This holiday season, we are reflecting on the beginnings of REEF. Our mission to conserve marine environments began 25 years ago in the Florida Keys, when a small group of pioneering divers and conservationists took a slate on a dive and started REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project, a program that would eventually become the largest marine life sightings database in the world. Since then, our work has grown to include endangered and invasive species work, as well as education and outreach. None of this would be possible without you, our members.
We need your support this winter to continue our conservation work. You can donate securely online at www.REEF.org/donate, mail your donation to REEF at PO Box 370246, Key Largo, FL 33037, or over the phone by calling 305-852-0030.
As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, the Golden Hamlet pictured above serves as a tribute to the effort and dedication of citizen scientists worldwide. Donors who give at least $250 during our winter fundraising campaign will receive this limited edition, signed, and numbered print of a Golden Hamlet, photographed by our co-founder Paul Humann, in the Cayman Islands. Rarely sighted, the Golden Hamlet is a highly sought after fish for many REEF surveyors. We hope that this exceptional fish reminds you of how your efforts as a REEF supporter can make a difference in the health of our oceans.
Thank you for your continued support. We hope that you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!
REEF staff, board members, and project collaborators recently joined over 300 scientists, resource managers, and fishers at the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) meeting in San Andres, Colombia. GCFI aims to apply fisheries and marine science to solve problems by bringing multiple users of ocean resources together to make informed and coordinated decisions for sustainable use of these resources. REEF staff regularly attend GCFI to share findings and perspectives from our various programs. This year, REEF's Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, and REEF's Invasive Species Program Coordinator, Dr. Alli Candelmo, both attended the conference, along with REEF Board of Trustee members, Ned and Anna DeLoach. REEF Grouper Moon Project lead scientist, Dr. Brice Semmens (from Scripps Institution of Oceanography), presented findings from research conducted on the multi-species spawning aggregation on Little Cayman in the Cayman Islands. Following a similar approach to what our Grouper Moon team has used to study the endangered Nassau Grouper, the research is the first to document home ranges and behavior of spawning Tiger Grouper using passive acoustic monitoring. Another Grouper Moon collaborator, Jack Egerton, presented findings from cutting-edge work to use hydroacoustics to locate and quantify spawning aggregations.
REEF members are the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Divers, snorkelers, and ocean enthusiasts worldwide stand behind our mission.
This month we highlight Annette Felix, who has been a member since 2006. She lives in Tucson, Arizona, and frequently dives and surveys in the Gulf of California, not far from where she lives. Annette recently passed the Level 5 Tropical Eastern Pacific test, which makes her an expert level surveyor in this region! Congratulations on this achievement, Annette! Read more about her 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 became a member of REEF in 2006, but I did not start surveying until 2014. I was taking a marine biology class at our local community college in Tucson when I found information about REEF. As an “older” college student (actually very near retirement age), I knew wasn’t going to become a marine biologist. REEF afforded me an opportunity to share my passion for studying marine life while diving and snorkeling through participating in citizen science through fish surveys.
If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
I have been on two REEF Field Survey trips. One to Kona, Hawaii, on the Kona Aggressor and the other on the Rocio del Mar in the Sea of Cortez. I enjoyed both trips immensely. I have a son who lives on the Big Island in Hawaii, and I dive there when visiting him. I like to call the Gulf of California my backyard. It is where I do most of my diving. Living in Arizona, it is the closest ocean. For me diving with experts who can help further my knowledge of the fish from a certain area is very rewarding.
What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
I have tried to dive without my yellow REEF slate and underwater paper, but I just can’t! I find that as I do surveys, fish that I haven’t seen before seem to appear in areas I have been diving for years. I feel I am more focused when I am surveying and I am learning where different species like to hang out, such as sandy bottom, splash zone, hidden in cracks, etc. I enjoy spending extra time watching the behaviors of the fish, too.
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
REEF has many benefits, but my favorites are the extensive database that can be searched many different ways, Field Survey Trips, a great group of mentors/experts, and fun Fishinars that improve my fish ID skills with handy characteristic clues. Our scuba club in Tucson just signed on to one of their newest endeavors - being a Conservation Partner.
If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
REEF is a place that you can make your diving experience more enriching not only to yourself, but also to the world of marine science. Sharing what you see underwater and entering it into REEF’s database is an important way to help track the health of our oceans.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
REEF does many things, but I think that their citizen science Volunteer Fish Survey Project is the most important. They are now surveying in all parts of the world, adding even more regions as I write! I believe the vision to create this comprehensive database through engaging the general public to contribute will have far-reaching rewards to help the fate of our oceans in the future.
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
I think that it is really hard to choose just one favorite. Each species have characteristics that make them unique. But, if I must choose, it would be the Pacific Seahorse. I never get tired of finding them and tend to spend extra time during my dive observing and photographing them.
We are now accepting registrations for our Invasive Lionfish Trip aboard the Belize Aggressor III on June 8-15, 2019. This trip will be led by Invasive Species Program Coordinator, Alli Candelmo, Ph.D., and Education Program Manager, Ellie Splain. This Invasive Lionfish Trip is part of REEF’s ongoing effort to monitor the establishment and consequences of invasive lionfish on native fish populations and reef ecosystems. In addition to learning about lionfish biology and ecology, as well as the background of the invasion, participants will have the opportunity to be trained in safe collection and handling procedures, such as removing lionfish with pole spears, ZooKeeper devices, and hand nets, as well as hands-on lessons in lionfish dissections and filleting. Join this trip today for a fun way to play an active role in addressing the lionfish invasion.
For complete details including pricing and package inclusions, visit the trip webpage here. To register, please e-mail trips@REEF.org.
Although our 2018 Summer Lionfish Derby Series has come to a close, REEF is continuing invasive lionfish education and removal efforts through Collecting and Handling Workshops throughout southern Florida. The goal of the workshops is to educate the public about the invasive lionfish, as well as practice safe removal methods and provide participants with permits issued by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for removal of lionfish in the Sanctuary Preservation Areas using hand nets only. The workshops are free and open to the public, and experienced as well as novice lionfish hunters are invited to participate. The first workshop of the season was successfully held on Oct. 24 in Big Pine Key. Forty-two people successfully completed the workshop and now have the tools and training to collect invasive lionfish. On Nov. 30, another workshop was held in Stuart, and the final workshop of the year will be held in Miami on Dec. 19. The workshops consists of a morning classroom portion to educate participants about lionfish biology, ecology, history, and techniques on how to handle the venomous species. Following the classroom lesson, attendees can join REEF staff and interns for a dive trip to practice their new skills.
Financial support for these workshops is provided by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), through the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF). Additional Lionfish Collecting and Handling Workshops will be scheduled in 2019, and all upcoming workshop dates will be listed here. The workshops and dives are free, but space is limited, so registration is required. For more information, visit our Lionfish Education and Outreach page.
REEF is happy to announce that the 2019 Fishinar schedule is posted and ready for registrations!
Fishinars are fun, free online marine life identification sessions that cover topics from all of REEF’s world-wide project areas. These hour-long interactive sessions are great for beginning and advanced surveyors alike, and all are welcome whether you avidly survey, want to get started, or just want to learn more about marine life.
Tune in next year to learn about a variety of topics, from seahorses in the Caribbean to sea slugs in California, with more than 20 sessions taught by REEF staff and marine life experts. As part of the 2019 series, REEF will also feature two four-part beginners' courses, one covering the 60 of the more common fish in Florida, the Caribbean, and the Bahamas, and one covering the 60 Pacific Northwest invertebrates/algae species that REEF monitors. These introductory courses will be great for those looking to get their feet wet in marine life identification, as well as excellent reviews for more advanced surveyors.
If you can’t attend one of the Fishinars, or want to watch one again, REEF members also enjoy the benefit of being able to re-watch any of REEF’s 150+ archived Fishinars online, at their convenience. For the full 2019 schedule, to register, and to re-watch Fishinars, please visit www.REEF.org/fishinars.
This is the time of year when many people traditionally give to the causes they care most about, and use tax deductions to offset the costs of donating. As you consider your end of year giving, we wanted to share with you some opportunities that may provide you with the ability to deduct or increase your deductions this year, as the tax laws recently changed with the Tax Cut Jobs Act of 2017.
Because the standard deduction has been doubled, many taxpayers may find that it makes more sense to take the standard deduction rather than itemize, as they might have done in the past. While the incentives for giving may be less for some individuals, nonprofits, including REEF, depend on the support of members and donors like you to help support the good work we do every day.
Below are two giving options that may help you maximize your taxable benefits while still helping to support the nonprofits you care about.
Donor Advised Funds
One method of receiving a tax deduction for charitable giving is to set up a donor-advised fund (DAF), which utilizes a concentrated giving strategy. Establishing a DAF as a charitable giving vehicle allows you to make a charitable donation, receive an immediate tax deduction, and then recommend where those donations should be granted over time.
With a DAF, you can make a single large donation and then grant the funds to your favorite charities over a period of several years. While you’re waiting to disburse your donation, you can invest the gift, potentially allowing it to grow tax free and increasing the amount of your donation down the road.
Donating Appreciated Securities
With the new tax changes, you may make a bigger impact by donating long-term appreciated securities, including stock, bonds, and mutual funds, directly to your favorite charity. This method allows you to automatically increase your gift and your tax deduction compared to donating cash, or selling your appreciated securities and contributing the after-tax proceeds.
Taxpayers who are facing long-term capital gains taxes on appreciated stock that they have held for more than a year, can realize a much more favorable income tax result and charitable impact by making a timely donation of the appreciated stock directly to charity. If a donor sells the stock first and then donates the cash proceeds to charity, the donor may be subject to capital gains taxes on the proceeds from the sale of the stock. But if a donor contributes appreciated stock held for more than one year directly to a public charity, the donor can potentially eliminate capital gains on the sale and deduct the fair market value (FMV) of the donation, if the donor itemizes.
It’s simple and easy to donate stock. When you donate stock to your favorite charity, you’ll generally take a tax deduction for the full fair market value. If you prefer, bonds or mutual funds may be donated and the same benefits apply.
We have many more ways in which you can plan your charitable giving to REEF, including naming opportunities, wills and trusts, donations of property, insurance plans, and restricted gifts. If you’re interested, please talk with Bonnie Barnes, our Development Manager, by calling (305) 852-0030, or visit REEF's Planned Giving page for more information.
This information is intended to provide general gift planning information. Our organization is not qualified to provide specific legal, tax or investment advice, and this information should not be looked to or relied upon as a source for such advice. Consult with your own legal and financial advisors before making any gift.
We are excited to announce the 2019 REEF calendar, featuring stunning full-color marine life photographs from our most important asset, our members. The 2019 calendar is a special tribute to the impact our citizen science volunteers have had on marine conservation. Each month highlights an individual who has contributed to the Volunteer Fish Survey Project for 20 or more years! The calendar is also a great way to keep up with REEF events throughout the year, such as Field Survey Trips, Fishinars, and REEF Fest!
Click here to pre-order your calendar today and support the conservation and protection of marine ecosystems around the world! Please note: calendars are currently in production and will not ship until December 17.
Over nearly three decades, REEF has welcomed more than 100 individuals to REEF Headquarters to spend a semester immersed in the marine conservation field. This month, we highlight past intern Alexis Balinski. Read on to hear about Alexis's time at REEF, and how her internship helped her get where she is now.
When were you a Marine Conservation Intern?
I interned during the summer of 2013.
What did you like the most about your internship?
I loved the fact that I got to be involved in diving and education programs. I’m a graphic designer by trade and I knew that my career after college would most likely not afford the opportunity to get out and be in the field educating people directly, so I definitely enjoyed that part the most.
Was there a goal or focus you had going into the internship?
Gaining experience with diving and education was a goal for me, but I was also focused on experimenting with how my chosen career (graphic design) could be applied to my other favorite field of interest: marine conservation. It was definitely a successful experiment!
Were there any particularly memorable projects you worked on during the internship and if so, how did these impact you?
I helped establish some collateral pieces and branding from a design standpoint while I was there, specifically for the very first REEF Fest event! A lot of that stuff is still used for the event to this day so I’m proud of that. I also spent a lot of time organizing the storefront. It’s changed a bunch since then, but that actually made a big impact on me because it was the beginning of my interest in exhibit design!
What are you doing now?
I am the in-house Graphic Designer at Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. My job includes designing everything from publications, to collateral, advertising, and all the exhibit signage in the Aquarium. It’s my dream job!
How has the REEF internship influenced or supported where you are now?
I literally wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t interned at REEF. Not only did they give me a variety of opportunities to expand my portfolio (designing all sorts of flyers, signs, shirts, etc.) as a designer, but it solidified my commitment to the marine conservation/science field. Furthermore, REEF is really well known in the Marine field, so I’m convinced that having that internship on my resume was the reason I got the job at Mote! I’m forever grateful to the experience I had at REEF. It’s not an exaggeration when I say it was a catalyst that set me on my current career path.