Author: The REEF Team
There's still time left to contribute to our winter fundraising campaign! As a special gift to donors who give at least $250, we will send you a limited-edition print of a Golden Hamlet (pictured), photographed in the Cayman Islands by REEF Co-Founder Paul Humann. We are so grateful to those who have already supported us this winter. Your generosity makes everything we do possible! To donate now, visit www.REEF.org/donate.
Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D, Director of Science
We are proud to share the newest scientific publication that includes data from the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. The study, published last month in the journal Science Advances, used REEF data from the Pacific Coast to evaluate the massive decline of the Sunflower Sea Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides). The study's analysis included almost 11,000 REEF surveys collected by our citizen scientists from California to Alaska over the last decade. The authors documented a precipitous decline in the important Sunflower Sea Star, primarily linked to the devastating sea star wasting disease epidemic that was wide-spread along the US and Canadian west coast starting in 2013, as well as warming ocean temperatures.
In many places along the US and Canadian Pacific coasts, the Sunflower Stars have failed to return, although they were once abundant. A continued decline or absence of this species will likely lead to a boom of sea urchins, loss of kelp, and other cascading effects on the ecosystem. The study findings might prompt consideration of listing the species on the Endangered Species List. To read the full paper, visit http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaau7042.
The paper, titled "Disease epidemic and a marine heat wave are associated with the continental-scale collapse of a pivotal predator (Pycnopodia helianthoides)," was spearheaded by researchers from Cornell University, UC Davis, and SeaDoc Society (longtime REEF partners, particularly with annual monitoring in the San Juan Islands). Our Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, is one of twelve co-authors on the paper. This is the third scientific paper that has used REEF data to evaluate the impacts of the wasting disease. To see all the publications that have included REEF data, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications.
REEF extends a huge thank you to all our volunteer divers who have diligently collected data on this species and others over the course of many years. You are truly "Making Dives That Count!"
Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Director of Science
In July 2018, REEF celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. This REEF program is widely considered to be one of the most impactful citizen science initiatives of its kind. With over 11 million data records from 14,000+ locations worldwide, it is the largest marine fish sightings database. The survey data have been used in a wide array of scientific studies, and serve an important source of information for government agencies charged with protecting ocean resources. As a REEF member, you make this monumental citizen science program possible!
Here’s a quick look at some of the stats from the REEF database:
• As of January 2019, the REEF database includes 235,564 marine life surveys from 15,871 volunteers.
• In 2018, 10,567 surveys were conducted and submitted by 775 volunteers (457 of those were first-time surveyors!)
• Sixteen REEF volunteers conducted and submitted at least 100 surveys in 2018. Great job Chuck Curry, Kara Curry, Pam Wade, Ron Wolfe, Don Gordon, Janet Eyre, Lillian Kenney, Dennis Bensen, Doug Harder, Kreg Martin, Tracey Griffin, Ed Gullekson, Peter Fox, MJ Farr, Janna Nichols, and Terry Hillegas!
• Janet Eyre holds the highest number of species seen on one REEF survey dive – 265 species of fish during a 75-minute dive at “The Zoo” dive site in Wakatobi, Indonesia!
Thank you to of the all citizen scientists who participate in the Volunteer Fish Survey Project! For more top stats, visit www.REEF.org/db/stats.
Author: Amy Lee, Trips Program and Communications Manager
We’re excited to introduce our Spring 2019 Marine Conservation Interns. These individuals will support the REEF team in mission-oriented tasks and daily office operations, as well as play an integral role in the many education and outreach programs that take place throughout the spring semester. They will also have opportunities to scuba dive, conduct fish surveys, and volunteer with environmental organizations in South Florida and the Florida Keys. This semester’s interns bring diverse skills and interests to REEF. They include:
Madalyn Mussey from Madison, Wisconsin: Madalyn (also known as "Moose") recently graduated from the University of Missouri with a B.S. in Parks, Recreation and Tourism and an emphasis in Natural Resource Management. During college, Moose participated in a diving study abroad program in Thailand, and she has experience teaching marine conservation topics to students as an intern at both SeaWorld of Orlando and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. This spring, she is excited to gain more experience with hands-on marine conservation work.
Lara Noren from Minneapolis, Minnesota: Lara has a B.S. in Marine Biology with a concentration in Conservation from University of North Carolina-Wilmington. She realized her passion for marine science while studying coral reef ecology in college. She gained non-profit experience by interning at Bald Head Island Nature Conservancy, and through her work with Plastic Ocean Project, where she conducted plastic marine debris research and outreach programs. She looks forward to diving and working with the public through outreach programs, and is happy to be continuing her involvement in the non-profit industry.
Alyssa Panzer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Alyssa has a B.S. in Environmental Science with a focus in Sustainability from Univeristy of North Carolina-Wilmington (UNCW.) In college, Alyssa studed abroad in Australia, and has also worked on various sustainability initiatives including UNCW Environmental Concerns Organization and The GREEN Program in Hawaii. She enjoys teaching and being outdoors, and has led eco-tours in the barrier islands of North Carolina. Alyssa is excited for all of the learning and diving opportunities Key Largo has to offer.
Evan Wilson from Sarasota, Florida: Evan graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Business Finance. He has worked as a guide for an Alaskan eco-tourism company and interned with Central Caribbean Marine Institute on Little Cayman, where he was involved with coral restoration and invasive lionfish fieldwork, and helped film underwater lessons that were broadcast to Caymanian students. Evan is looking forward to being involved in community outreach and honing his marine science skills while at REEF.
We are also very glad to welcome back our Education Leadership Intern, Sophie Costa. Originally from Austin, Texas, Sophie graduated from Rhodes College with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Since completing her initial internship during the summer of 2018, Sophie has assisted with many various tasks at REEF, including social media, education programs, Lionfish Collection and Handling Workshops, and other various outreach events. This year, Sophie will join our team of researchers in Little Cayman to analyze data for the Grouper Moon Project, and will be helping to coordinate the 2019 Lionfish Derby Series.
We’re thrilled to have Moose, Lara, Alyssa, and Evan join us this spring, and are glad that Sophie will continue to be a part of our team. Our interns are a vital part of REEF and we couldn’t accomplish our mission without them! For more information about the Marine Conservation Internship or to apply for an upcoming semester, visit https://www.REEF.org/REEF-marine-conservation-internship-program.
Author: Amy Lee, Trips Program and Communications Manager
Although we are just one month into the year, our 2019 Field Survey Trips are filling up fast! Because of the great response, we have decided to add two new trips to the 2019 schedule: an invasive lionfish-focused liveaboard trip to Belize this June, and a fish survey liveaboard trip in December, to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Invasive Lionfish Trip aboard the Belize Aggressor III, June 8-15, 2019: This 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 inclusions, visit the trip webpage here.
Fish Survey Trip aboard the Turks and Caicos Explorer II, Dec. 14-21, 2019: The Turks and Caicos Islands is one of the few locations in the Caribbean that is known to have a healthy population of endangered Nassau Grouper. Because this trip falls right after the December full moon, you may get to witness several grouper species migrating to spawning sites, or have the chance to see them in their breeding colors! Many other fish finds (and even Reef Sharks!) await discovery on the walls and reefs throughout the islands. Several major US airports fly directly to Provo, which means your travel will be hassle-free during this busy time of year. You'll return from this trip relaxed and ready to enjoy the holiday season! For complete details including pricing and inclusions, visit the trip webpage here.
To register for a trip or find out more, please e-mail trips@REEF.org. We hope to see you on a trip this year!
Author: Sophie Costa, Education Leadership Intern
Thanks to the generous support of OpenROV and National Geographic, REEF received two Trident remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) to advance our research on endangered Nassau Grouper and invasive lionfish.
OpenROV started in 2012 as a software forum for people to trade information about building low-cost underwater robot systems. Since then, OpenROV has grown into a company and community of people who are working together to create powerful new tools for underwater exploration. In 2018, OpenROV partnered with National Geographic to create the Science Exploration Education (SEE) Initiative to support others on their quest to explore the ocean by means of ROVs. Numerous individuals, scientists, and organizations submitted funding proposals for marine conservation projects to engage community members and benefit the ocean. More than 500 SEE Initiative projects were selected to receive new Trident ROVs donated by National Geographic and OpenROV, including REEF’s Grouper Moon Project and Invasive Lionfish Program.
During the first of two 2019 excursions to Little Cayman in the Cayman Islands, the Grouper Moon team was able to practice operating the Trident ROV; first in a swimming pool, and then directly off the dock in shallow water. This allowed Dr. Alli Candelmo, our Invasive Species Program Manager, and Grouper Moon Lead Scientist Dr. Brice Semmens, time to become skilled at maneuvering the machine before taking it to open water. Once getting out to the reef, the team was able to comfortably guide the ROV down the reef wall in Little Cayman, and even managed to find some Tiger Grouper in spawning colors on a new site!
The Grouper Moon team is excited to continue using the Trident ROV during the full moon in Feburary in Little Cayman. Using the ROV, we will be able to explore deeper than recreational dive limits would normally allow. We will also be able to increase survey potential, including searching historic Nassau Grouper aggregation sites on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac for reestablishment and evidence of additional Tiger Grouper spawning sites around the island. We will also be using a Trident in the Florida Keys to survey deep water populations of invasive Indo-Pacific Red Lionfish, both spatially and at different times of day, to gain a better understanding of the densities and movements of this invasive species on deeper reefs. For both projects, the Trident will enhance our survey and search capabilities in these deep and high current areas.
To stay up to date with the projects, follow the program’s blogs on the Open Explorer page:
Grouper Moon Project Blog
Invasive Lionfish Program Blog
Click here to read more about the OpenExplorer program.
Author: Ellie Place, Conservation Coordinator - Volunteer Fish Survey Project
This month, REEF is proud to highlight one of our outstanding Conservation Partners: CoCo View Resort in Roatan, Honduras. REEF Conservation Partners are active organizations and dive shops dedicated to protecting marine environments. As valued REEF ambassadors, they teach fish ID classes, host survey dives, organize volunteer events and more. Read on to find out how you can get involved with these centers of conservation action!
With more than 80 partners across the country and beyond, there are plenty of opportunities to engage! You can see the full listing of Conservation Partners or register your business or organization as a REEF Conservation Partner here: www.REEF.org/conservation-partners.
Coco View Resort, Roatan, Honduras
CoCo View Resort (CCV) is a 29 room dive resort in Roatan, Honduras. CoCo View Resort is committed to the conservation of the diverse and wonderful reef system in Roatan as well as threatened reefs around the world. To accomplish that goal, they participate in REEF's Great Annual Fish Count in July and they host their own Seahorse Festival in November. In partnership with the Roatan Marine Park, they host lionfish licensing events for their guests weekly, and properly trained and licensed staff and guests regularly hunt lionfish on the reef.
Conservation Actions – How can you get involved?
• Take a dive vacation! Dive and snorkel CoCo View Resort's amazing dive sites and house reef any time of year, while enjoying opportunities to learn about the delicate ecosystem at their doorstep, and participate in a variety of REEF’s programs. You can also join REEF's Field Survey Trip to Roatan, coming up on June 22-29, 2019, at CoCo View Resort. Click here for more information - only a few spaces remain on this trip!
• Tune in at the CCV Clubhouse and enjoy a Fishinar. Each Wednesday at 7:30pm, CCV will host a Fishinar Viewing Party so you can learn about the diverse marine life that Roatan has to offer.
• Staff and guests can participate in the Great Annual Fish Count in July, and guests can enjoy free educational and entertaining seminars on fish ID and behavior. There are contests, photo shows, and guided dives at this popular month-long event, which is free for CCV guests!
• In partnership with the Roatan Marine Park, CCV hosts lionfish licensing events for their guests weekly, and properly trained and licensed staff and guests regularly hunt lionfish on the reef. The lionfish are put to good use, and you can enjoy fresh cooked appetizers and meals from that day’s catch!
Why is conserving marine environments important, and what conservation actions does CoCo View take?
At CoCo View Resort, we feel we are the caretakers of this precious, awe-inspiring world treasure. Our resort sits on the edge of Roatan's coral reef, one of the most beautiful and most endangered natural wonders of the world. CCV participates in conservation efforts to protect this amazing ecosystem, from hunting invasive species like lionfish to providing opportunities for guests to get involved with education and research projects. CCV is all in! This spectacular ocean reef is our home, every day. We love it.
For more information, visit CoCo View Resort's webpage or check them out on Facebook.
Author: Bonnie Barnes, Development Manager
Here at REEF, we sometimes come across someone who stands out as an unsung hero, dedicating his or her life to making a difference in special ways. Last month, we heard that one of our REEF members had passed away in mid-December. We received calls and emails from her fellow teachers and family, who wanted to ensure the work that she had accomplished did not go unnoticed. We are honored to share more about Janene Elizabeth Pulley Fowler, a REEF member from The Woodlands, TX.
Janene was a science teacher who spent many summers diving the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBMNS) as a naturalist and participating in fish counts. She was a longtime REEF member and an avid supporter of Texas Gulf and reef restoration work. Her story about diving in the FGBMNS, "The Texas Caribbean," is featured in an Alert Diver article
about our National Marine Sanctuaries. In 2018, Janene was awarded the inaugural Dr. Don Stockton Award of Excellence for her commitment to science education and dedication in fostering the love of science in her students.
Her friend Megan Rooney commented, “Janene was an exceptional friend and educator and always lit up a room with her brilliant smile and infectious laughter.”
We are honored to celebrate the life of Janene, who made a difference by educating future leaders and being an ambassador for our ocean. Thanks to the generosity of her friends and family, a dedication plaque will be placed next to one of our signs along the native plants trail at REEF Headquarters. She truly was a steward of our time.
Author: Ellie Place, Conservation Coordinator - Volunteer Fish Survey Project
Fishinars are REEF's brand of fun, live, interactive webinars and anyone who wants to know more about ocean life is welcome to join in. Tune in this month for a four-part course on Pacific Northwest Invertebrates and Algae, co-taught by REEF staff members Janna Nichols and Ellie Place. This comprehensive course will teach you how to identify the 60+ invertebrates and algae that are monitored in the REEF Pacific Northwest Survey Region (Alaska, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia). It will be a great resource for beginners and an opportunity for advanced surveyors to review. All you need to participate is a desktop, laptop, tablet or phone and an internet connection – no microphones or webcams are needed. You may watch alone or as a group – Fishinars are great events for dive club meetings or in classroom settings! To register for Fishinars, and view the full 2019 schedule, please visit www.REEF.org/fishinars.
Pacific Northwest Invertebrate & Algae Course: Fishinar Dates
Part 1: Tuesday, February 5, 7pm Pacific
Part 2: Thursday, February 7, 7pm Pacific
Part 3: Monday, February 11, 7pm Pacific
Part 4: Wednesday, February 13, 7pm Pacific
Can’t attend the live events? Don’t worry! REEF records all of our Fishinars, and they are posted online for you to watch anytime at www.REEF.org/fishinararchives.
Author: Deborah James, Ph.D., Guest Contributor
To date, more than five million videos featuring the Florida Reef have been posted to YouTube. The most popular garner more than a half million views, making anyone who has the will to go diving a potential documentarian with the tools to make issues come alive for a global audience. These unscripted stories represent who we are, what we think, and what we choose to share with the world. This ‘cinema of me,’ is a form worthy of our reconsideration as a uniquely popular expression of our human experience and commonality.
As a media studies researcher, teacher, and part-time Florida Keys resident since the late 1970's, I examine videos produced by divers of the Florida Reef. Divers are a community of practice and provide a unique point of view of underwater environments. The diver point of view is composed of specialized equipment, industry skills, experience and training including environmental awareness and eco-centric behavior that can shape our understanding of underwater environments. Divers also serve to define how we might imagine the Florida Reef as a place, a culture, and an integral part of this American life.
Reef environments have changed; effective media can help us make responsible decisions. The popularity of recreational SCUBA diving, access to the technology, and the ensuing proliferation of imagery shared on social media signals an opportunity to broaden our approach and reconsider how we shape the Florida Reef through media practices. Of pressing importance is the representation of time, space, and place – foundational components necessary to our understanding of our world – and the bridge between media literacy and environmental literacy.
My study draws upon scholars and writers working across disciplines including marine biologist, conservationist and author, Rachel Carson (1907-1964), who wrote On the Edge of the Sea (1955) while camping on Ohio Key; civilization scholar, Margaret Cohen, and author Joy Williams, who wrote the most popular guidebook on the Florida Keys (2003). Her tenth and final edition includes an afterword that pointedly describes the changes she witnessed over her tenure.
This study raises the following questions: How might these videos contribute to our understanding of the reef environment? What practical knowledge might we uncover from images and videos of the Florida Reef environments produced by divers? What are the applications and uses for such knowledge?
Potential outcomes: Guidelines for enhancing skills in interpreting the impact of media on the reef environment and new practices of video production, interpretation, and social use of reef media. Collaborations to investigate, expand and apply emerging practical knowledge to advance a coral reef culture of lower-impact, sustainability, and environmental protection across stakeholder groups.
If you are a diver who also shoots underwater video along the Florida Reef and want to learn more about the study or are willing to be interviewed, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, Feb. 15. Interviews will be conducted Feb. 18-March 15.
Deborah James, Ph.D., is a media studies scholar at Governors State University, conducting field research in the Florida Keys. For more information about Deborah's work, visit her website here.