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 Ed Gullekson, a REEF member who lives in Washington. Ed became a REEF member nearly 10 years ago, and since then he has submitted 474 REEF surveys. He is a member of the Advanced Assessment Team (AAT) for the Pacific Coast (PAC) region and has participated in several special REEF projects as an AAT member. A dedicated surveyor, Ed has also been on several REEF Field Survey Trips. Just last summer, he attended a REEF Field Survey Trip in Key Largo, where he completed his 2,000th dive! When not traveling, Ed enjoys diving near his home in Washington.

We're so thankful to have a dedicated and enthusiastic member like Ed! You can read more about his experience with REEF below.

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
I did my first survey for REEF in 2009. Over the following few years I did only a few more until early 2015, when I really got going. I took a REEF in-person seminar and moved from level 2 to level 3. That got me more excited about surveying. A year later I took the level 4/5 quiz and became level 5 for PAC region. Since then I have surveyed on almost every dive I make and have surveyed in Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) and Tropical Eastern Pacific regions. I even made level 3 for TWA. I’m on the hunt for different species on every dive.

If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
Last summer, I participated in the 25th Anniversary Field Survey Trip in Key Largo. Doing repeat work is critical in scientific efforts and contributing to this data set was especially satisfying. I have also participated in two AAT projects in the San Juan Islands in Washington. Some of my favorite sightings have happened on these projects, including a three-foot long Yelloweye Rockfish and a huge field of Strawberry Anemones.

What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
Actually, there are two things: getting to know and work with wonderful “fish nerds” who teach me about our amazing sea life, and getting exposed to diving different areas with a focus to learn and contribute to understanding in that area.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
The long term data set that will help scientists of the future to understand the workings and changes to the areas we are surveying today.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
For local diving, one of my favorite sites is also the closest site to my home. It has good variety and some of my favorite species, like Giant Pacific Octopus, which I saw there very recently. The San Juan Islands are also relatively local for me. I have multiple favorite sites there including Turn Point Wall that is nearly straight up and down from the surface to almost 400 feet (I’ve only been to 115 feet there but the depth sounder says 400). It is so covered with invertebrates so that no actual rock shows.

What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?
My most fascinating fish encounter lasted a day and a half, in Bimini in The Bahamas. We were diving with Great Hammerhead Sharks. They are amazing animals. We had four of them, two pregnant 12-foot females and two smaller ones about 8 to 9 feet, one male and one female. Their hunting methods, body flexibility, and the way they glide across the sand floor, are captivating.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
My favorite marine invertebrate is the Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO). I got to help collect feeding data on GPOs one year as a support diver for a University of Washington study. We were on the hunt for GPOs on every dive to take samples of their “midden”, the collection of shells from the prey they had eaten. We found a lot of GPOs that year and I got really good at finding them. GPOs are intelligent, active, and will interact with divers.

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
One great source for learning are the Facebook groups for each region. I have really fine-tuned my identification knowledge by both posting photos and reading comments from my fellow fishwatchers. They have given me insights to being able to identify fish that even the best books can’t cover.