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 Becky and Nate Collins, who live in Key Largo, Florida. Nate and Becky first became involved with REEF in 2013, and they have submitted a combined 258 surveys in the Tropical Western Atlantic! They are passionate conservationists who have participated in several REEF Lionfish Derbies and frequently attend events at REEF Headquarters.
When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
We first heard about REEF from Elena Muratori. We were new to the Keys and she invited us to attend a Fish & Friends lecture at REEF Headquarters. We enjoyed the presentation and meeting other local REEF members. We began doing REEF fish surveys in 2014 and joined Carlos and Allison Estape’s 100 Fish ID classes at REEF to begin our journey to becoming expert fish surveyors.
If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
Our first REEF Trip was in 2015 to Grand Cayman. We have also been on REEF Trips to Cozumel, Cuba and Bonaire. We have met some incredible people who inspired us to learn more fish and become active surveyors. Becky’s trip highlight happened in Cozumel when our dive guide spotted a Bluespotted Cornetfish and a Splendid Toadfish as we were soaring over the reef. Nate’s memorable moment came when attempting a shore dive in Bonaire at Tori’s Reef. Having never been to the spot, we chose the wrong entry point and Nate ended up getting tossed around the rocks on his back like a turtle. When trying to stand up he got stabbed in the foot by an urchin. He didn’t get seriously hurt and we have never laughed so hard.
What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
We both enjoy doing fish surveys because it gives us a purpose to our hobby. We like the fact that we are contributing to REEF's database, which can be used by scientists to help with fish conservation issues.
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
Becky: My favorite fish is the Black Durgon. The way they swim with their dorsal and anal fins undulating is very beautiful. We rarely see them diving in the Keys, so when we do it is a treat. I also really enjoy observing Smooth Trunkfish. I love their pursed lips and the way they feed by blowing in the sand to uncover morsels of food.
Nate: Hammerhead Shark. I like anything big that makes my heart flutter and makes me realize how much more well-suited they are for the ocean than we are.
Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
Becky: It was helpful for me to start learning the fish by concentrating on one family at a time. Attending fish identification classes and watching Fishinars is also very helpful. Diving with other REEF members at home and on REEF Trips helps to hone your ID and fish finding skills too.
Nate: Dive with the most knowledgeable person you can, to learn one new fish on each dive, then find less experienced surveyors to teach them a fish that they don’t know.
What was your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
Seeing the Golden Hamlet in Cuba. We were diving with Doug Harder - a "Golden Hamlet” REEF member, when he spotted the elusive fish along a wall. We have never seen Doug get so excited, so we followed him and we were greatly rewarded with the find. We have yet to swim with Whale Sharks or Manta Rays so they are definitely on our list.