Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Co-Executive Director: Science & Engagement
Home to hundreds of fish species, the Salish Sea in Washington and British Columbia is one of the most biologically diverse inland seas in the world. According to a recent study pubished in the journal Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, REEF citizen scientists play an important role in documenting and monitoring the health of fish populations in the Salish Sea. In fact, citizen scientists who conducted surveys as part of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project helped monitor more than half of the total fish species known to occur in the Salish Sea. REEF surveyors also expanded the known range of multiple species within the ecosystem and documented the presence of a fish species not previously known to occur in the Salish Sea, the Striped Kelpfish (Gibbonsia metzi), bringing the total number of fish species known to use the Salish Sea to 261.
The research was led by SeaDoc Society. SeaDoc has partnered with REEF for almost two decades to help train volunteer divers in the Pacific Northwest. REEF citizen scientists have been surveying the Salish Sea since 1998. The study was also informed by a list of species published by fisheries biologists Theodore Pietsch and James Orr. The authors compared data from 13,000 REEF surveys collected from about 800 sites in the Salish Sea over 21 years (1998-2019). Volunteers observed 138 of the 261 species and expanded the range of 18 species, meaning they were spotted in an area of the Salish Sea where they previously had not been documented to exist.
Not all fish species have an equal chance of being spotted by a scuba diver. Some might live hundreds of feet deep, expertly hide themselves, or only rarely venture into the Salish Sea. The authors took this into account and categorized each fish based on its potential for encounter by a recreational diver. Based on these parameters, REEF surveyors sighted 85% of fish species that lend themselves to visual observation. This helps demonstrate the power of citizen science and shows that experienced surveyors can expand what scientists know about range, life history, population status, size, age, behavior, and more.
“I had so much fun exploring the REEF database and published compilation of Salish Sea fishes,” said lead author Elizabeth Ashley, a UC Davis research assistant with SeaDoc Society. “This study highlights that the incredible biodiversity of the Salish Sea merits the use of a diverse set of tools, wielded by both professional and citizen scientists, to fully understand and protect these fishes.”
The full citation of the paper is: Ashley, EA, CV Pattengill-Semmens, JW Orr, JD Nichols, and JK Gaydos. 2022. Documenting Fishes in an Inland Sea with Citizen Scientist Diver Surveys: using taxonomic expertise to inform the observation potential of fish species. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 194, 227 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-022-09857-1.
To see a full list of scientific papers that have included REEF data and projects, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications.
Special thanks to SeaDoc Society for providing the press release and content for this article.
Author: Amy Lee, Engagement and Communications Manager
Held annually on the last Friday in April, Give BIG for the Oceans is a way for the REEF community to come together and celebrate our collective impact on ocean conservation. Our second annual Give BIG for the Oceans event is coming up on April 29. Thanks to the Pelton Charitable Foundation and an anonymous supporter, all donations made during Give BIG for the Oceans 2022 will be MATCHED up to $15,000! Be sure to mark April 29 on your calendar because you don't want to miss this amazing match opportunity.
All who donate during Give BIG for the Oceans will receive a signed 5"x7" print photographed by REEF Co-Founder Ned DeLoach. This year, Ned and Anna selected a gorgeous reef scene with a school of sweetlips as a gift for those who contribute any amount on April 29. Be sure to watch your email inbox this month for reminders, and thank you for your support!
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 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.
Author: Stacey Henderson, Program Services Coordinator
We recently released the 2023 REEF Field Survey Trips schedule, and spaces are filling up fast! You can view the full schedule of upcoming trips here. This month, we're highlighting Belize and Roatan, two Caribbean destinations on every diver's must-see list.
Belize - January 21-28, 2023: Join us aboard the Belize Aggressor IV to explore the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest reef system in the world. Throughout the week we'll dive at Turneffe and Lighthouse Reef, as well as other sites with plenty of colorful fish life. Click here for trip details
Roatan - July 15-22, 2023: We're returning to CoCo View Resort next summer for a week of boat diving as well as unlimited shore diving at CoCo View’s front yard reef, where more than 300 fish species have been recorded. The resort is also great for non-diving companions, who may enjoy front yard snorkeling and access to ocean kayaks. Click here for complete trip details.
REEF Trips are led by marine life experts, and include diving, fish ID classes, and fun with friends. Divers, snorkelers, and families are welcome on REEF Trips. To find out more or book your space, email trips@REEF.org. We hope to see you on a REEF Trip soon!
Author: Madalyn Mussey, Education and Outreach Program Manager
The third annual Fish Out of Water Virtual 5K is coming up on June 6-12. If you haven't registered yet, visit www.REEF.org/5K to sign up today! Be sure to register before April 30 to receive the early bird registration rate. When you sign up for the 5K, you will choose to join one of five Fish Teams. Read on to learn more about our 2022 Fish Teams, and you can check out each fish's "race personality" here.
Nassau Grouper are an important predator on Caribbean reefs. Normally solitary and territorial, during the winter full moons they gather together in groups to spawn, making their vulnerable to overfishing.
Lionfish are native to the Indo-Pacific but have made their home in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean as an invasive species. They have long flowing fins and venomous spines.
Whale Sharks are the largest shark species in the world, reaching up to 55 feet in length. Despite their large size, they feed on plankton.
Manta Rays have an average wingspan of 6-16 feet, but can reach almost 30 feet across.
Ocean Sunfish are recognized by their large size and unique shape. They often lie on their sides near the surface of the water to bask in the sunlight.
All participants will receive a limited edition race shirt, downloadable race bib, and sticker set. Proceeds from the 5K will support the REEF Oceans for All Fund, a pooled scholarship fund dedicated to supporting the core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion in marine conservation. By participating in the race, you're making a difference in the lives of individuals and the health of the oceans. We hope to see you on the starting line!
Author: Sierra Barkdoll, Citizen Science Program Lead Intern
REEF's online programs are free and open to everyone! Here's what is coming up in the next several weeks:
Into the Blue Book Club Meeting
Thursday, April 21, 8pm EDT
Click here to register.
We will be discussing Emperors of the Deep: The Mysterious and Misunderstood World of the Shark by William McKeever. William will be joining our virtual book club meeting for a Q&A session. Whether you have finished the book or not, all are welcome to attend. Plus, log on early at 7:30pm for a special, private viewing of William McKeever's short feature film, Emperors of the Deep!
Oceans for All: Exploring Diverse Experiences in Marine Conservation
Wednesday, May 11, 8pm EDT
Click here to register.
Join us to celebrate the voices, experiences, and contributions of five diverse leaders in marine conservation. Engage and connect with five panelists and other individuals in the community as we work together to cultivate a culture of belonging and inclusion for the next generation of ocean stewards. This webinar is part of a series of educational opportunities focused on supporting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in marine conservation through the REEF Oceans for All initiative. Check out the Oceans for All page for more information.
Author: Sierra Barkdoll, Citizen Science Program Lead Intern
The Conservation Challenge is a fun way to get involved in marine conservation and earn stickers for completing different challenges. This month, we're highlighting the Give BIG for the Oceans challenge. To complete this challenge and earn the sticker, mark your calendar and plan to donate to support REEF during our annual Give BIG for the Oceans celebration on April 29. The best part? Contributions made during Give BIG for the Oceans are matched! Donations of any amount qualify to receive this sticker. Keep an eye on your inbox for Give BIG reminders throughout the month of April. For more information about the Conservation Challenge and details about other stickers you can add to your collection, visit www.REEF.org/conservationchallenge for more details.
Author: Janna Nichols, Citizen Science Program Manager
Welcome to Citizen Science Corner, our quarterly feature to acknowledge those who recently reached a milestone in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project. We are celebrating those who moved up an Experience Level in January, February or March 2022.
Experience Level Advancements
REEF Experience Levels are a way for divers and snorkelers to measure their fish ID knowledge along with their surveying experience. From beginner to expert, you'll find plenty of resources and friends to help you along the way. Experience Levels 2, 3, 4, or 5 are achieved through submitting a certain number of surveys and passing a fish ID test. For more info, visit www.REEF.org/experiencelevels.
Let's hear it for these REEF members who have improved their fish ID skills!
All listed below are Level 2 unless otherwise noted.
California (CAL) region:
- Amber Senese
- Ankit Sood
- Annie Yu
- Brittany Lockhart
- Joe Vechinski
- Kristina Trotta
- Lisa Chamberlain
- Rachel Wetterlin
- Sarah Pierce
- Scott Whetstone
Indian Ocean / Red Sea (IORS) region:
- Deem Alsuhibani
- Guy Pinneo
- Lien Bruyland
Pacific Northwest (PNW) region:
- Chanelle Cadot
- Jeff Dickman
- Bill Berger - Level 3 and 4
Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP) region:
- Jaye Quadrozzi
- Rachael Lewus
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region:
- Alexandra Hanusch
- Andrew Noel
- Andy White
- Cassidy Dupree-Sood
- Dennis Krebs
- Elizabeth Hassinger
- Fabian Meier
- Gizem Poffyn
- Hakeem Butcher
- Hank Montrose
- Isabel Bourdieu
- Kelsey Marshall
- Kevin Abbott
- Leslie Nguyen - REEF Marine Conservation Intern
- Lindsey Latiolais
- Luke McGhie
- Madison Feldman
- Margot Webster
- Martha Klitzkie
- Mary Pantenburg
- Michael Fewkes
- Michell Attal
- Michella Cerrato
- Omowale Hippolyte
- Rachel Yoder
- Rebecca White
- Rhoda Green - Level 3
- Ronja Holster
- Sarah Siddoway - REEF Marine Conservation Intern
- Seb Teuber
- Susan Molchan
- Wendy Shi
- Mel Briscoe - Level 3
- Meredyth Nelson - Level 5
Author: The REEF Team
Introducing our April Fish of the Month, the Chalk Bass (Serranus torturgarum)!
Survey Regions: The Chalk Bass is found in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) survey region. Click here to see the REEF database report for this species.
Size: They grow to about 3-4 inches.
Identifying Features: Chalk Basses have a light blue to gray body and may also appear pinkish brown or orange. They have a series of pale and dark bars running along their upper body.
Fun Facts: Chalk Basses can be seen hovering over sand and rubble bottoms. They prefer depths of 30 or more feet, and can be found alone or in small clusters. Sometimes groups of Chalk Basses may live in empty conch shells.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next Fish of the Month.
Photo by Florent Charpin.