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 Mary Adams, who lives in Maryland. She enjoys attending REEF Trips and has conducted more than 100 surveys. She is a Level 3 surveyor in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) survey region. We look forward to seeing more surveys from Mary in the future, and are glad that she's part of REEF!

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
I heard about REEF in 2018 from another scuba club member, just about the time I was realizing that I wanted to do more with diving than just be a tourist. I had discovered coral restoration in the Keys and enjoyed Coralpalooza, and found another opportunity to contribute through REEF.

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
I have been on 3 REEF survey trips: St. Kitts-Statia, Belize, Turks & Caicos. Highlight was on the Turks & Caicos trip when I passed the Level 3 test! I’ve done REEF surveys on non-REEF trips, with my scuba club and with just my buddy. It is very satisfying to know the fishes that we see.

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
I am inspired by the Grouper Moon Project, seeing that REEF data can encourage decision-makers to manage fisheries sustainably. I think of Grouper Moon every time I see a Nassau Grouper. The interesting and exasperating thing I’ve learned is how different the parrotfish phases are - how a checkerboard-patterned intermediate phase Stoplight Parrotfish turns into a beautiful adult! It must happen overnight, because I’ve never seen a halfway intermediate-adult stoplight parrotfish.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
I love being around other divers who truly care about the fishes. Citizen science is way more fun than real science ever was (retired engineer here).

If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
It’s like birdwatching, but underwater, and you can actually see the fishes.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
It’s important to make REEF survey data freely available to marine science students and others who can use the data to make decisions that affect the Caribbean and the other REEF regions.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
I dive in warm water: the Caribbean, Florida, Palau and Chuuk, the Sea of Cortez and Revillagigedo. My best time diving was Ulong Channel in Palau. It was stunning. Belize, Glover’s Atoll, early 2020, was sublime. I’ll be back there soon.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite fish is the Yellowhead Jawfish, because they are just so cute!

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
Buy the books. I can’t carry them on dive trips because they are heavy, but they are necessary to interpret my photos before I enter my survey data.

What is your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
On a night dive at Thunderdome in Turks and Caicos, I saw schools of newly-hatched Belted Cardinalfish and Blueheads. They were transparent and SO tiny. I have yet to see those baby trunkfish that look like tiny dice. And someday I will find a seahorse all by myself, not pointed out by the divemaster.