REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. More than 65,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.
This month we highlight Fred and Laura Hartner, REEF members since 1995. Together they have conducted more than 440 surveys throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic, Hawaiian Islands, Central Indo-Pacific, and South Pacific regions. Originally from New Jersey, the Hartners now reside in Florida, where they are active surveyors and volunteer for many REEF events, such as lionfish derbies. Here's what Fred and Laura had to say about REEF:
When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF? We first heard about REEF through our local New Jersey dive shop. Shortly thereafter, we visited the REEF booth at the Beneath The Sea dive show in Secaucus, NJ. After talking to Director of Special Projects, Lad Akins, we became members. We did a few surveys on our own before volunteering as surveyors on our first REEF Field Survey Trip to the Big Island in Hawaii.
If you have been on a REEF Field Survey Trip, where and what was your trip highlight? We have been on numerous REEF Field Survey Trips to the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region, including Key Largo, Belize, Little Cayman, St. Vincent, Roatan, and San Salvador. We also caught, filleted, and ate (the best part) lionfish on two Curacao trips. We also joined the REEF Trip to the Philippines. What a lot of new fish to learn! It was so much fun that we quickly booked the REEF Trip to the Solomon Islands after that. If you love to dive and enjoy watching fish, each trip is special for the variety of fish and reef profiles. A night dive in Kona, Hawaii, to see the mantas and observe the eels hunting in the light, the tiny octopus who mimicked other creatures in the grassy areas of St. Vincent, the experience of reducing the lionfish population in Curacao, and the enormous whale sharks of the Philippines are some to the memories that come to mind. One of the best benefits of a REEF Trip is networking with and learning from other fish geeks who share the same interest and excitement as you do.
What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey? Surveys are a valuable source of data for ocean researchers and a way for us to contribute to the ecological well-being of the reef systems we so cherish. Surveying also makes one stop and appreciate the fish, their habitat, and their behavior. It’s a satisfying activity to record your own life list.
Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? Where is your favorite place to dive and why? We realized we enjoy diving and counting fish so much that we moved from New Jersey (too cold) to Key Largo and aim to be underwater at least once a week all year. However, our favorite place to dive is wherever we happen to be diving that day.
What is your favorite fish? Laura’s favorite fish is the Whitespotted Filefish because of its swimming behavior and ability to change its coloration. Fred’s favorite fish is the one he hasn’t seen before.