On World Oceans Day, we kicked our summer fundraising campaign with a goal of raising $70,000 by August 8! Will you support our citizen science, education, and research programs by donating today? All donations will be matched dollar for dollar, doubling your impact for the oceans! What's more, if you initiate a new monthly recurring donation this summer, your first three months of gifts will be doubled!
Thank you to three of our longtime supporters, who are generously continuing their annual summer match program this summer by matching all contributions received by August 8, up to $70,000. In order to make the most of this generous match, and stay on track, we need to hit $35,000 by July 8. You can donate today at www.REEF.org/donate. You can also donate over the phone by calling (305) 852-0030, or mail your donation to P.O. Box 370246, Key Largo, FL 33037.
For three decades, the REEF family has had a profound impact on marine conservation. In honor of REEF’s 30th anniversary, a brand new Ocean Unity display will be installed in the garden at the REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida. Members who make a gift of at least $500 this summer will be recognized with a personalized plaque on this one-of-a-kind display. Each of us plays an important role in conservation and Ocean Unity shows how small actions can add up to make a big difference for the marine environment. Visit www.REEF.org/oceanunity to learn more and see the amazing artistic rendering of Ocean Unity created by REEF volunteer Alex Bennett.
Calling all blenny lovers! We need your help tracking the range expansion of the Chameleon Blenny (also known as Warthead Blenny) in the Tropical Western Atlantic.
In May 2020, a sighting of the Chameleon Blenny (Protemblemaria punctata) in Tampa Bay was reported to REEF by Sara Brehm, an Environmental Specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Tampa Bay Aquatic Preserves. Since the summer of 2019, at least 10 Chamelon Blennies have been sighted in this area. Prior to this, one individual had been reported in Tampa Bay area in 2017 (USGS NAS). This species is endemic to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela, but also has been reported in the southwest Gulf of Mexico near Veracruz.
The Chameleon Blenny colonizes abandoned worm tubes and may be expanding its range by hitchhiking on oil and gas platforms. The species has already been documented at a few sites in the Gulf of Mexico and may be widespread throughout the area. The Chameleon Blenny's range expansion could impact ecosystem function and displace native blenny and goby species with similar prey types and habitats. More information is needed to determine how established these populations are, and their potential effects on reef systems.
As a REEF member, you can help us track this species. If you think you have seen a Chameleon Blenny, please submit a report to the REEF Exotic Species Sightings Form, preferably with a photo. If you were doing a REEF survey when you saw it, be sure to also report it on your survey.
Chameleon Blennies are found in shallow water with sandy bottoms down to a depth of 60 feet. This fish can reach a maximum size of two inches. They can be identified by deeply forked cirri, wedge-shaped markings around the iris and a small ocellated spot (black or translucent) on the foredorsal fin. They may be olive green to dark gray in color, with greenish bars on their body and cheeks. Mating individuals have orange-red fading to yellow with orange spots on rear body. They are generally unafraid of divers.
When a REEF volunteer surveyor submits 1,000 surveys, he or she becomes a member of the Golden Hamlet Club. We are very pleased to welcome Judith Cucco as the newest Golden Hamlet Club member! Every one of Judith's 1,000 REEF surveys were conducted while snorkeling in Hawaii, where she lives on O'ahu and is in the water almost every day. Judith has been a REEF member for over 10 years, and is an expert level 5 surveyor in the Hawaii (HAW) survey region.
When asked about her favorite aspect of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, Judith said, "I enjoy really getting to know a place. You learn a lot about fish behavior. Some species exhibit site fidelity and you can see them in the same place time after time. Other fish are nomadic. Some fish like a particular type of coral, so if you want to see a certain species, just look for that type of coral and you may be rewarded. I like moving up the levels, the fishinars and enjoy reading the newsletter."
You can read more about Judith and her experiences as a REEF surveyor here. Click here to view all of our Golden Hamlet Club members.
Congratulations Judith for your outstanding achievement, for making an impact on citizen science, and being a vital member of our REEF family and community since 2010!
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 our Events & Communications Lead Intern, Maddi Piascik. Maddi graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.S. in marine science and a minor in advertising and public relations. While in college, she conducted an independent research study focused on phytoplankton and served as the Design Director for USC’s Dance Marathon. Last year she served as a Marine Conservation WTSA Volunteer in Sodwana Bay, South Africa, and also spent a semester studying abroad at James Cook University in Australia. She came to REEF at the start of 2020 as a Marine Conservation Intern, and will spend the next year supporting REEF's programs with a focus on communications, design, and event planning. We're excited to have Maddi on our team!
How did you become interested in marine conservation?
I’ve always been fascinated by the underwater world, but I became interested in marine conservation while I was studying marine science at the University of South Carolina. I switched from being a visual communications major to a marine science major when I realized that a career in conservation gave me the opportunity to make a difference. It sounds cliché, but it’s true! I believe my communication skills uniquely empower my ability to make a difference in the health our marine environments.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
I believe the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs is the engagement we have with our members and within the community. The various ways in which we involve and inspire the public in each of our programs empowers our mission to protect marine environments worldwide. I think REEF’s engagement with the public is unique in the sense that our mission would not be achievable if we did not call upon the public to help!
What have your most valuable REEF experiences been so far?
My most valuable REEF experiences have one thing in common: interacting with the general public as well as our REEF members. From the beginning of my Marine Conservation Internship until now, I have really enjoyed engaging divers and snorkelers with our Volunteer Fish Survey Project on dive boats. Teaching other marine enthusiasts fish identification and empowering them to contribute to citizen science is actively making a difference in marine conservation. Additionally, I had the opportunity to attend a local elementary school’s science expo to teach students about fish identification and the impacts of the invasive lionfish with interactive games. As if seeing first graders be proud of their new knowledge wasn’t enough, a week later we received handwritten cards from the kids expressing how grateful they were to REEF and how much fun they had learning about fish!
What are some of your goals for the upcoming year as a Lead Intern?
This upcoming year I have a long list of both personal and professional goals I want to achieve as a Lead Intern. Personally, I want to advance my diving techniques and obtain my rescue certification. In a professional sense, I want to build a communication skillset that allows me to successfully execute everything from planning events to designing promotional products. I’d love to see my designs on REEF t-shirts, brochures, and posted on social media! It is also my goal to develop a strong portfolio that illustrates the various graphic design projects that I’ve created for REEF!
Tell us about a particularly rewarding project that you worked on during your Marine Conservation Internship.
One of the most rewarding projects that I worked on during my Marine Conservation Internship was designing the educational signs that coincided with our upgraded lionfish display. This particular project was funded by a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) grant so I gained firsthand experience at applying for grants as well as allocating the provided funds to maximize the impact of REEF’s educational resources. I compiled the information and photographs, designed the layout of the display, and executed the production of the signs. It was a tedious process, but once both signs arrived at the REEF Campus it was worth it to see my designs in a permanent display! The most rewarding part about this project is knowing that my designs will leave a lasting impression on all who read them, encouraging the public to join REEF’s efforts to control the invasive lionfish population!
What career path do you hope to pursue after completing your Lead Internship?
After my Lead Internship I hope to continue working in marine science communication. My goal is to pursue a career in which I can merge my two passions for marine conservation and creative marketing! I’d like to implement my graphic design skills for the preservation of marine environments worldwide! I’m striving for a career that allows me to effectively communicate scientific knowledge to the general public in a way that inspires them make everyday decisions that benefit our fragile marine environments.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of the office you can typically find me scuba diving, running, or working on my freelance graphic design work! I also love to explore the Florida Keys by paddleboard!
Where is your favorite place to dive and why?
My favorite place to dive is in Sodwana Bay, South Africa. I was lucky enough to spend a month diving on the coral reefs of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park as a WTSA Volunteer in June 2019. The nine mile stretch of coral was nearly untouched by environmental threats and tourism. Each mile of the reef was also distinctly different from one another, with varying species and coral formations. One reef, Lettuce Reef, is known for the abundance of lettuce coral that completely covers the seafloor! To date Sodwana Bay is the most colorful, alive reef system I’ve experienced and it was the first place that I saw an octopus, my favorite sea creature!
Fishinars are free webinars that will teach you the finer points of fish ID. These educational sessions are open to anyone wanting to learn more about marine life. They are great for new REEF surveyors or anyone who wants to review. We record all Fishinars and make them available online for viewing at any time. With more than 190 archived sessions, you can find one for every ocean region and every level of experience.
Fishy Hour: Fish Jeopardy Game - Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) Fishes
Hosted by Christy and Brice Semmens. July 9, 8:00pm EDT. Click here to register.
Common Fishes of Costa Rica
Taught by Christy Semmens, Ph.D. July 27, 8:00pm EDT. Click here to register.
Sand and Rubble of the Tropical Pacific
Taught by Amy Lee. August 12, 8:00pm EDT. Click here to register.
Social Media Updates
Follow us on TikTok
We are now on TikTok, an app that features short videos. This allows us to engage future ocean ambassadors. Follow us on TikTok: @REEF_org.
Live Lionfish Feeding on Instagram
Join us Fridays at 2:00pm on Instagram Live for a live feeding of “Sparkles” our lionfish located in the aquarium at the REEF Campus. Follow us on Instagram @REEF_org.
2020 Underwater Photography Contest Deadline: July 31
We are accepting submissions for our Underwater Photography Contest! Categories include Fish Portrait, Macro, Invertebrates, REEF Themed, and Reefscape/Habitat/Environment. Deadline to submit photos is noon on July 31. Go to www.REEF.org/photocontest for complete details on submissions and our rules and policies.
Last year's contest winners are featured in a July 2020-December 2021 calendar, which can be downloaded for free by scrolling to the bottom of this page: www.REEF.org/photocontest.
Welcome to the Citizen Science Corner, a new feature highlighting those who recently reached a milestone in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Each quarter, we'll feature our surveyors' achievements from the past several months.
Experience Level Advancements
REEF Experience Levels are a way for divers and snorkelers to measure their fish ID knowledge along with their surveying experience. With 5 levels in each of REEF's survey regions, divers are able to look forward to the next step and continually improve their skills. From brand new beginners up to the top Level 5 experience level, you'll find plenty of resources and friends to help you along the way.
Let's hear it for these REEF members who have improved their fish ID skills and moved up a level recently:
Peter Krottje - Hawaii, Level 2
Joe Mangiafico - California, Level 2
Travis Palmer - California, Level 2
Jenn Palmer - California, Level 2
Zack Polanco - California, Level 2
Tylen DuFloth - California, Level 2
Lara Webster - California, Level 2
Loralee Byrnes - California, Level 2
Natasha McCluhan - Tropical Western Atlantic, Level 2 (Summer 2020 Marine Conservation Intern)
Emily Wheat - Tropical Western Atlantic, Level 2 (Summer 2020 Marine Conservation Intern)
Stephanie Letourneau - Tropical Western Atlantic, Level 2 (Summer 2020 Marine Conservation Intern)
Joe Mangiafico - Tropical Western Atlantic, Level 2
Carmen Toanchina - Tropical Western Atlantic, Level 2 and 3
20 in 2020 Challenge Achievements
Conduct and submit 20 surveys this year to complete the 20 in 2020 Challenge. You can do your surveys in a single region or a combination or multiple regions. Surveyors who complete the challenge will receive a special decal and be entered into a drawing to win a prize at the end of the year.
Surveyors who completed the 20 in 2020 Challenge during the second quarter of the year include:
Mona & Gary Wirth
Congratulations to all who advanced an Experience Level or conquered the 20 in 2020 Challenge this quarter! Stay tuned for our next Citizen Science Corner which will feature July, August, and September achievements.
Meet our July Fish of the Month, the Yellow Boxfish (Ostracion cubicus)!
Survey Regions: Yellow Boxfish are found in REEF's Indian Ocean and Red Sea (IORS) survey region, as well as throughout the Central Indo-Pacific (CIP) and South Pacific (SOP) survey regions. Want to know more? Check out the species distribution reports for the Yellow Boxfish in both the CIP and SOP regions in the REEF database.
Size: As juveniles (pictured) they are 1-4 inches long, but can grow up to 18 inches as adults.
Identifying Features: Juvenile Yellow Boxfish are bright yellow with black spots covering their head and body. As they get larger, the develop a bump on their snout tip. Adults are brownish purple with sparse, indistinct spots and a yellowish tail base.
Fun Facts: The Yellow Boxfish is protected by a bony, square-shaped carapace formed by a series of armor-like plates. This unique shape provided an interesting source of inspriration for the automotive industry. In 2005, Mercedes-Benz introduced the Bionic, a concept car modeled after the Yellow Boxfish.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the August issue of e-News to see our next Fish of the Month.
Attribution: "Yellow boxfish (Ostracion cubicus)" by Rickard Zerpe is licensed under CC BY 2.0