I wanted to share with you the excitement I felt attending the Reef Futures 2018: A Global Coral Restoration and Interventions Science Symposium in December. Excitement was evident throughout the talks, and the visions were grand for this global conference. We heard about the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority’s audacious effort to address coral bleaching due to climate change, including consideration of such possibilities as coral shading, a 5um biodegradable film over the corals that could reduce sunlight by 30%, cloud seeding, and pumping colder water from the deep. The most promising but cost-effective options are the biodegradeable film and/or the cloud seeding. Reed Noss presented a keynote on insights from terrestrial conservation and ecology for the conservation and restoration of coral reefs.
We heard from numerous nonprofits attempting coral restoration from all over the world, and exploring ways to enhance coral resilience. I was able to explore the coral restoration database, and attend the session on creating a regional vision for urban reef restoration: a case study from Biscayne Bay. An inspiring global youth group, called Wave of Change, was able to participate. One exciting corporate initiative was by a sponsor, Iberostar Hotels. This fourth-generation privately held Spanish chain of primarily coastal hotels has pledged to remove all single use plastics, and they are well on their way to reaching that goal! They have also pledged to restore coastal health in the areas surrounding their hotels, and are providing some funding to nonprofits to do just that.
I was able to meet with numerous potential partners and colleagues, including colleagues from The Nature Conservancy, University of Hawaii, Smithsonian, FWC, NOAA, Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and the Legacy Reef Foundation. I participated in a Pacific Islands lunch, and am trying to identify Pacific partners that we may be able to work with moving forward. REEF was invited to participate in a Florida Coral Disease working group discussion for the Keys, and we will hopefully be part of a grant proposal in this area, with REEF providing fish data. All in all, this was a great way to end 2018 and I look forward to being more partner-engaged and impactful for REEF in 2019!
REEF scientists and volunteers are gearing up another season of the Grouper Moon Project, a collaborative research effort with the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment (CIDOE). This important project focuses on one of the largest (and one of just a few) known spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper in the Caribbean. Over 6,000 grouper amass in one location for 7-10 days following winter full moons. We are staging field teams to Little Cayman around full moons in both January and February this year - while we typically focus on just one month, 2019 is considered a “split year”, meaning the full moon dates are right on the line of predicting which month will be the strong spawning month.
Since 2002, our group has conducted groundbreaking research to study the Nassau Grouper spawning aggregations to help ensure recovery of the populations of this iconic species. This project is widely regarded as one of the ocean conservation success stories, due in large part to science-based, proactive legislation passed by the Cayman Islands government. The project's findings are more important than ever in light of the recent declaration by the IUCN that Nassau Grouper are now considered Critically Endangered (up from just Endangered).
In addition to continuing annual monitoring research, we will 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 (and a worldwide audience) 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 website in a few weeks.
To find out more about the project, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject. You can also check out this great story featured in Alert Diver magazine a few months ago, "How to Save a Fish", written by REEF Board of Trustee members, Ned and Anna DeLoach - http://www.alertdiver.com/Nassau_grouper.
REEF volunteers are the heart of our organization. We are so appreciative of everyone who dedicates time, support, and resources to help us fulfill our marine conservation mission. We are very proud to announce Laurie Brooks as our 2018 Volunteer of the Year!
Laurie was raised on both coasts of the U.S., spending time in both California and New Jersey on Atlantic and Pacific beaches. Throughout her life, she sought opportunities for continued growth and learning, achieving four master’s degrees, in Mathematics, Petroleum Engineering, Computational Finance, and Education. She has a broad range of hobbies, including cooking, reading, botany, and marine biology! She has incorporated each of these interests into her activities as a REEF volunteer.
Laurie was introduced to REEF by one of her daughters in 2013. The same year, Laurie and her husband Don moved to Key Largo, with the goal of becoming certified SCUBA divers and volunteering with the Florida State Parks, where both of them had camped as children. In Key Largo, they met other REEF members and started attending REEF events throughout the community. She is a familiar face at REEF Fish & Friends each month; regularly bringing food to share and helping out in whatever ways she can. Laurie even presented a Fish & Friends seminar in October 2015, titled “Math, Art, and the Coral Reef – What does a mathematician see when looking at a coral reef?” Each summer, she assists with REEF’s Lionfish Derby Series by helping to fillet lionfish and preparing lionfish ceviche for derby attendees.
Laurie is passionate about education and shares REEF’s mission with her extended family, to provide her children and grandchildren with opportunities to think critically and engage with their natural surroundings. Last summer, three of Laurie and Don’s grandchildren and two grand nieces attended REEF Ocean Explorers Summer Camp. Two of their grandchildren, Gabriel, 13, and Sebastian, 12, have attended the camp since its beginnings in 2015, and they are now both certified SCUBA divers! Laurie has also shared various education programs and curriculums with REEF’s staff to support our growing Explorers Education Program.
In 2018, Laurie led a tremendous volunteer effort to beautify REEF’s campus. Supported by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council and Upper Keys Garden Club, Laurie worked alongside our staff and interns to design and implement a native butterfly and bird garden and freshwater pond. She offered financial support and a significant amount of time to complete this project, and even created a garden guidebook describing each plant and butterfly species found in the garden. As the lead volunteer for Dagny Johnson Key Largo Botanical State Park Native Plant Nursery, Laurie selected and planted each plant in REEF’s new garden, and she continues to assist with garden maintenance today. Laurie’s time and support played a large part in this project’s success, and we are so thankful for her expertise.
“To me, REEF means citizen science,” Laurie says. She is inspired REEF’s programs and the opportunities they provide for continued learning and conservation. It is the combination of conservation and education that Laurie finds most important. Laurie's favorite quote from Sylvia Earle’s book Sea Change sums it up nicely: “Far and away the greatest threat to the sea and to the future of mankind is ignorance. But with knowing comes caring, and with caring, the hope that maybe we’ll find the Holy Grail of understanding, strike a balance with the natural systems that sustain us, and thus achieve an enduring place for humankind on a planet that got along without us for billions of years and no doubt could do so again.” (1995, p. xxi)
Congratulations, Laurie, and thank you for all you do! We are so glad to have you as part of the REEF family!
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 Jessica Levy. Read on to hear about Jessica's time at REEF, and how her internship helped her get where she is now.
When were you an intern?
Summer 2012 (May to August)
What did you like the most about your internship?
That’s tough—I liked a lot about it. I’d say two main things: 1.) The ability to volunteer with other community groups (this is actually what got me the job I have today!) And 2.) REEF volunteers/members. I met some incredibly wonderful people through REEF who were always eager to help out interns for no other reason than they were interns.
Was there a goal or focus you had going into the internship?
At the time of the start of the internship, I had actually been searching for employment for about 6 months after graduating with my Master’s. So, my goal was really to do well, make connections, and find a job!
Were there any big projects you worked on during the internship that had an impact on you?
Fishinars - Janna is my favorite person! Another cool project was the TWA Advanced Assessment Fish Survey team on the Vandenberg. (From 2009-2015, REEF, in partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, conducted monitoring work on the Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg shipwreck, an artificial reef off of Key West. You can read more about REEF's past and current monitoring work here.)
What are you doing now?
I currently work as the Restoration Program Manager for Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF). With that, I manage all our nursery and outplant operation, our permitting requirements, funding obligations, and the staff/facilities that we have and need to support our restoration work. I also get to represent CRF in the coral restoration community and get to work with many other professionals who are working to further this field.
How has the REEF internship influenced or supported where you are now?
The REEF internship and scholarship support from Our World Underwater Scholarship Society got me to Key Largo. That was a big step. It also provided me with an introduction to the person (former REEF intern Stephanie Roach, now Tate) that I’d later be hired by at Coral Restoration Foundation.
Escape the winter cold by planning a dive trip to the tropics! When you travel with REEF, you take a dive vacation that counts, and we still have a few spaces left on our upcoming Field Survey Trip to the beautiful Caribbean island of Nevis, on March 9-16, 2019. Led by Janna Nichols, this trip will include daily fish identification classes to help you boost your Caribbean fish id knowledge. Nevis is separated from its sister island, St. Kitts, by a two-mile stretch of water known as the Narrows, home to lots of interesting marine life. The picturesque topside scenery of this quaint island makes this the ideal destination for both divers and non-divers to enjoy. Our host hotel, Oualie Beach Resort, is a family-owned hotel located right on the beach, and the gingerbread-style cottages showcase traditional Caribbean architecture. All meals are included with this trip, and pricing starts at $2,087. For complete details, visit the trip webpage. To sign up, e-mail trips@REEF.org.
Did you know there are many local and national companies who give back daily to non-profits they care about? These companies allow you to easily support REEF, just by changing a few small things in the way you shop or receive services.
AmazonSmile is the simplest way to include REEF in your day-to-day shopping. REEF receives a quarterly check from Amazon for a portion of the money you spend. Simply designate REEF as your charity of choice, and shop through AmazonSmile, instead of Amazon.
Support Businesses That Support REEF
In 2018, REEF implemented a Cause Marketing Program, allowing businesses who support REEF’s mission to help us build awareness and raise funds for our work when you purchase their products or services.
These corporate partners show their support of REEF by contributing a percentage of their sales to our global conservation and education efforts. All participating businesses are featured on our Shop to Support page. On this page you will find retailers like Backscatter, as well as charters, clothing, sunscreen, underwater photographers, breweries, and coffee. Each of these companies cares about conservation and provides you with the opportunity to support REEF through the purchases or services you already use.
Next time you shop, consider buying from one of our corporate partners. We are so appreciative of the support of these businesses! In addition to our Shop to Support partners, you can support REEF by shopping in our online store.
Do You Have A Business That Wants To Give Back?
Today more than ever, consumers look for products that not only meet their immediate needs, but give back to the community. Merchandisers, restaurants and service companies are looking for ways to attract this audience, which tend to become loyal customers. With REEF’s Cause Marketing Program, you have the ability to promote your business while increasing increase awareness of our mission and work through brand awareness and affinity campaigns. To learn more and apply, click here.
Join REEF for the first two Fishinars of 2019! 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 to learn how to find and identify seahorses and pipefish in the Tropical Western Atlantic with Carlos & Allison Estape, as well as a special session presented by one of our previous Marine Conservation Interns, Ronnie Noonan, about how underwater ecosystems are changing, and what this means for fish populations. All you need to participate is a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or phone and an internet connection – no microphones or webcams are needed. To register for Fishinars, and view the full 2019 schedule, visit www.REEF.org/fishinars.
1/17 at 8pm Eastern: Seahorses and Pipefish of the Tropical Western Atlantic
1/29 at 8pm Eastern: Sea the Changes: a Shift in Ecosystems
The 2019 REEF calendar is now available! REEF surveyors and ocean enthusiasts alike will appreciate this collection of stunning full-color marine life photographs, all taken by our members. The calendar is a special tribute our citizen science volunteers. Each month highlights an individual who has made a significant impact on marine conservation through the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. 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 order your calendar today!