Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Co-Executive Director: Science & Engagement
We are excited to share a new scientific paper that was published in the journal Global Change Biology last month. Researchers used REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project database to answer crucial questions about the impacts of invasive lionfish as their range expands into new areas, such as Brazil. It is well known that predation by lionfish affects native fish populations, and this impact is likely exacerbated in certain vulnerable species. Based on REEF's citizen science data, the researchers identified 77 Caribbean species and 29 Brazilian species with high vulnerability to lionfish predation. These species are predominately small and narrow-bodied reef fishes, and/or those with restricted ranges. They also estimated the rate of relative lionfish abundance, from initial sighting to peak local density, and found that it takes approximately two years for lionfish to achieve peak density. These findings show that lionfish control measures implemented at the invasion front, ahead of the approximately two-year lag to peak lionfish density, may avert severe species decline. This finding is critical for places like Brazil, where 12 range-restricted reef fishes occur only in oceanic islands. In addition to Brazil, spatial richness analyses of the REEF dataset revealed other hotspots of vulnerable species in The Bahamas, Belize and Curaçao.
Click here to watch a time-lapse of the range expansion of invasive lionfish in the Western Atlantic from their first sightings in 2001 to 2017, based on the REEF database. See more about this paper and all scientific papers that have included REEF data and programs at www.REEF.org/db/publications.
The full citation of this paper is: Linardich, C, CB Brookson, S Green. 2021. Trait‐based vulnerability reveals hotspots of potential impact for a global marine invader. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/gcb.15732
Author: Alli Candelmo, Ph.D., Conservation Science Manager
Many hands and minds make easy work when building lionfish traps! Over the past six months, REEF staff and interns have dived into the NOAA Saltonstall-Kennedy funded Deepwater Lionfish Trap Project, with partners including Tom Matthews, Emily Hutchinson and Sam Hagedorn (FWC), Steve Gittings (NOAA Marine Sanctuaries), Alex Fogg (Coast Watch Alliance), Holden Harris (University of Florida), Rachel Bowman, Peter Angelotti, ReefSave and Lionfish University.
Widespread lionfish trap use may significantly reduce the impacts of lionfish on deep water habitats that are not able to be accessed by recreational divers. Through a series of video meetings, trap building sessions, and field days with ROV and diver surveys, we have observed the deployment of modified trap designs. The goals of these modified designs are to minimize risk of entanglement and bycatch, increase deployment success rate, and maximize lionfish catch.
During our most recent week of fieldwork, we met with Florida Keys lobster fishermen, Gary Nicols, Bruce Irwin, and Butch Hewitt, to gather advice on trap design and deployment strategies. We also had a special tour with Bette Zirkelbach, manager of The Turtle Hospital in Marathon, to discuss turtle behavior and gear risks. Our next step is to examine recent trap designs on lionfish capture during retrieval. We'd like to say a special thank you to Rachel Bowman and Peter Angelotti for their hospitality during our recent week of fieldwork, and for connecting us with the local fishing community and brainstorming with us all week.
We look forward to seeing our lionfish traps in action! Stay tuned for our next project update.
Author: Amy Lee, Engagement and Communications Manager
All are invited to join us for REEF Fest 2021 on October 14-17 in Key Largo, Florida! REEF Fest is the perfect opportunity to experience the underwater world of the Florida Keys by diving, snorkeling, or kayaking. You can join REEF staff and marine life experts on the mornings of Friday, October 15 and Saturday, October 16, as we explore diverse ocean habitats like coral reefs and mangrove trails.
It’s easy to sign up, and there’s no need to contact any tour operators to reserve your space. You can book dive, snorkel, or kayak spaces when you register online for REEF Fest. Learn more and register by visiting www.REEF.org/REEFfest. Spaces are filling fast, so be sure to book your eco-excursions soon.
Diving and Snorkeling: We have reserved dedicated boat charters with Key Dives, Quiescence Diving Services, and Amoray Dive Resort. Each boat will have a REEF representative onboard, with REEF survey materials available for you to use during the trip. This is a great chance to practice your fish identification skills and participate in citizen science. The cost for a 2-tank morning trip is $90 per diver and snorkelers may also join on the Amoray boat for $45 per person.
Lionfish Collecting Dives: Forever Young Charter Company is offering a private invasive lionfish hunting charter for a maximum of 6 divers on the morning of Friday, Oct. 15. The cost for this special trip is $150 per diver and includes a 2-tank dive trip, tanks, weights, and local expert guide. All lionfish collecting gear will be provided. Due to the advanced nature of these dives, this trip is recommended for those have 30+ logged dives and are comfortable diving in conditions that may include currents and low visibility.
Kayaking Ecotours: Join a three-hour guided kayak tour through mangrove forests and tidal flats led by one of Florida Bay Outfitters’ experienced guides. Tours are offered on the mornings of Friday, Oct. 15 and Saturday, Oct. 16, and are great for beginners or experienced paddlers. This fully-guided tour is $60 per person and includes all rental equipment, a lesson on paddling techniques, snacks, and water.
In addition to these eco-excursions, REEF Fest 2021 also features conservation programs, social events with delicious food and drinks, and educational ocean seminars presented by scientists, naturalists, and more. You can check out all of event details at www.REEF.org/REEFfest.
If you have any questions, please contact events@REEF.org or call (305) 852-0030. We hope to see you this fall in Key Largo for REEF Fest 2021!
Author: Alli Candelmo, Ph.D., Conservation Science Manager
You’re invited to REEF’s Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival! This year’s event is taking place on Sept. 9-12, 2021, and features two full days of lionfish hunting, followed by a family-friendly festival hosted at Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina in Islamorada. Click here for all the details.
The festival is open to the public and will include lionfish tastings, drink specials, demonstrations, games, interactive booths from environmentally-minded vendors, and live music from The Copper Tones, South Florida’s Soulgrass band.
Teams of two to four people may register to compete in the derby. Click here to register online. Be sure to register soon to take advantage of the early bird rates: $75 per team before July 10, $85 per team before August 10, and $100 per team until Sept. 9.
A Captains’ Meeting will be held on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 6:30pm at the REEF Campus in Key Largo, Florida. Light refreshments will be served and teams may choose to attend the meeting virtually or in person. More details will be emailed to registered teams. Derby participants may hunt lionfish from sunrise to sunset on Friday, Sept. 10 and Saturday, Sept. 11. Lionfish drop off stations will also be available at designated hours throughout the weekend at the REEF Campus in Key Largo, Postcard Inn Resort & Marina in Islamorada, and Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key.
At this year’s event, we’ll award more than $6,000 in cash prizes! Prizes be awarded to the teams who harvest the most, largest, and smallest lionfish. The Most Lionfish category will include two divisions:
• Apex Predators (More competitive, higher prize money)
• Reef Defenders (More casual, lower prize money)
Don't have a boat? Local dive charters are available. Interested participants should contact dive shops directly to book dives.
Postcard Inn Resort & Marina is offering a special room rate for derby and festival attendees. Rooms must be booked by August 20 to secure the special rate by using this link or calling reservations at 844-471-5433. More details about the Postcard Inn Resort room package can be found here.
For more information, check out the Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival Facebook event. You can also stay up to date on derby info and connect with other teams by joining the REEF Invasive Lionfish Facebook Group.
If you have any questions, please contact lionfish@REEF.org or call (305) 852-0030. We hope to see you at the Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival!
Author: The REEF Team
This summer, we’re celebrating the oceans by highlighting what makes REEF extraordinary - the people, the places, the discoveries, and the innovations. Keep an eye on your inbox all month for more details. In the meantime, here is another reason to celebrate: our annual summer match is here! Now through August 8, all donations are doubled, up to $70,000. We are so thankful to the Meyer Foundation, the Henry Foundation, and the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation for their generosity in providing these matching funds. Please consider making a donation today to take advantage of this match opportunity. You can give online by visiting www.REEF.org/donate, send a check, or call our office to donate over the phone. Not only will your gift go twice as far, if you are able to give $250 or more this summer, we’ll send you a set of eight limited-edition notecards featuring incredible marine life images, photographed by REEF Co-Founder Ned DeLoach. Thank you for joining us in celebrating the oceans this summer!
Author: Amy Lee, Engagement and Communications Manager
For nearly three decades, REEF has welcomed more than 150 young adults to the REEF Campus to spend a semester immersed in marine conservation projects. This month, we highlight former Marine Conservation Intern Colin Howe. Read on to learn about how his time at REEF shaped his career path.
When were you a REEF intern?
I was a REEF Intern in the fall of 2013.
What are you doing now?
I am currently working towards my Ph.D. in Biology at Penn State University. I am studying coral microbiology and will focus on the coral microbiome to learn more about coral health and physiology.
What did you like the most about your internship?
What I liked most about my internship at REEF was the opportunity to engage with multiple marine science and conservation agencies and non-profits that collaborated with REEF. From dive centers to local universities and other non-profits, working with REEF helped me expand my skills set and experience within the field of marine conservation.
Was there a goal or focus you had going into the internship?
My goal for this internship was to get a foot in the door within the field of marine science and become competitive for jobs or graduate school.
Were there any big projects you worked on during the internship that had an impact on you?
I was very fortunate to work on several big projects during my internship with REEF. One was assisting Dr. Stephanie Green with her lionfish research. We conducted benthic surveys while diving and snorkeling, looking for lionfish across most of the Upper Florida Keys, to monitor how lionfish derbies affected nearby lionfish populations. I was also able to participate in an actual REEF Lionfish Derby hosted at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This was a huge opportunity for me to not only engage with the local community but also help encourage the long-term management of invasive lionfish within the Florida Keys.
How has the REEF internship influenced or supported where you are now?
My internship at REEF had a significant and profound impact on my career path towards marine biology. The experience and skills set that I gained from REEF helped me become a competitive applicant for future positions and eventually graduate school. Indeed, this internship helped me get my foot in the door of marine science and I am deeply thankful and grateful for my time interning at REEF.
Author: Sierra Barkdoll, Citizen Science Program Lead Intern
REEF's online programs are free and open to everyone! Here's what is coming up over the next several weeks:
Fishinar: Eels of Hawaii
Monday, July 19 at 8pm EDT
Join us for tips and tricks to identify the Eels of Hawaii with expert surveyors Ron Wolfe and Dennis Bensen. Whether you're an avid Hawaii surveyor, or just looking to expand your knowledge on Hawaii's marine life, this Fishinar will be lots of fun!
Fishinar: California Dry Diving
Thursday, July 22 at 7pm PDT
Learn and practice your fish ID without even getting wet! You'll be watching instructor-led video clips of common California fish.
Into the Blue Book Club Meeting
Thursday, July 29 at 8pm EDT
Into the Blue Book Club brings together readers who love the ocean. At this meeting, we will be discussing The World is Blue by Sylvia Earle. This book reveals how just 50 years of swift and dangerous oceanic change threatens the very existence of life on Earth.
Fishinar: Snorkeling in the Tropical Western Atlantic
Tuesday, August 3 at 8pm EDT
Snorkeling in Florida, The Bahamas and the Caribbean can be a great way to view fish and conduct REEF surveys. Learn how to identify some of the more common fishes you might see on your watery adventures.
Author: Amy Lee, Engagement and Communications Manager
Anyone who has dreamed of visiting Cuba's famous Gardens of the Queen Marine Park, mark your calendar for December 11-18, 2021! We have just rescheduled a REEF Field Survey Trip aboard the Jardines Avalon II, and we have several spaces available on our new dates in December 2021. This location is known as one of the best-preseved areas in the Caribbean, with frequent sightings of large predators like snapper, grouper, and sharks. It's also one of the few places where the rare Golden Fairy Basslet has been sighted. During the trip, surveyors will have the chance to contribute their sightings data to REEF's online database while discovering why this protected area is considered to be such a special place. Click here for more information about this highly sought-after trip.
If you're not able to travel this year, be sure to check out our 2022 and 2023 REEF Trips by visiting www.REEF.org/trips. REEF Trips are led by marine life experts, and include diving, seminars about fish identification, and plenty of fun with friends. Snorkelers, families, and non-divers are also welcome. Contact trips@REEF.org for more information or to sign up for a trip today!
Author: Stacey Henderson, Program Services Coordinator
There's still time to enter REEF's 2021 'Discover the Sea' Photography Contest! You may submit up to three photos in each of the five categories: fish portrait, macro, invertebrates, REEF themed, and reefscape/habitat. Photos may be submitted until July 31. Photos will be judged using a popular vote, beginning on August 2. Winning photos will be featured on REEF’s website, social media and other communications channels. For complete details including rules and policies, visit this page.
[Photo by Bryant Turffs]
Author: Janna Nichols, Citizen Science Program Manager
Welcome to the Citizen Science Corner, our quarterly feature to acknowledge those who recently reached a milestone in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project. We are celebrating those who moved up an Experience Level or who achieved the 2021 Super Surveyor Challenge in April, May, or June 2021.
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 2, 3, 4, or 5 are achieved through 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 improved their fish ID skills!
*All listed below are Level 2 unless otherwise noted.
- Lara Webster - Level 3
- Gene DePuy
- Monica Willbrand
- Dan Sphar
- Emily Jackson
- Robert Ratchford
- Amanda Kondo
- Ken Kondo
Central Indo-Pacific (CIP)
- Laurie Fulton - Level 3
- Kris Karlen - Level 3
Indian Ocean / Red Sea (IORS)
- Dina Aly
- Mohamed El Ghawaby
- Yasser Elnakeeb
- Mahmoud Almaz
- Ahmed Shawky
Pacific Northwest (PNW)
- Ellie Place - Level 5
- Brad Giles - Levels 3, 4 and 5
- Jacqueline Selbitschka
- Cliff Owen
Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP)
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
- Naomi Wooten - Level 5
- Johnny Leuthold - Level 5
- Marta Bonatz - Level 4
- Rachael Lewus - Level 3
- Susanna Phipps - Level 3
- Katharine Lukaszewicz
- Susan Richter
- Liam Locke
- Alex O’Brien
- Sam Marchisin
- Connor Quaine
- Colleen George
- Anissa Halbich
- Federico Torres
- Melisa Dougherty
- Breanna Cheatham
- Susan McGuire
- Lindsey Kaye
- Paul Armstrong
- Ania Plucinska
- Nina Grauley
- Jessica Warshauer
- Joan Alonso
- Zoe Springer
- Maddie Brownfield - current REEF Marine Conservation Intern
- Hailey Hiner - current REEF Marine Conservation Intern
- Mary Quinn - current REEF Marine Conservation Intern
- Tonia Ferguson
- Jeferson Techera
- Stephanie Van Elven
- Geert Steeghs
- Landon Das
- Santanu Das
- Kelly Das
- Colin Das
- Victoria Huber
Super Surveyor Challenge
Volunteer divers and snorkelers earn the title of Super Surveyor by conducting and submitting at least 25 REEF surveys during 2021. Here are all who have met that challenge so far! For more info and to learn how you can join in the challenge, go to www.REEF.org/supersurveyor.
- Peter Leahy
- Cassandra Neal
- Rocio Bunker
- Ron Wolfe
- Ed Gullekson
- Dennis Bensen
- Herb Gruenhagen
- Mona & Gary Wirth
- Kara Curry
- Brad Giles
- Chuck Curry
- Dave Grenda
- Rhoda Green
- Patricia Richardson
- MJ Farr
- Judith Cucco
- Robin Webster
- Alice Ribbens
- Leslie Kopietz
- Joseph Mangiafico
- Marta Zahalak
- Perry Webster
- Karen Bogart
- Connie Bogan
- Kathie Comerford
- Kristi Draper
- Donald McCoy
- Don Gordon
- Frank Krasovec
- Carrie Neal
- William Ribbens
- Marsha Davis
- Eddie Roa
- Doug Harder
- Janet Clayton
- Kat Fenner
- Kreg Martin
- Tabitha Jacobs-Mangiafico
- Lara Webster
- Gail Roberts
Author: The REEF Team
Introducing our July 2021 Fish of the Month, the Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby (Canthigaster jactator))!
Survey Regions: The Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby is endemic to Hawaii. While you can't see it anywhere else in the world, if you are diving or snorkeling in Hawaii, you have a good chance of seeing this fish. It has been reported on more than 80% of REEF surveys conducted in the region! You can check out the sightings report for this species in REEF's Hawaiian Islands (HAW) region here.
Size: They grow to about 3 inches.
Identifying Features: Hawaiian Whitespotted Tobies have an elongated snout and a brown or tan body covered in white spots. Occasionally spots on the head may appear slightly green.
Fun Facts: The Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby is a member of the Pufferfish family. They are usually seen in pairs and are active during the day, when they can be seen feeding on sponges and algae. They even produce their own form of sunscreen to protect themselves from UV rays! This was discovered several decades ago, when a University of Hawaii researcher observed the presence of sunscreen compounds within the skin mucus of the Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, as well as many other reef fishes. You can read more about this here.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next Fish of the Month!
[Photo by Florent Charpin]