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 Kara Hall, a REEF member who grew up in the Midwest and now lives in California. Kara became a REEF member in 2013, while attending college at Indiana University. In 2015, she was a REEF Marine Conservation Intern through Our World Underwater Scholarship Society. Although she started surveying in the Tropical Western Atlantic, Kara now regularly dives and surveys in the chillier waters of central California. She has submitted 58 REEF surveys and counting!

When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
I first found REEF when I first began scuba diving my freshman year at Indiana University. I was searching for resources in marine conservation and began watching Fishinars. I hadn’t yet dove in the ocean but I studied fish identification and then completed my first surveys on a field school to the Dominican Republic. After those first few surveys, I was hooked! I was a REEF Marine Conservation Intern during the summer of 2015. I continue to complete REEF surveys in Monterey Bay, which is now my backyard. I attended my first REEF Field Survey trip to Cozumel in December 2018!

What inspires you to complete REEF surveys? What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned doing a REEF fish survey?
Filling out the survey sheets while diving gives me a sense of purpose while underwater. It’s almost like a scavenger hunt and the dives are much more engaging as you are searching for both the common but also the unusual species. Furthermore, not only have I learned the basic identification of species, but I also have begun to understand the behavior of different species and how they tend to interact with each other.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF’s projects and programs?
I am a huge advocate for citizen scientist programs, whether that be with the Volunteer Fish Survey Project or through lionfish removals. I really appreciate the continual education that REEF provides to keep engaging volunteers and encouraging their participation. Any way that we can educate the public and get them involved with a marine conservation project is essential to protecting the oceans.

Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
One of the best fishwatching (or invertebrate-watching) tips that I learned during my internship with REEF is to carry a magnifying glass while diving. I love getting that magnified view of corals or a closer look at the intricate invertebrates in California. Diving with a magnifying glass and my surveying paper has made me a much slower and more attentive diver. When you spend some time in just one spot, you may notice a lot more detail in the life that many people may just swim past.

Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there?
I live in Monterey, California, and love diving in both Monterey Bay and Carmel Bay. Although it can be quite chilly, there is nothing quite like diving through a dense kelp forest with all of the rich invertebrate life. There is an incredible amount of diversity along the Central Coast and a variety of different dive environments. I also really enjoy seeing some of the larger animals, like harbor seals and sea lions while diving.