REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. More than 70,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.

This month we highlight Hideko Kawabata, REEF member since 2007. Hideko has conducted 159 REEF surveys, and has been on many REEF Trips to the Caribbean, Hawaii, and Indo-Pacific. She is a Level 3 TWA surveyor. Here's what she had to say about REEF:

How did you first learn about REEF?

My first REEF Trip was to Bonaire in 2007. I Googled volunteer SCUBA trip for Bonaire, which was a destination on my bucket list, and a REEF Trip came up. I have done volunteer diving at other non-profit organizations, but I had specific destinations in my mind, and REEF had them. I have since been on many REEF Trips and I always learn a lot from the REEF experts on each trip. They are mentally and physically active, and always amaze me with their knowledge and experiences.

What is your favorite thing about REEF Trips?

In addition to the learning and the fun, I enjoy having spontaneous reunions with REEF members from past trips. It always brings a smile to my face.

If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?

Diving that counts. Really.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?

Collected data from the volunteer divers provide accurate information that helps other organizations and scientists. The underwater environment is changing more rapidly than we think. I hope our data will help promote proactive approaches for good.

Do you dive close to where you live?

I live in New Jersey, and I’m no local hardcore diver. So I dive only on vacation, in warm tropical places. I like luggage-less travel with a 3mm wetsuit in crystal-clear water!

What is the most fascinating underwater animal encounter you’ve experienced?

My first Bonaire trip always brings me back - there was a school of squid at distance. I waved fingers, recalling Ned and Anna's lecture about animal behaviors. The squid got curious, lined up, and slowly approached us. Ned and Anna were right, they interact! It was a Close Encounter of … experience!

What is your favorite fish?

Mandarinfish dancing, in courtship. I saw them for the first time in Lembeh Strait, marching among black sea urchins (ouch). Their colors are so amazing, how the world created them. I never get tired of watching and photographing them.

Do you have any tips for REEF members planning to go on a REEF Trip?

Just like any other SCUBA trip, get prepared. Do the homework, join the Fishinar. You can never be too prepared.

What is your most memorable underwater find and why?

It’s more like something that was not found, but heard – on the Kona REEF Trip, we heard whales singing on the entire dive, from miles away. It was so calming and spiritual. I would like to see Ocean Sunfish, Hammerheads, Dolphins, Whales (and the list goes on).