Earlier this month, we launched our holiday giving campaign highlighting how REEF data are used to assess our changing seas. We are well on our way to reaching our goal, but still need your help! Please make a donation today by contributing online at www.REEF.org/donate or calling REEF Headquarters at 305-852-0030.
Your donation will support our efforts to further scientific knowledge of marine creatures and habitats. With almost 200,000 marine species surveys submitted by REEF volunteers, I am proud to report that in 2015, researchers and scientists used REEF data to evaluate:
- Biodiversity, status, and trends of fishes and invertebrates
- The impact of beach nourishment projects on South Florida reef ecosystems
- A management plan for Ecological Reserves in Puerto Rico
- Endangered sawfish species distribution and status
- Juvenile rockfish habitat in Puget Sound
- The effect of citizens in detecting and responding to rapid marine invasions
- Goliath Grouper populations for fishery management decisions
This research is only possible through generous donations from members like you! Please take a moment to donate now. For donations of $250 or more, I will mail a signed print of this gorgeous Fiji reef scene. The profusion of color from these soft corals and huge schools of Anthias species is stunning! This photo is one of my favorites - get yours today!
And for those of you who work for a company that matches charitable donations, please let us know so that we can be sure to make the most of your contribution.
Thank you for your support and happy holidays,
President, REEF Board of Trustees
We are proud to share a story from the East Coast that is a perfect example of how REEF data are put to work to address our changing seas. Dr. Peter Auster of the University of Connecticut and Mystic Aquarium, recently submitted a petition to add the Radiated Shanny and Atlantic Seasnail to the list of Species of Concern under the State of Connecticut's Endangered Species Act. Dr. Auster used REEF data as his primary source of information for the petition.
Both species are considered "cold-adapted," with their distribution largely north of Cape Cod with rare sightings in Long Island Sound. Data show that these species may be the first climate-change casualties in Connecticut waters as Long Island Sound continues to warm. These species occur in rocky habitats, and the best population data come from diver surveys, such as those from the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. If you are a REEF surveyor in the northeast region, please keep an eye out and report these species on your surveys! Dr. Auster will continue to track their abundance through the REEF database and assess the effect of changing seas on their populations.
REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.
This month we highlight Alex Brett, a REEF member since 2014. Since joining last year, Alex has conducted 27 surveys, almost all in the Northeast (NE) region. Here's what he had to say about REEF:
How did you first hear about REEF?
I first heard about REEF at Boston Sea Rovers during a presentation where the invertebrate monitoring program was being unveiled for the New England area. I had been involved in a lot of benthic invertebrate survey work in college, so the idea of adding science to my normal dives was particularly appealing.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
I feel that the REEF programs are valuable for two equally important reasons. First off, the data that are produced are invaluable for understanding trends in ocean ecosystems. Recreational volunteer divers can collect far more data than most researchers could hope to achieve. Second, I believe that citizen science programs like REEF are invaluable because of how they engage people in marine science. By inspiring divers to become involved in marine science, REEF helps people form a stronger connection to the ocean and makes them more likely to speak up and take action on marine environmental issues.
Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
I live on the coast of Maine, and I dive there year-round. I’ve dove many places around the world and it’s still one of my favorite areas to dive. The rugged rocky coast makes for some wonderfully dramatic topography underwater and our high tidal currents bring an awesome diversity of invertebrate life. One of my favorite places to dive in Maine is a spot, about 20 miles offshore, called Mount Desert Rock. The visibility is usually spectacular and a breeding colony of grey seals make for some entertaining dive companions.
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate?
Too many possibilities! I definitely can’t pick just one. I love all nudibranchs, particularly those in the genus Flabellina, like the Red-gilled Nudibranch. Lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) are also pretty incredible, with their goofy face and fins modified into a suction disc.
Is there a fish or marine invertebrate you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
I would love to see an Ocean Sunfish (Mola mola) while diving. I’ve seen them at the surface many times, but they are such a unique critter I can’t quite imagine encountering one underwater. One of the things I love about diving is that you never quite know what you’re going to run into while you’re out there.
While we can't do much about dreary winter weather, booking a trip for the coming year might be just the trick to lift your mood. REEF trips are a diver's dream vacation! We have two great trips in February - a fish ID trip to Barbados and a lionfish research trip to Dominica. Trips later in the year include Belize, Saba, Bermuda, and more. Expert-led education combined with citizen science and world-class diving make our trips unique. Visit www.REEF.org/trips to find out more, and contact us at trips@REEF.org or 305-588-5869 to book your space. Trips sell out so book your space today.
Scientists and volunteers from REEF, and our partners at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Cayman Islands Department of the Environment, are gearing up for the annual Grouper Moon Project next month. Scientists will be on the ground and in the water during the full moon in January. Since 2002, the group has conducted ground-breaking research to study the Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations, to help ensure recovery of the populations of this iconic species. This year, the team will be collaborating on new work using cutting-edge technology including underwater microscopes to evaluate larvae in-situ. We will also be hosting several live-feed videos through Google Hangouts as part of REEF’s Grouper Education Program. In 2011, with funding from Disney Conservation Fund, REEF launched the education program to engage Caymanian students in the project. This exciting initiative brings the Nassau Grouper into elementary and high school classrooms through lesson plans and the Hangouts that connect classrooms with scientists in the field. We will post Hangout details on our Facebook page and www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject in a few weeks.
We are pleased to welcome two REEF surveyors to the Golden Hamlet Club in 2015 – Georgia Arrow and Janna Nichols. What is the Golden Hamlet Club? No, it is not a club of Shakespearean enthusiasts, but rather a club of citizen scientist superstars - those REEF members who have conducted 1,000+ surveys in the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Georgia was the first member to complete almost all of the 1,000 surveys in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest. Although many of Janna’s surveys were also conducted in the Pacific Northwest, as REEF’s Outreach Coordinator, Janna has conducted surveys in almost all of REEF’s project regions. She recently did her 1,000th on the Cozumel REEF Field Survey.
The very first Golden Hamlet member was Linda Baker, achieving the status in 2005. Today, there are eighteen members of the Golden Hamlet Club. A plaque hangs at REEF HQ in Key Largo, with the names of our honored volunteer surveyors -- Lad Akins, Georgia Arrow, Linda Baker, Judie Clee, Janet Eyre, Dave Grenda, Doug Harder, Lillian Kenney, Peter Leahy, Rob McCall, Franklin Neal, Janna Nichols, Mike Phelan, Bruce Purdy, Linda Ridley, Dee Scarr, Linda Schillinger, and Sheryl Shea. Congratulations to you all. To see pictures and profiles of these surveyors, visit the Golden Hamlet Club webpage. Thanks to their dedication, and those of the 16,000 other volunteers who have participated in the Survey Project since its inception in 1993, we have generated the largest marine fish sightings database in the world. Who's going to be the next Golden Hamlet surveyor?
We are excited to announce a full schedule of REEF's trademark Fishinars. These free, online webinars offer the opportunity to learn from our experts on a multitude of topics. Join us for fish and invertebrate ID sessions, as well as presentations on fascinating topics such as scientific illustration, mantas, the lionfish invasion, and prehistoric sharks. For the complete schedule and to register, visit www.REEF.org/fishinars.
2016 Fishinars (all times listed are EST)
Lesser Known Fish of Cozumel, Wednesday Jan 6th at 8pm, with Tracey Griffin & Jonathan Lavan
Manta-nar, Tuesday Jan 12th at 9pm, with Joshua Stewart from Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Pacific Northwest Invertebrates and Algae, Tuesday Jan 19th at 10pm, with Janna Nichols
The Grunt Club: New Members, Thursday Feb 11th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Northern vs Southern Gulf of Mexico, parts 1 & 2, Tuesday Feb 23rd and Feb 25th at 8pm, with Carol Cox
Cool Sharks, Thursday Mar 17th at 8pm, with Artist Ray Troll
Common Reef Fishes of Tubbataha Reef Philippines, Monday Mar 21st at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
Fishes of the Philippines Muck, Wednesday Mar 23rd at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
The Lionfish Invasion: Current Findings and Control Efforts, Wednesday Apr 6th at 8pm, with Emily Stokes
More Holy Moly Gobies, Wednesday Apr 13th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Fishes and Invertebrates of the Carolinas, Tuesday Apr 19th and Thursday Apr 21st at 8pm, with Janna Nichols and Frank Krasovec
You Do WHAT For a Living?: The next chapter, Tuesday Apr 26th at 8pm, with Scientific Illustrator and Author Val Kells
Hawaii Life on a Coral Head: Hawkfishes and more, Wednesday May 4th, at 10pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
The Wrasse Class- Back in School, Tuesday May 17th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Northeast's Less Frequently Seen Fish, Thursday May 26th at 8pm, with Janna Nichols and Jason Feick
Life in the Muck: Blue Heron Bridge, Wednesday Jun 1st at 8pm, with Carlos & Allison Estape
Super Duper Groupers, Part Deux, Wednesday Jun 22nd at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Less Frequently Seen Fish of Virgin Gorda BVI, Thursday Jul 14th at 8pm, with Janna Nichols
Fishes of Bermuda, Tuesday Aug 30th at 8pm, with Ned and Anna DeLoach
Underwater Residents of Barkley Sound BC, Thursday, Sep 8th at 10pm, with Janna Nichols
Common Fishes of Micronesia, Wednesday Sep 21st at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
Sea Saba Underwater, Tuesday Oct 4th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Hawaii Life in the Sand, Monday Nov 14th at 10pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
**All times Eastern Time**