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 John Smajdek, a REEF member from California. He is an active surveyor in the Pacific Coast of the US and Canada (PAC) region, where he has conducted nearly 400 surveys, including many at local southern California dive sites. Thank you John, for being a dedicated and enthusiastic REEF member! 

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member?
I first started volunteering with REEF about 12 years ago. I had been diving for many years, and it was starting to feel routine (and a little boring). I learned about REEF through the Power Scuba Dive Club, went to the free fish and invertebrate ID classes, and I was hooked. It opened my eyes, and showed me how much of the underwater environment I had been missing... I was looking but not really seeing. REEF renewed my enthusiasm for diving.

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys?
I find doing a survey fun because it gives you an additional goal for a dive. You and your dive buddy can compare what each other saw (or didn't see) during a dive. It generates a lot of discussion and forces you break out the guide books and do a little research and verification. It can even generate into expanded discussions with others on the dive boat or part of the dive group.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
One of the most important aspects of REEF is heightening divers' awareness of what is in the environment. In addition, it is good to know that the data collected is aiding ongoing scientific research about the environment we all enjoy. My degree is in biology/chemistry, and it is nice to know that after 40 years, I'm still contributing to the scientific community.

What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate?
My favorite fish is southern California's illusive Giant Kelpfish. I like them because they are very hard to find because they blend in so well with the kelp. Nature gave them excellent camouflage, many times you find them sitting vertical looking and waving just like a piece of kelp. How cool is that. They are absolutely beautiful.

What is your most memorable fish find and why?
My dive buddy Fred and I were swimming along a large wall in our beloved Point Loma kelp beds checking out the structure, inverts and fish. Visibility was about 20 feet (our normal), and out of the haze coming straight at us was a cruising 8-foot Sevengill Shark (don't worry, they are harmless). We froze, and he/she leisurely swam right by, within three feet of us, and disappeared in the haze. What a cool encounter.