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 REEF member Park Chapman. He has been a member of REEF since the early days of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project in 1993. For years, Park has been a strong advocate for REEF's mission throughout the dive community. He regularly lends a helping hand behind the scenes as a volunteer at REEF events and trade shows like DEMA. He is also an avid underwater photographer and loves traveling. We're very thankful for Park's enthusiasm and support of REEF's marine conservation work!
When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
I learned about REEF from an ad in Skin Diver magazine in 1993 and started volunteering after going to Bonaire for the annual coral spawning. Helping behind the scenes and doing what some would call “grunt work” may not be exciting but helping REEF staff is important and gives me great joy.
If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
Meeting other members and learning about new species and their behaviors. Mother Nature created a beautiful planet we must protect in order to survive. With real science like this, who needs science fiction?
If you had to explain REEF to a friend in a couple of sentences, what would you tell them?
Explaining REEF in a few sentences is difficult because I get so excited. I love encouraging other divers to join REEF. I tell them it’s free, highlight the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, the database and its importance to ocean science. I also talk about the Grouper Moon Project, lionfish and the Invasive Species Program, and the Ocean Explorers Education Program. For non-divers, talking about protecting the oceans and explaining how easy it is to dive and showing them a few pictures hopefully gets their attention.
Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
I live on the west coast of Florida, so going to Blue Heron Bridge and the Keys is great. My favorite place so far is the Coral Triangle, because of the biodiversity, which never disappoints. It’s another world down there, and night diving is off the chart!
Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
Dive slowly. If you see something, stop and wait. Patience is rewarded. A lot of marine life is scared of us at first; we are aliens in their world. After realizing you won’t eat them, you’ll see things and think, “Wow. That’s crazy stuff!”
Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
I would love to dive with more big animals like whale sharks, dolphins and rays.