We are excited to share that REEF’s Amy Lee was awarded the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA)'s Wave Makers award for 2019 last weekend at the DEMA Show in Orlando, Florida. She was selected for this early career award for the impact she is having through conservation and education initiatives in the dive industry. Amy is REEF’s Trips Program and Communications Manager and has been part of our staff team since 2015. Through all aspects of her work, Amy strives to merge her passions for diving, communication, science, and travel. She is always looking for ways to inspire new divers and young people interested in the oceans, and she aims to make ocean science accessible and fun. Amy is a shining example of a young professional who is making waves in the industry, connecting divers with meaningful action for ocean conservation. She leverages her strengths in science communications, teaching, and natural history, and we are proud of her accomplishments in just a few short years. Congratulations Amy!
REEF's Director of Science, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, was voted on to the Board of Directors of the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) at the GCFI Conference earlier this month. She will serve a 5-year term on the board, helping to direct and govern the organization. The GCFI was founded in 1947 to promote the exchange of current information on the use and management of marine resources in the Gulf and Caribbean region, involving scientific, governmental, and commercial sectors to provide a broad perspective on relevant issues. Christy’s first started attending the annual GCFI conference in Key West in 1999, and have attended in most years since, often presenting on REEF's latest achievements and findings (see other article in this issue on REEF presentations at the 2019 conference). To find out more about the GCFI, visit www.gcfi.org.
REEF staff and partners just returned from the annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) conference, held this year in the Dominican Republic. REEF’s programs and data were represented to the GCFI community by REEF Director of Science, Christy Pattengill-Semmens, and REEF Invasive Species Program Manager, Alli Candelmo, as well as our partners from Scripps Institute of Oceanography (Brice Semmens), Oregon State University (Scott and Selina Heppell), and Cayman Island Department of Environment (Bradley Johnson). The team presented three talks and participated in a pre-conference workshops, covering REEF’s three main programs, the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, the Grouper Moon Project, and the Invasive Species Program. REEF intern alumni, Catie Alves, who is now pursuing her PhD at UNC Chapel Hill, was also at the conference presenting her work on fisher perceptions in Belize, and won the best student poster award!
The team started off the week by attending the GCFI Fish Spawning Aggregation Workshop, hosted by NOAA. They shared lessons learned from our highly successful Grouper Moon Project and discussed how these might be applied to Nassau Grouper conservation throughout the region. They also explored new acoustic technologies that can help advance our understanding of the status of spawning aggregations in remote and difficult-to-access locations. Our Grouper Moon team will be applying some of these new technologies in the Cayman Islands this coming field season in February 2020.
During the Demersal Fishes section of the conference, Christy presented a talk titled “A Clearer Picture: how digital cameras and other tools have changed marine life surveys over the last three decades”, exploring how tools have impacted the world of fishwatching and REEF’s citizen scientists, including digital point-and-shoot cameras, powerful uw lights, and improved identification field guides.
Also in the Demersal Fishes section, Brice presented “Long-term trends in Caribbean parrotfish abundance at local, regional and basin-wide scales: Implications for fisheries and ecosystem management”, using the over 160,000 REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project surveys from the tropical western Atlantic to explore what has happened to this important group of coral reef herbivores over the last quarter-century.
During the Lionfish & Other Invasive Species section, Alli gave a talk titled “A deep dive into lionfish”, where she presented REEF’s latest in cutting-edge research on the status of lionfish populations in deep reefs along the Florida Keys.
This was the 72nd GCFI conference, a meeting that brings together regional scientists, graduate students, management agencies, non-profits, and fishers to advance the goals of sustainable use, wise management, conservation, and restoration. REEF is proud to be a part of the GCFI community.
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 Sara Cowles, a REEF member who lives in Colorado. Sara is an avid surveyor, having conducted 476 REEF surveys in multiple regions, including the Tropical Western Atlantic, Tropical Eastern Pacific, and Hawaii (her favorite place to dive!) Sara has attended several REEF Field Survey Trips, including the recent Solomon Islands trip where she surveyed for the first time in the Central Indo Pacific. We're thankful to have Sara as part of the REEF family!
When and how did you first volunteer with REEF or become a REEF member? How did you first hear about REEF?
In 2008 I became a REEF member after speaking with a very nice lady holding a yellow slate on a dive boat off the Kona Coast. I asked her what she was studying. She told me about REEF. As soon as I got off the dive boat and back to my computer I signed up and became a REEF member.
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
REEF Trips - It’s where I learn the most. I am able to ask questions, to learn fish ID tips, and to talk with experts.
Do you dive close to where you live, and if so, what is the best part about diving there? If you don’t dive nearby, where do you most often dive? Where is your favorite place to dive and why?
The Kona Coast of Hawaii is my favorite. The fish are beautiful and abundant. The water is warm, has excellent visibility, and there no current. Divers can explore several different habitats on the same dive, and the underwater topography is comprised of lava and hard corals.
Do you have a favorite local (or not) REEF field station or dive shop? If so, what is its name and what do you like about them?
Pacific Rim Divers - Patrice and Frank are the best fish finders and they always make sure everyone has a wonderful time above and below the water.
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate? Why is it your favorite?
Tinker’s Butterflyfish - They are beautiful, curious, and rarely seen above 100 feet. It’s a treat when you see them.
What is your most memorable fish find and why? Is there a fish (or marine invertebrate) you haven’t seen yet diving, but would like to?
Being able to count Dwarf Chromis amongst the plethora of Blackfin Chromis on the Kona Coast. I was only able to count them on one dive trip, but I continue to search for them in hopes that they will be counted again.
It is an exciting time of change at REEF as we recently welcomed two new staff members to our amazing team: Madalyn Mussey as Education and Outreach Program Manager, and David Ehlert as Campus Coordinator. Madalyn and David are no strangers to the organization, having both previously served as Marine Conservation Interns and Lead Interns. They each excelled during their time as interns and we are thrilled to have them join our staff. Madalyn and David are based at REEF Headquarters in Key Largo.
Madalyn Mussey is REEF’s Education and Outreach Program Manager. More commonly known as "Moose" around the office, she is originally from Wisconsin but attended the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO. She graduated in December 2018 with a Bachelor of Science in Parks, Recreation, and Tourism and an emphasis area in Natural Resource Management. She first came to REEF in the spring of 2019 as a Marine Conservation Intern and following the end of her internship she quickly transitioned into the Lead Intern for the Invasive Species Program. Having spent a substantial amount of time as a conservation educator before coming to Key Largo, Madalyn was thrilled to join the REEF staff in November 2019. She has had many opportunities to share her interest in conservation through education at SeaWorld Orlando, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and the University of Missouri Adventure Club. Managing REEF’s Education and Outreach Programs allows Madalyn to apply her dedication and experience in hands-on conservation education to give those around her an appreciation for the natural world and instill a long-lasting devotion towards marine conservation.
David Ehlert is REEF's Campus Coordinator. He attended the University of Kentucky and graduated in the spring of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with a focus in Wildlife Biology. David first came to REEF in the summer of 2018 as a Marine Conservation Intern. After graduating college, David returned for the summer of 2019 as the Lead Intern for the Education and Outreach Program. Before coming to REEF, he spent time working with Price Labs in Lexington, Okra Abby in New Orleans, and Camp Burnamwood in Irvine. David was ecstatic to return to REEF as a staff member in November 2019. REEF’s Campus Coordinator position allows David to share his experience and passion for marine conservation with REEF’s Marine Conservation Interns, designing a program that introduces interns to the vast field of marine conservation. He is excited to bring his experience mentoring others to the Marine Conservation Internship Program, and his outgoing personality to REEF.
We also bid fond farewells to two previous staff members, Ellie Place and Brittany Parker. Ellie joined the REEF team in 2017 as Conservation Coordinator of the Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Ellie's work involved many different facets of REEF's programs, including Fishinars, Field Survey Trips, Conservation Partners and development of survey materials. Brittany served as Education Program Specialist and had been a part of the REEF team since 2018. During her time at REEF she oversaw the online store, supported administrative processes, conducted Ocean Explorers Summer Camp, and ran programs for college groups and other visitors to the REEF Campus. We are thankful for all of the effort, passion, and knowledge that Ellie and Brittany brought to REEF. We will miss them both greatly, and wish them both the best of luck with their next chapters!
Who doesn't love Surgeonfish?
They're big and easy to see underwater, colorful, and plentiful in the Pacific Ocean. So consider this a pre-Thanksgiving treat from us to you - an entire Fishinar devoted to these oval-shaped beauties, taught by REEF Director of Science, Dr. Christy Semmens. Tune in on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 8pm Eastern Time.
Christy will lead you through what to look for and how to identify some of the most common Surgeonfish you'll come across while diving and snorkeling in REEF's Tropical Pacific regions, including the South Pacific, the Indo Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. Register for this Fishinar here.
Be sure to mark your calendar for Wednesday Dec. 4, at 8pm Eastern time for a Lionfish Update Fishinar, from our Invasive Species Program Manager, Dr. Alli Candelmo. Find out the latest research and info on these voracious (although admittedly cool-looking) predators invading Tropical Western Atlantic waters. Register for this Fishinar here.
- You can tune in live from a computer, tablet or mobile device with a good internet connection
- Register for these free sessions online at www.REEF.org/fishinars
- REEF has over 170 archived presentations and REEF members can stream or download them any time from www.REEF.org/fishinararchives
We hope you can join our upcoming Fishinars!
They've worked hard to move up a level - with a combination of submitting surveys AND passing a fish ID test - so let's give a big shout out to all of these fine citizen scientists who have advanced recently! Volunteer surveyors move through Novice and Expert Levels and their submitted survey data is categorized into these levels.
Want to know more? Check out this page: https://www.REEF.org/REEFs-experience-levels
- Eric Schaad - Level 3
- Kiersten Pribble - Level 2
- Stephanie Kass - Level 2
- Dafna Bimstein - Level 2
- Kiersten Pribble - Level 2
- Joseph Thomas - Level 2
Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP)
- Mary Adams - Level 2
- Jim Fields - Level 2
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
- Ofer Inbar - Level 5
- Lee Gano - Level 3
- Donna Thompson - Level 2
- Bill Thompson - Level 2
- Connie Kirkland - Level 2
Congratulations to all and we look forward to seeing you continue advancing in the same, or in other REEF regions around the world!