Author: Alli Candelmo, Ph.D., Conservation Science Manager
Size matters – especially when it comes to fisheries management. REEF is excited to be part of a new, collaborative project called SMILE (Size Matters: Innovative Length Estimate), which is now underway in the Florida Keys to help collect information about fish lengths. These data are critical for fisheries stock assessments, which are used to manage ecologically and economically important marine species. Funded through NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), the SMILE project involves volunteer divers, innovative underwater camera technology, and the expansion of a citizen science approach to collect length data for reef fish in the South Atlantic.
The SMILE project team includes Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s (SAFMC) Citizen Science Program, Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA), The Semmens Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and Axiom Data Science. The REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project, launched in 1993, has successfully worked with trained recreational divers to create one of the largest citizen science-based marine life databases in the world. The SMILE project will incorporate diver-collected fish length data, through the use of stereo video technology, as a companion to the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project.
“We appreciate the opportunity to be part of this collaborative effort supporting citizen science,” said Dr. Carolyn Belcher, Chair of the SAFMC. “Generating length distribution data for key species across a broad geographic range will better inform population assessments, leading to more effective conservation and management strategies.”
Fish length data traditionally require a fish in-hand to make measurements, and it can be difficult for scientists to collect this information. By leveraging trained REEF citizen scientist divers, this collaboration will provide valuable fish length data for fisheries stock assessments and ecosystem-based management.
Citizen science programs, such as the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project and the SMILE project, empower the public to generate monitoring data and promote active participation in resource management science. Divers and snorkelers are in a unique position, as they can serve as ‘the eyes of scientists’ in marine ecosystems by reporting their findings.
The camera technology for this project is being developed by a team of engineers at the University of California San Diego, Engineers for Exploration program and The Semmens Lab at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Field testing and camera technology development was previously supported by UCSD Kastner Research Lab, The Semmens Lab, and The Nature Conservancy California, and a grant from the nonprofit Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida (FWFF) via proceeds from the ‘Discover Florida’s Oceans’ license plate. A stakeholder panel will provide expertise throughout the project on survey methodology, fish species of interest, and site selection for image collection. All video files, images, fish species abundance and length data will be made publicly accessible for current research and management needs and future advancement of machine learning technologies.
Through the funding support of NOAA CRCP, the partnership between REEF, SAFMC’s Citizen Science Program, SECOORA, Scipps Oceanography, UCSD, and Axiom Data Science will bring new data sources into stock and ecosystem assessment processes and increase communication to the dive community about fisheries management issues.
For more information, visit www.REEF.org/smile-project.
Author: Amy Lee, Communications and Engagement Manager
We're excited to announce our speaker lineup for 2023 REEF Fish & Friends! Each month features an engaging ocean-themed presentations from a guest speaker. Presentations are free to attend, and are hosted at the REEF Campus in Key Largo. If you're not able to join us in person, the seminars are livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube. Upcoming Fish & Friends presentations include:
• February 14 – "Dolphin Cognition Research in the Florida Keys" presented by Abby Haddock, Dolphin Research Center
• March 14 – "Enhancing Long-term Survival and Sustainability of Coral Reefs" presented by Dr. Andy Bruckner, Research Coordinator at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
• April 11 – "Studying Reef Fish Ecology in the Florida Keys to Better Plan for the Future" presented by Drew Butkowski, Ph.D. Candidate at Florida International University
• May 9 – "Taking Action Against Plastic Pollution" presented by Catherine Uden, South Florida Representative at Oceana
• June 13 – "Coral Reef Sponge Research and Restoration" presented by Bobbie Renfro, Ph.D. Candidate at Florida State University
• July 11 – "The Caribbean Spiny Lobster Super Bug" presented by Tom Matthews, Lobster Research Scientist at FWC
• August 8 – "Introduction to Fish Portraits" presented by Stacey Henderson, Program Services Coordinator at REEF
Visit our Facebook page or YouTube channel to view the most recent Fish & Friends presentation, "The Effects of Marine Reserves on Florida Keys Fish" presented by Dr. Jim Bohnsack of NOAA. For more details about upcoming REEF events, visit www.REEF.org/events. You can also subscribe to our monthly REEF Campus & Keys Community newsletter here.
Author: Amy Lee, Communications and Engagement Manager
We're gearing up for another great year of marine conservation, and we hope you can join us to celebrate at a REEF event this year.
REEF by the Sea - March 3-4, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida: REEF Sustainers receive an invitation to this exclusive event, held each spring in either California or Florida. The weekend features guest speakers including noted scientists and photographers, plus socials and REEF updates. For more information about donor recognition levels, visit this page.
Fish Out of Water Virtual 5K - June 5-11: The fourth annual 5K is a great way to get active and make a difference in the health of the ocean and the lives of others. Choose to run, walk, hike, bike, or even swim, completing the 5K (3.1 miles) in one day or throughout the week, and best of all, you can join in from anywhere because this event is virtual! Proceeds from the 5K support the REEF Oceans for All Fund, a pooled scholarship fund that provides scholarships, programming, and marine conservation opportunities for equity deserving groups. Registration will open in early March. Visit www.REEF.org/5K for more details.
Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival - September 7-10 in Islamorada, Florida: Our 14th Florida Keys Lionfish Derby will include two full days of lionfish hunting, followed by a family-friendly festival at picturesque Postcard Inn Resort & Marina. The festival is open to the public and will include lionfish scoring, fillet and dissection demonstrations, lionfish tastings, lionfish games and crafts, raffle prizes, plus booths from environmentally-minded vendors. Team registration will be open later this year. Visit www.REEF.org/derby for more details.
REEF Fest - October 19-22 in Key Largo, Florida: Don't miss this annual four-day conservation event, with diving, snorkeling, seminars with ocean experts, and socials. Registration will open in the early summer. Visit www.REEF.org/REEFfest for more information.
Author: Stacey Henderson, Program Services Coordinator
We're headed to Cayman Brac Beach Resort on May 20-27 for a REEF Field Survey Trip! Cayman Brac is an excellent destination for divers, snorkelers, and both beginner and experienced fish surveyors. The dive sites include walls, reefs, swim-throughs, plus two wrecks to explore, and the island is known for having little to no current and great visibility. The trip package includes three dives each day, which means plenty of time in the water! REEF Trips are a great way to learn more about marine life while spending time with others who are interested in conservation. We also have a few spaces on our upcoming trips to Fiji and Saba. Check out www.REEF.org/trips for details about all trips. To book your space, email trips@REEF.org.
Author: Hilary Penner, Education and Conservation Programs Manager
We're excited to announce the REEF Educator in the Field Fellowship, a new professional development opportunity for formal and informal educators to gain hands-on experience with ocean citizen science! The Fellowship will enable a qualified educator to participate in a REEF Field Survey Trip. They will join other citizen scientist volunteers to learn about marine life and conduct fish surveys while scuba diving or snorkeling as part of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project.
Applications are now open for the 2023 REEF Educator in the Field Fellowship. This year's recipient will join the REEF Field Survey Trip to Roatan, Honduras, at CoCo View Resort on July 15-23, 2023. REEF will cover the total cost of the Field Survey Trip, including meals and air transportation up to $1,200. The application deadline is March 31. For more info or to apply, visit www.REEF.org/educatorinfield.
The Fellowship aims to provide an experience that will enable educators to engage their students and/or audiences with REEF programs through fieldwork, REEF database exploration, Virtual Field Trips, or other REEF Ocean Explorers Education Programs. Following the Field Survey Trip, the Fellow will stay involved as a member of the REEF Education Advisory Panel. The Fellow may also be eligible to earn up to 2.5 units of graduate level credit from the University of California at San Diego.
Funding for the REEF Educator in the Field Fellowship is generously provided by CEDAM International. Since 1997, CEDAM International has offered annual financial support for an educator to participate in a REEF Field Survey Trip. This Fellowship was established in 2023 to continue the legacy of the Lloyd Bridges Scholarship.
Author: Amy Lee, Communications and Engagement Manager
We are excited to welcome our Spring 2023 Marine Conservation Interns to REEF! They will assist with education, outreach, events, and daily operations around the REEF Campus. Joining us this semester are:
Ben Chester: Ben graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in biochemistry and a double minor in computer science and statistics. He also competed on his college's varsity crew team for four years. Growing up, Ben spent summers in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and always had an interest in and love for ocean life. He decided to enter the marine conservation field after spending a summer conducting undergraduate research. He helped create and implement artificial reef balls for the Connecticut College shoreline. He also traveled to the British Virgin Islands assist with mangrove and coral restoration projects, like applying antibiotics to corals suffering from Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Ben is excited to start his marine conservation career at REEF and jump headfirst into new opportunities.
Madasen Kasprisin: graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S.E. in chemical engineering. Her love for the ocean was sparked by childhood visits to the beach and aquariums. During college, she completed several internships related to her engineering major, but chose to take marine science classes whenever she could. She also did a short study abroad in the Galapagos Islands, where she took a marine science course focused on evolution and impacts of climate change on Galapagos species. In the future, she hopes to combine her chemical engineering degree with her passion for the ocean to create new solutions and technologies to address challenges in ocean conservation. She loves being outdoors, running, cooking, and going to the beach. She is excited to be in Key Largo and to contribute to the REEF team!
Emma Mendez: grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, and graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder with a B.A. in ecology & evolutionary biology and environmental studies, and a certificate in public health. During college, she conducted an independent study project on sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL. She also worked as a teaching assistant for Principles of Ecology, which fueled her love for teaching science. Emma also spent a summer as an intern for the Stranding Investigations Program at Mote Marine Laboratory, which solidified her future career goal of working in marine conservation. Emma is excited to join the REEF team and looks forward to strengthening her scientific communication skills by working with local communities and helping to support citizen scientists.
For more information about the Marine Conservation Internship or to apply for an upcoming semester, visit www.REEF.org/internship.
Author: Sierra Barkdoll, Citizen Science Coordinator
REEF online programs are free and open to everyone! Here's what's coming up this month:
Into the Blue Book Club Meeting
Thursday, January 19, 8pm EST
Click here to register.
At our first Into the Blue Book Club meeting of 2023, we'll discuss our latest book selection, The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans by Cynthia Barnett. Cynthia will be joining the meeting for a Q&A! All are invited to join, whether you have read the book or not.
Exploring Salish Sea Diversity: Why is Hood Canal So Different from the Rest of Puget Sound?
Tuesday, January 24, 8pm EST
Click here to register.
Are you curious about the marine life of the Pacific Northwest? Author and photographer Dr. Gregory Jensen will highlight some of the creatures found in the Hood Canal and Puget Sound, both part of the Salish Sea in Washington.
Drawing Florida Keys Fish for Fun Workshop
Thursday, January 26, 8pm EST
Click here to register.
During this beginner-friendly session, Maui-based artist Maggie Sutrov will teach us how to draw some of our favorite fishes found in the Florida Keys. No artistic knowledge is necessary to join in this workshop, just enthusiasm!
Author: Katie Barnes, Communications and Engagement Fellow
A new year is here, and that means new Conservation Challenges! The Conservation Challenge is a fun way to earn collectible stickers while participating in marine conservation and citizen science. There are plenty of stickers to collect, and this month, we're highlighting the Survey Regions Challenge! You can earn a sticker for each region where you conduct a REEF survey. There are ten REEF survey regions, so that means there are ten different stickers! Check out all the details and request your stickers here: www.REEF.org/conservationchallenge. Stay tuned through the year as we highlight new Conservation Challenges!
Author: Janna Nichols, Citizen Science Program Manager
Welcome to Citizen Science Corner, our quarterly feature to celebrate those who recently reached a milestone in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Here are achievements from October, November, and December 2022:
Golden Hamlet Award
The Golden Hamlet Club award is for those who have conducted 1000+ REEF surveys. Congratulations to Claude Nichols and Jonathan Lavan, who both recently joined the Golden Hamlet Club! Read more about their achievement in the November 2022 e-News.
Juvenile Hamlet Award
The Juvenile Hamlet Award is for individuals who have conducted 500+ REEF surveys. You can read more here. Congratulations to our latest Juvenile Hamlet Club member, Karen Bogart!
Experience Level Advancements
REEF Experience Levels are a way for divers and snorkelers to measure their fish ID knowledge along with their surveying experience. From beginner to expert, you'll find plenty of resources and friends to help you along the way. Experience Levels are achieved by submitting a certain number of surveys and passing a fish ID test. For more info, visit www.REEF.org/experiencelevels. Let's hear it for these REEF members who have advanced an Experience Level! All listed below are Level 2 unless otherwise noted.
Central Indo-Pacific (CIP)
Mary Adams - Level 3
Indian Ocean / Red Sea (IORS)
Carol Cox - Level 3
Pacific Northwest (PNW)
Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP)
Alice Ribbens - Level 5
Laurie Fulton - Level 5
Will Ribbens - Level 4
Eric Frick - Level 3
Janet Camp - Level 3
Jet Long - Level 3
Nan Schmidt - Level 3
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
Melanie Moreno - Level 5
Natalie Patetta - Level 4
Carol Risdall - Level 3
Martha Klitzkie - Level 3
Merrick Ekins - Level 3
Thomas Beckman - Level 3
Author: The REEF Team
We're starting off 2023 with our January Fish of the Month, the Sargassum Triggerfish, Xanthichthys ringens!
Survey Regions: Sargassum Triggerfish are found throughout the Tropical Western Atlantic survey region. Click here to see a sightings report for this species in the REEF database.
Size: They grow to about 10 inches.
Identifying Features: Sargassum Triggerfish are shades of blue to gray or brown with rows of small dots covering their body. They have a white dot in front of their eye, a white crescent-shaped mark above their eye, and dark lines on their cheeks. They also have a red to orange border on their tail margin.
Fun Facts: Sargassum Triggerfish can found on outer reefs and offshore areas, typically at depths of 80 feet or deeper. In certain areas in the Caribbean, they also inhabit shallow patch reefs. They are carnivorous and feed heavily on zooplankton and crustaceans. Juveniles often drift near the surface in Sargassum mats.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next Fish of the Month.
Photo by Janna Nichols.