Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Co-Executive Director: Science & Engagement
A bucket list item for many REEF surveyors - discovering a new species. And even better, getting a species named after you. This has happened a handful of times over the last couple of decades, and one of our surveyors now has the honor of it happening twice! One of REEF's most prolific surveyors, Janet Eyre, now has a beautiful shrimpgoby named in her honor after discovering the fish on a recent trip to Indonesia. After seeing and photographing the mystery fish, Janet communicated with fish taxonomists, providing images and an exact location of where the fish was sighted, enabling the collection of type specimens. The new species was described and named Janet's Shrimpgoby (Tomiyamichthys eyreae), and was published in the journal aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology last month. In 2015, her quest for getting a fish named after her first became a reality when she found an unidentified goby in Fiji. It was later described as Eviota eyreae, Eyre's Dwarfgoby.
Here’s Janet’s telling of first finding the new shrimpgoby species… “The funniest thing is that in reality my fish found me! I was swimming around over sand at 80’ off Daram Island in southern Raja Ampat (Indonesia) when this fish swam right up to my belly. Imagine my physical gyrations as I tried to get a photo of it as it is trying to get as close to me as it can. Finally, it decided I wasn’t such a great hiding place and started swimming away. That was when I was able to get a few shots. I sent the photos to fish taxonomists Gerry Allen and Mark Erdmann who said it looked like an undescribed Tomiyamichthys (a genus of shrimpgoby). I was more surprised to hear that it was a shrimpgoby than I was to hear it was undescribed, as shrimpgobies live symbiotically in burrows in the sand with blind shrimp. I had never seen one out free swimming before. Fortunately, Mark was scheduled to be in the area where I had seen it later that month. I don’t think it took him long to find a pair living with their shrimp. What is a bit surprising is that no one had seen it before, probably because it is quite localized and Daram Island isn’t one of the “known” hot sites of Raja Ampat (my thanks to the Dewi Nusantara, the boat I was on, which likes to go to and find out of the way places). But now that it has been discovered, I expect people diving around Daram Island to find and record it. Looking back on how I “discovered” my shrimpgoby, I feel that it found me…our relationship was somehow pre-ordained…how else can one explain the events?”
Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Co-Executive Director: Science & Engagement
While everyone knows that marine mammals are well known sound producers, did you know that many fish species also produce and use sound to sense their environment? Marine environments are teeming with underwater sounds from animals, human activities (shipping, costal development, oil and gas exploration etc.), and geological processes such as rain, wind, and water flow. The combination of the sounds, called a soundscape, can be used to study the ecology of animals that produce, hear, or respond to sound. Grouper Moon Project collaborators recently published two scientific papers highlighting research on the soundscape of the spawning aggregation at the west end of Little Cayman.
During the winter months, the Little Cayman research site is full of sounds produced by aggregating Nassau Grouper, along with other species that use the area for spawning, including Red Hind, Black Grouper, and Yellowfin Grouper, as well as other sound producers like squirrelfish and snapping shrimp. From 2015 to 2107, the Grouper Moon Project collaborated with researchers Katherine Wilson and Ana Širović (previously at Scripps Institution of Oceanography) to deploy an array of hydrophones (underwater microphones) at the Nassau Grouper spawning aggregation site in order to 1) localize the sounds produced by aggregating Nassau Grouper to examine the dynamics of the aggregation overnight and during the periods that are not monitored by our Grouper Moon research team, and 2) analyze the soundscape and the characteristics of all the known sounds produced by grouper at this multi-species spawning aggregation to study the sound communication of these fishes. The latter objective included localizing these sounds to measure sound levels and determine the distance over which fishes can hear each other.
Results of the three-year study included a detailed analysis of the characteristics of the sounds produced by four grouper species (Nassau, Black, Yellowfin, and Red Hind), as well as daily patterns of sound production. The pitch of Red Hind sounds was uniquely different than that of the other three species, possibly to distinguish the species in the multi-species grouper chorus at the aggregation site. The team also identified distinctive sound patterns for Yellowfin Grouper, which aggregate and spawn by the hundreds just north of the Nassau Grouper aggregation. They also developed a method to accurately localize grouper sounds using triangulation within the array of hydrophones; similar to those used by GPS recievers based on satellite signals. Using a hexagon array of hydrophones, the researchers documented three areas of high sound production by Red Hind within the array, likely the product of male spawning territories. Nassau Grouper sounds were typically produced in the sandy areas between coral formations, with calling ceasing in the area when spawning occurred off the shelf around dusk.
The results were published in two recent scientific publications:
Wilson, KC, BX Semmens, CV Pattengill-Semmens, C McCoy, A Širović. 2020. Potential for grouper acoustic competition and partitioning at a multispecies spawning site in Little Cayman, Cayman Islands. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 634: 127-146. More Details
Wilson, KC, BX Semmens, SR Gittings, CV Pattengill-Semmens and A Širović. 2019. Development and evaluation of a passive acoustic localization method to monitor fish spawning aggregations and measure source levels. OCEANS 2019 MTS/IEEE SEATTLE, Seattle, WA, USA, 2019, pp. 1-7. More Details
A full list of scientific papers that have resulted from the Grouper Moon Project since its inception in 2001 can be found here: https://www.REEF.org/grouper-moon-project-publications.
Author: Amy Lee, Engagement and Communications Manager
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 Christa Anderson, a REEF member who lives in southern California. Christa joined REEF in 2014 and has conducted 258 REEF surveys, many of which have been submitted in her home waters of California. She is a Level 5 Surveyor in REEF’s Pacific Coast (PAC) region of the US and Canada, and has been building up her survey total in several other regions as well, including the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA), Hawaii (HAW) and Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP.)
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 through Herb Gruenhagen’s REEF fish and invertebrate identification course. I had been wanting to learn the names of the creatures I saw while scuba diving and was ecstatic that a free class was being offered. Herb’s enthusiasm and amazing stories were contagious and afterwards I eagerly joined and religiously logged surveys for every dive.
What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
I am inspired to log surveys by knowing that each report contributes to a large database that is available to the public, researchers and regulatory agencies. Each survey keeps the database current, relevant, and robust. I hope that the data I collect will benefit ocean conservation, support marine protection and inspire others to go into the ocean and explore!
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
I really enjoy exploring REEF’s database, reviewing my own information collected and love taking advantage of the free and entertaining Fishinars. I am constantly learning and being challenged. The Fishinars hosts make the online classes fun and engaging. They have a vast knowledge about fish, and fish behaviors and the community that is created is valuable and supportive.
If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
REEF is an ocean conservation non-profit organization that leads trips, hosts fish identification webinars (or Fishinars) and maintains a citizen scientist online database that tracks marine creatures’ abundance and diversity. Anyone can join for free and take advantage of learning and contributing by logging surveys. Surveying can be done by snorkeling or scuba diving and the best part is that this work is ongoing! There’s a chance that you will be the first to identify a new survey site or possibly discover a new unidentified species.
Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
Most of my dives are in the local region that I live. I have obtained the highest level in PAC (Pacific Coast of US/Canada) region and am currently working on TWA (Tropical Western Atlantic), TEP (Tropical Eastern Pacific) and HAW (Hawaii) regions. PAC has beautiful kelp forests and rocky reefs. The vibrant colors of algae and the streaming sunlight sifting through the water column of Giant Kelp do rival coral reefs in beauty and amazement with creatures found. In San Diego, the kelp forests off Point Loma are one of the best places to dive. Another amazing location is an advanced site known as Scripps Canyon. Here the layers in the wall offer structure for sponge, soft coral, filter feeders and a whole diversity of fish and invertebrates. It is also where you will see the most and biggest lobsters, all safely residing in the State Marine Conservation Area.
What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?
Once on a night dive off Point Loma, I was diving with buddies in the kelp forest in ~50ft of water. My light caught something silvery in the dark and it caught my eye as well. A slender Sevengill Shark as big as me was swimming slowly toward me. I watched transfixed and anxious as it swam up to me curiously and bumped my leg with its head several times. I was thankful it wasn’t curious with its mouth. I used my fin to gently push the shark away and it swam off into the dark.
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
I love octopuses. Over on the west coast in San Diego, there are a lot of small octopuses hiding in holes in the mud or in the rocks. They are very intelligent and will flash different colors and change texture to intimidate or camouflage with their surroundings. They are amazing to watch and will stick their head out of their hole to watch the noisy bubble-blowing scuba divers as we check them out as well.
Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
I began to notice that there are similar types of fish across different areas, especially areas sharing similar ocean climatic regions. I recognized that different regions will share fish families, like parrotfish and butterflyfish in equatorial, tropical and subtropical oceans, or in subtropical and temperate, wrasse and damselfish families. Learning to recognize the families helped me in learning to identify fish.
Author: Stacey Henderson, Volunteer Fish Survey Project Lead Intern
Are your gills drying out in self-quarantine? Grab your laptop, tablet, or even a smartphone and join us for our next Fishinar, Fishes of Guanaja, on Thursday, April 16 at 8:00pm EDT! Instructor Janna Nichols will teach you tricks to identify the fishes of deep walls and tranquil gardens of Guanaja, located in the Bay Islands of Honduras - part of our Tropical Western Atlantic survey region. Fishinars are free webinars that will teach you the finer points of fish ID. These educational sessions are open to all; from divers and snorkelers, to anyone wanting to know more about the ocean’s inhabitants. They are great for first-time REEF surveyors, or those wanting a review. You can register for our next Fishinar here.
We record all Fishinars and make them available online, so if you are unable to join us, you can view it later on. With more than 170 sessions to choose from, you can find one for every ocean region and every level of experience. Please visit this page for the complete archive.
Author: The REEF Team
April is Earth Month, and as we look forward to Earth Day on April 22, you might be looking for ways to stay connected to the environment in these uncertain times. We are all facing new and unfamiliar challenges as we adjust to this rapidly changing situation and navigate disruptions to our daily life. Here are some fun and easy activities you can do from the comfort and safety of your home:
Check out a Fishinar (or ten) - Already watched everything on Netflix? No need to worry! Browse our archive of more than 180 free, educational, marine life webinars. From butterflyfishes of Hawaii to the most common fish of Costa Rica, there is something for everybody!
Submit your REEF surveys - Did you know that your REEF surveys never expire? This is an excellent time to dust off any backlogged surveys you may have. You can submit them into our publicly accessible database to better inform research, policy, and management. It’s also a great way to relive the fun of past dives!
Watch (or rewatch) Changing Seas - Check out this Emmy Award-winning series to learn more about the Grouper Moon Project. This episode chronicles the ongoing, collaborative efforts of REEF and the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment to study and protect one of the last great populations of the critically endangered Nassau Grouper.
Dive into your reading list - The REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida, is closed to the public, but we are continuing to ship online store orders. We have a great selection of marine life guidebooks available for areas including the Caribbean, Pacific, and more. Order yours today!
Connect with fellow fishwatchers - If you’re on Facebook, request to join one (or all!) of our eight regional Facebook groups. These active forums provide a fantastic opportunity to share your photos and observations and ask questions. Whether you are brand new to the world of fishwatching, or have been doing it for years, all are welcome.
Author: Martha Klitzkie, Co-Executive Director: Strategy & Operations
Are you looking for a way to support REEF during this uncertain and volatile time? Please consider becoming a REEF Guardian by setting up a monthly donation. As a nonprofit organization, consistency is vital to our ability to protect ocean species and places. The support of REEF Guardians ensures that our important marine conservation work is able to continue. By becoming a monthly recurring donor, you will join a special group of members who believe deeply in REEF and your support will help us build strength and stability in our research, education, and volunteer citizen science programs.
As a member of the Guardian Club, you will enjoy:
- Hassle-free monthly donations
- Automatic donation payment from your credit card
- The knowledge that your donation is put to work immediately
- An annual statement provided for tax purposes
- The ability to change or suspend your donation at any time
- Special benefits and donor recognition
As part of the $2 trillion stimulus bill that cleared Congress on Friday, March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act ("CARES Act") expanded the charitable tax deduction level for all taxpayers. You can help provide critical support to ensure the consistency of REEF’s ocean conservation work while maximizing your tax deduction. Join the Guardian Club to see how your sustained investment can add up to lasting change for healthy oceans. Every dollar of each Guardian Club member’s regular, monthly gift adds up to a lasting impact for marine conservation. For more information on the CARES Act expansion of charitable contribution limits visit this page.
Author: Janna Nichols, Citizen Science Program Manager
Twenty-seven surveyors have met our 20 in 2020 Challenge by conducting and submitting at least 20 surveys this year. The challenge is ongoing throughout 2020 and there's still plenty of time to join in. Everyone who completes the challenge gets a special decal and is entered into a drawing for a prize! You can check out more details on the webpage here.
Have you conducted and submitted 20 surveys in 2020? If so, email 202020@REEF.org and let us know!
Challenge Accepted and Completed:
Author: Amy Lee, Engagement and Communications Manager
This month, REEF is proud to highlight one of our outstanding Conservation Partners: COJO Diving, located in Lincoln, New Brunswick, Canada. REEF Conservation Partners are active organizations and dive shops dedicated to protecting marine environments. As valued REEF ambassadors, they teach fish ID classes, host survey dives, organize volunteer events and more. You can see the full listing of Conservation Partners or register your business or organization as a REEF Conservation Partner here: www.REEF.org/conservation-partners.
In what ways does COJO Diving engage with REEF’s main programs?
The identification and photography of local marine life are activities which are hugely popular with our local divers. The Bay of Fundy is in our backyard, which not only has the highest tides in the world, but is well known for the richness and diversity of marine life above and below. Early in the season we host fish ID classes which are offered free at our shop, and this sets divers up to be more aware going into the season and participating in the many event dives COJO offers.
On our summer charters out of the seaside town Saint Andrews, divers not only enjoy topside sightings such as seals, porpoise and whales, but then get to explore and document new dive sites. In July as part of the Great Annual Fish Count, we sponsor at least one event dive where divers are briefed onsite on how to conduct survey dives, the materials used, and all about REEF and how to submit their surveys.
What other actions do you take to promote marine conservation?
When divers enter our shop and ask us what kind of diving we offer around here, we immediately talk about the events and trips we offer to various locations and how accessible these are to divers of every level. Our shop counter is the place to find information about REEF, find local identification books, and purchase REEF materials to conduct surveys. We are a 100% Project AWARE partner, so we make a donation to Project AWARE for every recreational certification we process, and we partner with the Nature Trust of New Brunswick to promote and survey sites under their protection. We also participate annually in the Great Fundy Coastal Cleanup by hosting a 'Dive Against Debris' event on one of the sites protected by NTNB. We work with the Huntsman Marine Science Center, which is an aquarium and research center located in Saint Andrews. We support activities such as "bio blitzes" hosted by our partners, in some of our many unique coastal areas. We are also environmentally conscious in selecting partners for our dive travel and charters. Not only do we give our divers the opportunity to see other unique areas in Canada and around the world, but we want them to see it through the eyes of local operators who fight to conserve and protect their areas.
How can REEF members get involved with your dive shop/organization?
REEF members can contact us through Facebook or through our website, www.cojodiving.com. All of our dive events, trips and charters are posted on our Facebook Events page with details on the site and timings. To encourage divers to come out to as many events as possible, we offer a 25% discount on all rentals for event dives. Event dives are free to attend and family friendly, and divers without a buddy just register onsite and we make sure everyone has someone with compatible experience to dive with. We make sure divers of every level have opportunities to come out for fun dives!
We also provide detailed site and safety briefings, identification materials, Divemasters and safety divers to help on shore and in the water. We have water, snacks, first aid and oxygen kits at all of the dive events. We often follow the events with a BBQ, and we do a sweep of the beach and area for debris. Not only are the events fun, free and educational, but all divers leave with a sense of how they can also be good stewards of our marine area!
Author: Janna Nichols, Citizen Science Program Manager
These REEF members are moving up in the world! This past month we've had a number of Experience Level advancements by folks who have been busy conducting surveys and learning how to identify fish. This list includes people from:
This month's achievements are:
Central Indo Pacific (CIP):
South Pacific (SOP)
- Eric Frick - Levels 2 and 3
- Fred Hartner - Level 3
- Frank Krasovec - Level 2
- Jemma Aitken - Level 2
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
- Madalyn Mussey - Level 5
- Mike Snow - Level 3
- Callie Mack - Level 3
- Sachiko Scott - Level 2
- Luc Descoteaux - Level 2
- Eric Vanderlaan - Level 2
- William Stewart - Level 2
- Carly Brooks - Level 2
- Madeline Campbell - Level 2
- Fanny Le Louarn - Level 2
- Louise Thomas - Level 2
- Rachael Lewus - Level 2
- Kathie Stone - Level 2
- Sedona Stone - Level 2
- Lauren Zitzman - Level 2
- Artimah Charles - Level 2
- Don Gordon - Level 2
When someone becomes a REEF member, they are automatically a Level 1 surveyor. Level 2 is where all the work starts! The highest level in a region is Level 5. Many of our members hold Experience Levels in more than one region.
Not a Level 2 surveyor yet? It's easy to become one! Just pass a short fish ID quiz with 80% or better and submit 2 REEF surveys. Contact stacey.henderson@REEF.org for more information or to schedule a quiz. Click here to learn more about REEF Experience Levels.
Author: The REEF Team
Shelter in place? No problem for April's Fish of the Month, the Gorgeous Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris wheeleri)!
Survey Regions: Found throughout a wide range of the tropical Pacific in REEF's Central Indo-Pacific (CIP) and South Pacific (SOP) regions, as well as the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, which makes up the IORS, our newest survey region.
Size: Just over 3 inches.
Identifying Features: Six red bars with yellowish spaces in between, scattered red spots on head and blue spots on body, and a red stripe edged in vibrant blue on the anal fin.
Fun Fact: This species knows how to stay at home! Like other shrimpgobies, the Gorgeous Shrimpgoby shares its burrow with a blind snapping shrimp. During the day, the shrimp constantly maintains the burrow, which consists of elaborate tunnels and chambers in the sand. The goby serves as a lookout and only strays from the entrance of the burrow to pick up mouthfuls of sand, which it then filters for food. At the first sign of danger, the goby alerts its partner shrimp and both quickly dart into the burrow.
Thanks for reading! Stay turned for the next issue to see May's Fish of the Month!