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 Sarah Martin. She joined REEF in 2021 and has already conducted 18 surveys in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea (IORS), REEF's newest survey region. She is a Level 2 surveyor in the IORS, and loves to complete snorkel surveys near her home in Dubai. We're glad that Sarah is a part of REEF and we look forward to seeing more surveys from her in the future!

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
I first heard about REEF when I enrolled in a REEF fish identification course about Indian Ocean and Red Sea fishes. I am constantly on the lookout for material, books, websites, apps, etc. that help me identify and learn about different marine species, so this was right up my alley! I was also excited to learn that REEF has their own fish species database, which was perfect for me to log all of my survey data. I plan to make a lot of use out of that!

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
For years I have been trying to find or decide how and what to do with my fish survey videos and data, with the hopes of being able to collect meaningful data about species composition changes. To find that REEF has developed their own survey project to collate fish data worldwide was so exciting to me and I am proud to be a part of that. Thank you REEF!

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? If you don’t dive nearby, where do you most often dive? Where is your favorite place to dive and why?
Growing up in Dubai, I have always lived close to the sea. I am lucky to live only five minutes away from my favourite survey sites -three beaches next to each other that are bordered by boulder breakwaters that act as a nursery to juvenile fish. I have been snorkeling at these beaches for around 10 years and people are amazed when I tell and show them just how much life is underwater there. I spot a new species (for me) each time I snorkel there - it is fantastic! My other favourite place to snorkel/dive is called Dibba Rock, which is a three hour drive away in Fujairah. I love it there because of the reef sharks and turtles that are present almost daily and because it is a protected area.

What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?
When snorkeling at Dibba Rock for the first time, I was informed that there are normally reef sharks swimming in the shallows. I was very nervous at first because I didn't know what to expect but once I started seeing the sharks it was fantastic! They were more scared of us than we were of them, and kept their distance, but at one point a large shark swam right by me. It was amazing! I was lucky enough to see two turtles as well, which was an added bonus.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
It is too difficult to choose one favourite as I have so many, but one I find most fascinating is the cuttlefish. After being lucky to observe quite a few while snorkeling in the shallows at the beaches, I was mesmerized watching their colour and texture changes in various situations: before attacking prey, prior to swimming off, while eating, etc. Their camouflage skills and beautiful eyes are fascinating. I managed to observe a female attacking and catching a fish right next to me. It was impressive!

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
Don't just look at the obvious! Look beneath outcrops of rock, between gaps, and in crevices. Look closer at different structures and substrates, and take your time to make out a shape that looks slightly different. Here you might be able to spot the timid or camouflaged species that you wouldn't normally see.

Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
This would have to be another mollusc - the octopus. I am intrigued by their intelligence, dexterity, and beauty, and would love to encounter one while snorkeling or diving. Manta rays are a close second.