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 Mark and Penny Hooper, REEF members since 2012, and important partners in our expansion to the South Atlantic States (SAS) region in 2013. Collectively, they have conducted 144 REEF surveys, many in their home state of North Carolina. They are both Level 3 TWA surveyors, and they have their sights on achieving Expert Level status soon. Here's what they had to say about REEF:

What got you interested in the ocean?

We met at the marine station on Catalina Island off California in 1970, while diving as part of class field work. Penny completed her Master's degree working in Hyperbaric Physiology studying the effects of saturation on the body. After moving to North Carolina, Mark worked as a commercial fisherman specializing in hard crabs, soft shell crabs, and farm raised clams. We both served as Diving Safety Officer (DSO) at Johns Hopkins University, and Mark was DSO at the Duke Marine Lab in Beaufort for 10 years after Hopkins. It was during time at Duke that we were introduced to REEF.

How did you get involved with REEF?

While at the marine lab in Beaufort, Mark got actively involved with expansion of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project to North Carolina. He advised on the development of survey materials and helped bring together interest groups. Mark started surveying a local jetty dive site to document the influx of juvenile tropical fish in the summer. A highlight of this program was recording 100+ juvenile Spotfin Butterflyfish on one dive, with only 5' of visibility.

Have you ever been on a REEF Field Survey Trip?

Yes, we have gone on several REEF Trips, including Dominica, Cayman Brac, Barbados, Turks and Caicos. We really enjoy diving with the other REEF volunteers and have learned a tremendous amount by interacting with them. We love to dive, and we have always tried to know the fish and invertebrates we see. But it was through the REEF trips that we really increased our knowledge base and total awareness of our underwater world. We survey now on every dive and snorkel we make.

What is your favorite thing about doing REEF surveys?

We feel our work with REEF as citizen scientists is of utmost importance. The ocean is a dynamic environment and climate change is accelerating change. In North Carolina, REEF divers are documenting range expansion of tropical species in our offshore waters. This is important work and could not be done solely by the scientific community.