical diving, even when you throw in the opportunities to scrape windows, vacuum up fish poop, and to try to hand feed a reluctant halibut its anti-biotic hidden inside a squid. However, what it lacks in glamour it makes up for in other ways.

I enjoy the opportunity to visit the same small area over and over all year long and observe the changes as the seasons progress. For example, during the summer one of the male kelp greenlings is content to just give me the watchful eye as I work my way by the area in which he likes to hang out. By fall with his nesting urges kicking in he gets more agitated. Come winter, and I can count on him trying to bite my hand a couple of times every dive even when giving him a wider berth. With me in thick cold water gloves and he having no teeth, there is no risk, but still I am startled when he manages a successful sneak attack.

Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
I would love to see a Mola mola (Ocean Sunfish). Despite the scientific evidence to the contrary, I have a hard time believing they actually exist.