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 Kara Curry, a REEF member who lives in Washington. She joined REEF in 2016, and has quickly become an extremely active surveyor - she has submitted more than 370 surveys to date! Kara and her husband Chuck (also a REEF member and surveyor) love to dive, freedive, and travel. They frequently attend REEF Field Survey Trips, including the inaugural trip to the Maldives in January 2019. We're so glad to call Kara part of the REEF family!

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 in 2016 when I was on a dive trip in Cuba. I was with a dive club that was sharing a dive boat with the REEF Expedition group. The REEF volunteers were excited and having fun. They came up from their dives enthusiastically talking about the fish they saw, fish they were unable to identify, the key identifying marks for particular fish, etc. I also found the REEF volunteers very friendly, interesting, and willing to share their knowledge. It made me curious about fish watching, but I didn’t think I would be very good at it. Those REEF folks knew their fish! Nonetheless, with a little encouragement and a lot of help from an avid fish watcher and REEF volunteer (now my husband), the following year I became a REEF member and completed my first survey. To my surprise, I really loved fish watching and have been an active surveyor since 2017. It’s a lot of fun!

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
What I enjoy about surveying is that it has changed my dive experiences for the better. I am far more observant underwater. I am more attuned to the details of fish appearance, their behavior, habitat, water conditions and changes in all of these with the time of day. When I first started doing surveys I thought I needed to know a lot of the fish first. What I have found is that surveying helps me learn the fish better.

What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?
Just recently my husband and I were surveying while snorkeling and freediving in Hawaii. We were approached by three Reef Manta Ray in only about 40’ of water. They came in really close as if to get a better look at us! I have seen mantas before while on scuba but never observed this kind of behavior. Perhaps because we were not on scuba they did not seem threatened by us. Whatever the reason, it was an incredible experience!

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
I can’t say that I have a favorite fish, but I do have a favorite family. I love the Jacks (Carangidae)! I think they are so cool looking. They are big and silvery and often swim in large schools. They are so powerful. Whether it’s open water swimming, freediving, or scuba diving, I love swimming with them.

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
As a relatively new surveyor I’d encourage new fishwatchers not to be intimidated by what they don’t know. I sure was and there was no need to be. Study a few common fish or one family at a time, and don’t get frustrated. To me it’s kind of like treasure hunting! You go down and see what you can find. There are always surprises.