Thank you to all who participated in #GivingTuesdayNow this past Tuesday, May 5. It was a wonderful day of unity and giving, and we are so grateful to have been a part of it. We also want to express our sincere gratitude to Janet and Doug Camp for providing a generous matching gift. For all those who donated to REEF on May 5, you helped us surpass our fundraising target and we met our matching goal. It was our largest one-day fundraising event ever! Donations from members like you are critical to ensuring we can continue REEF’s citizen science and education programs. Thank you to the REEF family for coming together to support marine conservation, now and always. We truly could not do it without you!
REEF Citizen Science Program Manager Janna Nichols recently had the honor of having a new species of nudibranch (sea slug) named after her! Cadlina jannanicholsae is part of a difficult-to-distinguish complex of nudibranchs that was previously thought to only include Hudson’s Dorid (Acanthodoris hudsoni) and Yellow Margin Dorid (Cadlina luteomarginata). The complex is monitored by REEF surveyors in the Pacific Northwest. After extensive research on specimens collected in the Puget Sound and the Canadian Gulf Islands, scientists have discovered three more species in the complex. Their findings were published in a new paper, “The Emperor’s Cadlina, hidden diversity and gill cavity evolution: new insights for the taxonomy and phylogeny of dorid nudibranchs (Mollusca: Gastropoda)” in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. The authors named the new species after three remarkable people involved in marine biology: Klas Malmberg from Sweden, National Geographic Explorer Dr. Sylvia Earle, and our very own Janna Nichols!
According to the Etymology section for the new species: “For Janna Nichols, REEF’s Citizen Science Program Manager, working extensively with the Volunteer Fish and Invertebrate Survey Project database, training programs and volunteer teams. She has worked tirelessly for citizen science program development in the Pacific northwest of the USA and globally.” Congratulations Janna!
The paper citation is: Korshunova, T, K Fletcher, B Picton, K Lundin, S Kashio, N Sanamyan, K Sanamyan, V Padula, M Schrödl, A Martynov. 2020. The Emperor’s Cadlina, hidden diversity and gill cavity evolution: new insights for the taxonomy and phylogeny of dorid nudibranchs (Mollusca: Gastropoda). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. zlz126, https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlz126.
We also want to give a big thank you to Karin Fletcher, who is one of the authors of the paper and a member of the REEF Advanced Assessment Team in the Pacific Northwest.
When a REEF volunteer surveyor has submitted 1,000 surveys, he or she becomes a member of the Golden Hamlet Club, named for the rare, sought-after species found in the Tropical Western Atlantic region. REEF survey regions cover the globe and our volunteers are able to survey in tropical and temperate waters worldwide.
We want to extend a huge congratulations to Kreg Martin, our newest member of the Golden Hamlet Club! Not only has he conducted REEF surveys in the South Pacific, Central Indo Pacific, Tropical Western Atlantic, Hawaii, Tropical Eastern Pacific, Indian Ocean/Red Sea and the Pacific Coast regions, he is an expert level surveyor in 6 of those 7 regions.
Kreg said, "my favorite thing [about REEF and the Volunteer Fish Survey Project] is the diving and surveying in new and different places. I also really like working with others to look at photos to figure out what new species we have seen. I like to help people on REEF Trips who are learning the species, to figure out what species they have photographed and how to recognize them." You can read more about Kreg and his experience as a REEF surveyor here.
Congratulations Kreg for your outstanding achievement, for making an impact on citizen science, and being a vital member of our REEF family and community since 2004!
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 Julia Walker. Read on to hear about Julia's time at REEF, and how her REEF internship helped to shape her career.
When were you a REEF intern?
I was a REEF intern in the fall of 2017, from September to December.
What did you like the most about your internship?
I really loved learning more about marine conservation and getting to dive as a part of that. I hadn't been diving in years when I came to REEF, but it was so amazing getting to dive again and muscle memory took over. It can be tough being away from the water out west! I also liked being involved in different things, like getting to go to the DEMA Show, doing fish surveys, educating others, and helping with REEF Fest. The internship gave me a little taste of each aspect of REEF and I got to learn a lot. I got to do some pretty fun things while in the Keys and with REEF!
Was there a goal or focus you had going into the internship?
When I was looking for internships and came across REEF, I was really drawn to the mission. I saw how REEF has so many components going, with education and conservation projects. I had been involved in several citizen science projects at Penn State and was really drawn to the Volunteer Fish Survey Project and the lionfish removal efforts. I love citizen science because it can involve so many different people, not just scientists, and gets them excited about making a difference. Going into the internship, I wanted to learn more about these projects and citizen science overall.
Were there any big projects you worked on during the internship that had an impact on you?
It was great to be a part of planning REEF Fest 2017. After Hurricane Irma, it was postponed to December. I got to help with various aspects throughout planning and then throughout the weekend. I even got to go on the radio and advertise for it! That was a lot of fun! I really enjoyed getting to meet and go diving with REEF members during the event too. It was a really rewarding experience to see all the preparations and thought that went into it, especially with having to change the date, and have the great payoff. Since it ended up being at the end of my internship, it was a great way to celebrate my time interning at REEF.
What are you doing now?
I had lived on the east coast my entire life, and decided to strike out on a new adventure out west. Currently, I work at Utah's Hogle Zoo as an Education Program Instructor in Salt Lake City. My main duty is going to 2nd grade classrooms all over the state to teach about habitats and introduce them to animal ambassadors like desert tortoises, snakes, salamanders, chuckwallas, and more. The program turns them into scientists for an hour to solve a 'mystery'. They have to sort a box full of various feathers, furs, plants, and pictures into piles based on which habitat the group thinks they came from. I really enjoy seeing their faces light up, watching them have fun with science, and watching them make discoveries. My hope is they will carry that enthusiasm for animals everyday. I also am involved in other programs as well. I am a part of a grant-funded program focused on nature play in a Title I school, which aims to encourage an interest in the outdoors. I am also in charge of a camp that teaches teens about being a zookeeper. They get to go behind-the-scenes and learn about zookeeping, enrichment, training, and even get to interact with some animals.
Since my time at REEF, I have held various positions. I was an intern at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida on the Gulf coast taking care of their ambassador animals, leading field trips, doing outreach at schools, and being a camp counselor. I also was an intern at Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake, working in their Bird Show department. There, I learned about training and helped take care of over 40 different birds. I also got to be involved in training myself, mainly by taking these birds out on encounters throughout the Aviary. I really enjoy educating others and sharing my love of animals!
How has the REEF internship influenced or supported where you are now?
REEF was one of my first internships, so I learned a lot and it helped me figure out what I like to do. I hope to work with and get involved with more citizen science projects and continue educating others about conservation issues. It also strengthened my skills, like communicating with others, species identification, my knowledge of conservation efforts, my ability to try new things, and more. I was able to carry the skills I learned at REEF into my next experiences, and be ready to 'dive' into anything new. One great thing, is that I can still be involved and am going on a REEF trip this fall!
Join us for some online fish-themed fun and learning during the month of May! Fishy Hours are online group games just for fun, while Fishinars are REEF's brand of online fish ID classes and learning sessions. All sessions are free and all are invited to attend.
Friday, May 8 - Fishy Hour: Have some socially-distanced fun by joining us online for Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) version 2.0 of our interactive game you can play at home - Fish Jeopardy (with a twist) Register here!
Wednesday, May 20 - Fishinar: Red Sea Endemics, taught by Christy Semmens. Learn about some of the fish found only in the Red Sea, part of REEF's newest survey region. This webinar will have a downloadable Cheat Sheet to summarize the fish being taught. Register here!
Friday, May 29 - Fishy Hour: Another Jeopardy style game focusing on global fish found around the world. Register here!
Here's a little more about our newly introduced Fishy Hours that our members are raving about:
- Hang out with other REEF members and friends as you have fishy fun
- Random members of our audience will be chosen to select the categories, but everyone gets to guess the answers if they want.
- You keep your own score. Or play along without keeping score. Your choice.
- If you just want to log on and watch, that's OK too. The more the merrier.
- You won't need a webcam or a microphone - when you register we'll send you the link you'll need to click on at the appointed time.
Hope to "sea" you online!
As we shared last month, surveyor Mike Snow recently submitted the 250,000th survey to our Volunteer Fish Survey Project database. When we asked him to give us some thoughts on what he likes best about REEF, he shared a story about a time when he was buddied with fellow REEF member Greg Jensen, a marine biologist at the University of Washington and author of several reference books, including one on sculpins. Mike and Greg were part of a REEF Advanced Assessment Team project at Saltwater State Park in Washington.
Mike said, “we were slowly swimming together when we spotted a small sculpin whose identity was not instantly obvious, at least to me. I pointed at it, gave an exaggerated shrug, and Greg wrote on his slate "PADDED". Back on the boat during the surface interval, I asked him how he knew that particular fish was a Padded Sculpin, hoping for words of wisdom from someone who's spent much of his career studying these fish. His answer: ‘It just looked like a Padded.'"
Have you ever experienced this? Turns out, there is a word for it!
If you are a fishwatcher (or birdwatcher, or a field naturalist in general), you know that sometimes you just know the identity of a species. There’s nothing in particular that you can point to if someone asks how you know, it just is. In the birdwatching world, this concept has been well written about, and is commonly known as GISS or jizz. GISS is an acronym for “general impression of size and shape” and originated in the military as a way to identify aircraft. The origin of “jizz” is less clear, but likely is related to the German word gestalt, which means a complete shape or form. Jizz first appeared in an Irish natural history newspaper column in 1921, predating GISS, which was first used in World War II.
When you are fishwatching by GISS or jizz, you are using the whole picture; the combined impression of key characteristics, the setting, and even just the vibe. Of course, there is size and color pattern, but also behavior, swimming style, habitat, and how the fish is positioned in its habitat. This ‘it just is' feeling is greatly enhanced by the power of your first-hand knowledge and experience in the water. The more time you spend watching fishes, the better you get at knowing which traits to focus on. Even if you don’t know offhand the exact species, it will help you decide the fish family as a starting point. It may seem a bit messy and imprecise, but the “jizz of a fish” can be quite effective and surprisingly accurate, especially with experience.
If you want to learn more about this topic, check out this article or this scientific paper. And a shout out to active REEF surveyor, Chuck Curry, for first introducting the author of this article to this concept!
Did you know you can participate in REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project while snorkeling? It's a perfect way to dip your toes into citizen science and contribute valuable information about fish populations seen in our oceans, without all the gear and training involved with scuba diving. Snorkel surveys are perfect for:
- families with kids
- school groups
- grandparents with grandchildren
- ocean swimmers
- older adults who no longer dive
- anyone who isn't scuba certified
- those who just love to snorkel
Snorkelers can conduct surveys while staying on the surface the entire time, doing surface dives, or during deeper free dives. Snorkelers record the fish they see at the surface, down on the bottom, or anywhere in between in the water column. A small camera can be helpful in identifying the fish you see. Fish may look a bit different when viewing them from above, but fish move around a lot, so you can often see more identifying characteristics if you just wait and watch them for a while.
Check out some resources and tips from some of our most active snorkeling surveyors here: www.REEF.org/snorkel.
Do you conduct REEF surveys while snorkeling? We'd love to hear from you! Contact janna@REEF.org to tell us all about it!
This month, REEF is proud to highlight one of our outstanding Conservation Partners: Ancora Scuba, located in the Gainesville, Florida, area. REEF Conservation Partners are active organizations and dive shops dedicated to protecting marine environments. As valued REEF ambassadors, they teach fish ID classes, host survey dives, organize volunteer events and more. You can see the full listing of Conservation Partners or register your business or organization as a REEF Conservation Partner here: www.REEF.org/conservation-partners.
We're proud to have a fantastic, conservation-minded partner like Ancora Scuba. To learn more, check out our Q&A with Ancora Scuba below!
In what ways do you participate with REEF’s main programs?
We have been spreading the good news about REEF for years! REEF’s programs have been very popular with our divers, and we’ve been very pleased to see many of our students register as REEF members right about the same time as they register for dive insurance or their first big dive trip!
Since 2018, we’ve held multiple fish survey dives in both the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) and Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean (EAM) regions. We’ve decided to look in a different direction this year and are currently finalizing plans to host a late summer invertebrate survey dive in the Pacific Northwest. While this will be our first ‘official’ survey dive in the California, Pacific Northwest and Alaska (PAC) region, we are no strangers to the kelp forests of California. We have made a habit out of screening at least a couple of Janna Nichols and Jonathan Lavan’s Fishinars aboard the boat to Catalina Island. They’re the perfect primer and a great way to fill the time between departure and dive briefing. They also, though, always seem to pique our divers’ interest in the possibility of signing up for a REEF Fish ID class.
While we don’t have any direct involvement, we’ve taken care to promote REEF’s Ocean Explorers Camp as the perfect alternative to the more traditional, landlocked summer camp. Over the years, we have also recommended the Marine Conservation Internship to a handful of our best students and fully intend to continue to show our support of the program anyway we can.
The pandemic-related travel restrictions forced us to halt developing plans for this year’s Great Annual Fish Count event, but we can hardly wait to meet several of our divers in Miami for the same occasion in July 2021. For now, we’ll look forward to participating in this year’s REEF Fest. Hope to see you there!
What other actions do you take to promote marine conservation?
We are committed to promoting a culture of respect across all that we do; respect for other divers, respect for the different communities we engage with while on expedition, respect for our oceans and all of the life they sustain. We’ve built our entire organization off of this foundational principle and, consequently, have consistently found ourselves surrounded by friends and allies who share our resolve to further the reach of marine conservation efforts around the world. Our relationship with REEF is a perfect example!
From the beginning, every step of our training process is designed to alert divers to their own potential as citizen scientists and underwater naturalists. We incorporate REEF’s extensive Fishinar archive into the dryland portion of our classes and place special emphasis on optimizing buoyancy control and the roving diver technique. In this way, our divers leave us prepared to lead by example in any sensitive submarine environment and to contribute, on their own time, to REEF’s ongoing data collection efforts. By offering our students such a comprehensive training experience, we hope to empower them to confidently advocate for responsible scuba practices and environmental awareness each time they enter the water.
We continue to find reasons to be proud of how seriously our divers take their shared responsibility to promote marine conservation. Not only during our annual beach cleanup and shore dive events in South Florida and Southern California (NB: this year’s California dive at Veteran’s Park in Redondo Beach has been postponed), but on our international dive expeditions as well. Each of our expeditions are organized with the direct input of a specific conservation organization and rely exclusively on transportation partners with a proven record of ecological sensibility. Similarly, we only spend the night at places that are genuinely determined to minimize their environmental impact. Some of our trips even involve campfires and tent sites!
Sicily and Spain are frequent stops for us, but so are Malibu and the Maldives. No matter where we end up, our idea of a perfect dive destination is somewhere off the beaten path. This often means that we’re able to jumpstart a brand-new conservation-focused discussion within the communities we visit, and some of our exchanges with local fisherman, resort operators, and scuba enthusiasts have helped all parties reevaluate the significance of maintaining a balanced relationship between visitors, locals, and the sea. Along the way, this has facilitated the development of new environmental partnerships and our connections with smaller, more locally oriented groups are the direct result of our divers’ willingness to engage with people and places that too often go overlooked. As Ancora divers, our goal has always been to explore, rather than exploit, these communities and their dive sites. In that spirit, we’re currently working with our friends at the Saba Conservation Foundation to organize a new St. Maarten to Saba expedition for 2022. In the meantime, we’ll continue to both host and attend interdisciplinary lectures, seminars and workshops in order to amplify our message across disciplines, professions, and borders.
How can REEF members get involved with Ancora?
The easiest way to get involved with Ancora is to give us the chance to help you earn your next dive certification! We hold regular classes across Florida and Southern California, but we’ve always offered customizable and private certification courses regardless of postal code. Over the past few years, we’ve run private courses in and out of backyard pools, summer camps, and team retreats across the US, Europe, and Asia. We now have instructors based in half a dozen countries with valid passports and some pretty cool travel gear – We’re happy to come to you!
If you’re looking for a creative way to get certified, the ‘Florida Circuit’ is our favorite introduction to the natural wonders of the Sunshine State and the Ancora approach to diving. Over the course of three to six days, students are given the chance to complete the PADI Open Water course at different dive sites all throughout Florida, from the springs of greater Gainesville to the shipwrecks off the Keys. We make stops at a variety of state parks, nature centers and conservation organizations along the way.
Of course, if you’re already certified, you can always join us on one of our dive excursions or expeditions. Fresh perspectives and unique scuba stories are especially welcome. We begin to take reservations no less than eighteen months in advance of our departure date, so plan ahead!
We’re also planning to interview candidates for a summer internship position and are currently on the lookout for a social media-savvy person with a genuine interest in the continued exploration and protection of the underwater world. S/he need not already be a certified diver, but the desire to earn a certification and dive with us in the near future is a definite plus. Send a quick email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to talk more about joining us!
In any case, if you’re somebody who sees value in our approach and shares our commitment to marine conservation, education, and adventure, please do get in touch! We’d love to hear from you with expedition ideas, conservation partnership proposals, or just to say hello! Even if total immersion isn’t quite your thing, you can always find the nearest hammock and listen to one of our weekly Ancora Radio mixtapes!
Please put your pectoral fins together for the following REEF members who have recently moved up an Experience Level within our Volunteer Fish Survey Project!
Volunteers have the opportunity to advance through five levels (Novice through Expert) within each of our survey project regions. Experience Levels are obtained by a combination of fish/invertebrate ID tests and surveys submitted. As surveyors advance, their surveys are categorized in our online sightings database accordingly.
More about our Experience Levels can be found here.
- Tiffany Poon - Level 5
- Oren Noah - Level 2
Pacific Northwest (PNW)
South Pacific (SOP)
Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP)
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
- David Ehlert - Level 5
- Callie Mack - Level 3
- Jim Brittsan - Level 2
- Krista Laforest - Level 2
- Juan David Vanegas - Level 2
We are proud of these surveyors' achivements and look forward to the data they'll be contributing to our online database!
Here to brighten up your week, May's Fish of the Month is the Sunshinefish (Chromis insolata)!
Survey Regions: Found throughout REEF's Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) region, including Florida, The Bahamas, Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Gulf of Mexico. Also found in the South Atlantic States (SAS) region, which includes waters of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.
Size: Usually 2-3 inches, but can grow to a maximum of 4 inches.
Identifying Features: Juvenile Sunshinefish (pictured) have a bright yellow upper body with brilliant purple or lavender below. They often have an iridescent blue line that runs from the snout across the upper part of the eye. Adults are a bit more drab, with a green, olive, or brown body, a pale belly, and a yellow or transparent area at the rear of their dorsal fin and tail margin.
Fun Fact: Sunshinefish like to cluster in mixed groups of juveniles and adults, staying close to the bottom around a coral head. They are commonly seen at depths below 60 feet, but can also be found on shallow reefs.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the June issue of e-News to see our next Fish of the Month!