We are so proud to share that Alice and Will Ribbens are our 2023 REEF Volunteers of the Year! Alice has been a REEF member since 2010, and Will joined in 2012.  Since then, they have been active and dedicated members of the REEF community who serve as outstanding ambassadors for REEF's mission and ocean conservation work.

Alice and Will have helped engage many people with REEF in their home state of Minnesota and beyond. They regularly organize "Fish Nights" at their local dive shop, Scuba Center - also a REEF Conservation Partner! Fish Nights are free, fish-focused presentations, held about once a month. Each Fish Night has a different topic, featuring content created by the Scuba Center team or a REEF Fishinar screening. Fish Nights are open to everyone, including divers, non-divers, families, friends, and children.

Both avid fish surveyors, Alice and Will have collectively conducted more than 1,400 total REEF surveys throughout many survey regions, including Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA), Central Indo-Pacific (CIP), South Pacific (SOP), Indian Ocean & Red Sea (IORS), Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP). Alice has also surveyed in the US/Canada Pacific Coast (PAC) region. They enjoy traveling and they conduct surveys during REEF Field Survey Trips, as well as their own diving adventures. 

In addition to their efforts to engage people with ocean conservation and spread the word about REEF, Alice and Will support REEF programs behind the scenes, from providing valuable feedback and ideas for developing our new REEF Ocean Ambassadors Program, to testing a prototype device to collect environmental DNA (eDNA) in Minnesota's chilly lake waters. They have also represented REEF at industry events like the annual Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) Show. During DEMA Show 2023 in New Orleans, Alice was one of five panelists who participated in a REEF-organized seminar about citizen science programs for divers and snorkelers. As part of the panel, she shared her experience as a dive professional to highlight how involvement in citizen science programs like the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project can enhance scuba diving and keep divers interested and engaged.

Alice and Will had this to say about their feelings on being named REEF Volunteers of the Year: "We are humbled, thrilled, and excited by this honor. Humbled because we know so many of the past REEF Volunteers of the Year are well known contributors in the REEF and marine conservation community. Thrilled because REEF is important to us, and to know that our support and work is valued means a lot to us. We are excited to continue our journey of learning and exploration in a conservation community as vibrant as REEF. We are proud of REEF and the opportunity to be part of the REEF community."

Alice and Will's support and leadership has helped to foster a growing community of people interested in ocean conservation. We are so thankful for their incredible dedication to REEF's mission, and we are honored to celebrate them as our 2023 Volunteers of the Year! To read more about Alice and Will, check out their Faces of REEF profiles here and here. Click here to see all past REEF Volunteers of the Year.