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 Lynn Fulks. She lives in California and has been a REEF member since 2006. She has conducted nearly 600 surveys in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region, where she is a Level 5 surveyor. She has also surveyed in several other regions, including Hawaii, Central Indo-Pacific, Tropical Eastern Pacific, and the West Coast of the US and Canada. Thank you, Lynn, for your dedication and enthusiasm for the Volunteer Fish Survey Project!

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
In 2006 we were living on our sailing catamaran Blue Marine in Bonaire, and met Linda Ridley, a member of REEF's Golden Hamlet Club, a group who has conducted 1,000 or more surveys. If you know Linda, you know she is passionate about fish! She taught us the REEF Fish ID courses, pushing us until I was a Level 5 and doing some teaching myself. I’m so thrilled that someone I first taught, Kim White, is now a Golden Hamlet herself!

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey Trip, where and what was your trip highlight?
I haven’t been on a Field Survey Trip, but I got to be involved in a trip Ned and Anna DeLoach made to Bonaire in 2006 or 2007. They reached out to Linda, and I was recruited to be a dive guide for the surveyors. Besides the opportunity to sit in on Ned and Anna’s briefings and classes, the highlight was showing the surveyors some of Bonaire’s hidden treasures.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
Not only do I get to contribute to scientific knowledge via the surveys, but my experience and REEF certification level has led to volunteer diving for various marine parks. Some of the sites I’ve surveyed as part of a quarterly team of divers are off limits to recreational divers.

Where is your favorite place to dive and why?
We return again and again to Bonaire. The combination of seven of the ten most species rich Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) sites in the REEF database, and the shore diving, just can’t be beat. The opportunity to spend up to two hours on a survey beats a 45 minute boat dive any day!

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
Train your dive buddies to help you survey. My regular dive team is Joy Johnson and Paulette Schindele, both Level 3 TWA surveyors, and my husband Todd, a Level 4 TWA surveyor. Paulette is a fantastic spotter of blennies, gobies, and cryptic fish. Joy and Todd take fantastic ID shots for me to pore over later, and post to the REEF Facebook groups. It’s so much easier to focus on my survey without carrying a camera, knowing one of them will get the confirmation photo.

Starting about two months before a trip, I pull the species data for the dive sites from the database and make study lists and photo slides of the species I don’t know - think flash cards for adults. I’ll take the Level 2 exam before I go, and make sure I get enough surveys there to be able to take Level 3. Recently we went to a bucket list site for me, Blue Heron Bridge (BHB) in Florida. Golden Hamlet Peter Leahy was so very generous in sending me study lists so I was prepared!

What is your most memorable fish find and why?
While diving BHB with Peter in May 2021, we were lucky enough to add two new species to that site’s database! Peter spotted a Naked Sole and I found a Crested Pipefish. Todd took great ID photos so we could document them. What a thrill!