We are extremely proud and honored to announce that one of REEF’s Executive Directors, Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, was recently named to the Women Divers Hall of Fame. Christy is a marine biologist whose work at REEF intersects ocean citizen science, education, and conservation. She first worked with REEF as an intern in 1993 and then joined the REEF staff in 1998. Christy oversees all aspects of REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project, one of the longest-running and largest marine life sightings programs, engaging volunteer divers and snorkelers all over the world.
As lead scientists for REEF’s Grouper Moon Project, Christy and her husband Brice were named Sea Heroes by Scuba Diving magazine in 2019 for their work on studying and protecting spawning aggregations of the endangered Nassau Grouper. She also serves as a Visiting Scholar at at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. As a mother of three certified divers, Christy has always strived to bring her family on her adventures in the field whenever possible.
Christy and the five other Class of 2021 members join 253 others, hailing from 30 U.S. states and territories and 22 countries, including REEF’s own Board Chair, Anna DeLoach. The Women Divers Hall of Fame was founded in 2000. Its mission is to recognize the contributions of outstanding women divers and to offer financial assistance and mentorship to individuals interested in pursuing diving careers. To find out more, visit http://www.wdhof.org. Congratulations, Christy!
A new research paper containing exciting findings from the Grouper Moon Project was recently published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series. Much of the science done by the project's collaborative team is focused on better understanding Nassau Grouper populations in the Cayman Islands through studying their spawning aggregations. However, long-term acoustic tags (tracking pingers) also allow us to gather information on how these fish behave at their home reefs outside of the spawning season.
Nassau Grouper are known to be solitary and territorial, but during winter full moons, the fish leave their home site and travel, sometimes long distances, to a spawning aggregation, where they stay for up to 14 days. In this new study, Grouper Moon scientists used tagging data to look at movement habits and vertical habitat use. They found that most Nassau Grouper tend to return to the same home reef following spawning, but that the areas occupied at home reefs can change through time. In particular, they found that larger fish tend to occupy deeper areas than smaller fish (as shown in the attached figure), and fish will generally move to deeper reef areas over time. They also found that Nassau Grouper are more likely to be active at dawn and dusk than other times of the day, likely due to feeding activities. This information is adding to what we know about this iconic species, and will help support management of Nassau Grouper populations throughout the Caribbean. To find out more about the Grouper Moon Project, visit www.REEF.org/groupermoonproject.
The full citation of the paper is:
Blincow KM, Bush PG, Heppell SA, McCoy CM, Johnson BC, Pattengill-Semmens CV, Heppell SS, Stevens-McGeever SJ, Whaylen L, Luke K, Semmens BX. 2020. Spatial ecology of Nassau Grouper at home reef sites: Insights from tracking a large, long-lived epinephelid using acoustic telemetry across multiple years (2005-2008). Marine Ecology Progress Series. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13516
To see a complete listing of all scientific publications and reports that include data and findings from REEF's projects, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications.
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 Education and Outreach Lead Intern, Riley Zoldi. Riley graduated from North Carolina State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.S. in Marine Science with a concentration in Biological Oceanography. She served as a REEF Marine Conservation Intern during the spring 2020 semester. She has also worked for New Logic Marine Science Camp, where she taught outdoor environmental education to children in coastal New Jersey. As a lead intern, Riley assists with the Ocean Explorers Program by scheduling, prepping, promoting, and teaching educational programs at the REEF Campus and offsite. Riley enjoys engaging with REEF members, both locally and worldwide, through education and outreach to spread marine conservation awareness. We're excited to have her on our team!
How did you become interested in marine conservation?
I have always loved the ocean and exploring coastal environments, but it wasn't until my senior year in high school that I realized studying the ocean was a possible profession. As part of my marine biology class, I traveled to Key Largo and learned about the local marine environment. From that trip on, I dreamed of returning to Key Largo and working in the marine science field in some capacity. Now I'm back in the Keys, working for REEF, and it feels great to have that dream come to fruition.
In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of REEF's projects and programs?
I believe the most important aspect of REEF's projects and programs is their use of citizen science to get people from all over the world involved in marine conservation. Anyone anywhere can be a part of REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project, and I believe this is very important for marine science and the spread of environmental education.
What have your most valuable REEF experiences been so far?
My most valuable experience by far has been all of the amazing people I have met because of REEF. Every day I get to work with passionate and driven coworkers and live with people who share a love for the ocean. In addition to the REEF team, I love connecting with the local REEF members. Whether it's Fish & Friends, Garden Club, or another community outreach event, the sense of community REEF has created for marine enthusiasts is something I value greatly.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
One aspect of the education program I am interested in advancing is the Ocean Explorers Expeditions. I want to transform this currently small trip program for higher education groups into a sought-after experience by all college students in the upcoming year. I also strive to grow our community presence by attending more local events and holding additional workshops once conditions are safe for these events to occur.
What projects are you particularly excited about?
I am particularly excited about REEF's Into the Blue Book Club. Into the Blue Book Club is something I have been working on since the first day of my Lead Internship, and I am ecstatic to see it be such a hit with REEF members and bookworms all over the world! I am excited to combine my reading hobby with my passion for marine conservation and share it with other marine enthusiasts.
What career path do you hope to pursue after completing your Lead Internship?
After completing my Lead Internship, I want to continue my career in environmental education. I am passionate about people, specifically children, learning in the environment that they are being taught about. My goal is to inspire children all over the world to advocate for the natural world. I am excited to see where this career path will take me!
What do you like to do outside of REEF?
When I'm not working, you will most likely find me outside. Whether it's walking, hiking, biking, or even just relaxing outside reading a book, I find peace when I'm surrounded by nature. I also love going on small adventures and look forward to exploring new places in the Florida Keys every weekend.
What is a fun fact about you?
I love to travel! I lived in Florence, Italy for a college semester and have been to 21 countries and counting. Experiencing new places and learning about other peoples' cultures is something I find particularly interesting. I cannot wait for my next trip once it is safe to travel again!
REEF’s in-person events are on hold until further notice, but you can still join us for marine conservation fun from home.
Fishy Hour: "Gnome for the Holidays" Craft Workshop
Thursday, December 3 at 8 PM EST via Zoom
Into The Blue Book Club: First Meeting
Thursday, December 10 at 8 PM EST via Zoom
We will be discussing What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins by Jonathan Balcombe.
Ocean Chat: 30 Years of REEF with Ned and Anna DeLoach
Thursday, December 17 at 8 PM EST via Zoom
We did it! During the week of September 28-October 4, 497 participants from 37 states and 8 countries took part in the first-ever REEF Fish Out of Water Virtual 5K. Thank you to everyone who ran, walked, biked, hiked, or swam to support marine conservation. Together, we completed more than 2,485 meters or 1,540 miles.
What's more, we raised money for the Oceans for All Fund to provide ocean science programs for underserved communities and those with financial needs. Fish Out of Water Virtual 5K participants helped us build a better world now and for future generations. To see all the fun, check out this photo album of race participants.
Going forward, the Fish Out of Water Virtual 5K will coincide with World Oceans Day (June 8) each year. Mark your calendar for June 7-12, 2021, and plan to join us next year. More information and race registration will be coming soon.
REEF is proud to highlight Blue Endeavors, one of our outstanding Conservation Partners. REEF Conservation Partners are active organizations and dive shops committed to protecting marine environments worldwide. As valued REEF ambassadors, they serve as centers for marine conservation actions, outreach, and education. You can view the full listing of Conservation Partners or register your organization as a REEF Conservation Partner here.
In what ways do you participate with REEF’s main programs?
Blue Endeavors hosts regular REEF fish and invertebrate survey dives in Monterey, as part of the citizen science program for members.
Blue Endeavors member and dive instructor Keith Crowell said, "one of the biggest shifts in my enjoyment of diving happened when I started doing REEF survey dives. My appreciation of the underwater world grew as I was able to name and record what I was seeing underwater." He and a fellow instructor worked with Blue Endeavors' founder to create an education series focusing on marine life ID covering REEF’s Northern California fish, invertebrates and algae. The marine life ID series has expanded to include all of the California coast, along with Pacific Northwest. They are also working on developing Philippines and NW Caribbean marine life ID series.
“Doing REEF survey dives are a lot of fun and it’s really gratifying to be able to identify the different species I see underwater. It's a great feeling to know that the data I’m submitting will help scientists,” said Gen Rohe, a Blue Endeavors member.
What other actions do you take to promote marine conservation?
A key component of Blue Endeavors’ mission is teaching conservation through diving and collaboration with local communities. Blue Endeavors hosts a variety of conservation and restoration activities, both in California and abroad.
Locally, Blue Endeavors organizes underwater and beach cleanup dives. Divers are involved in kelp restoration and urchin culling projects in Mendocino County, California, where overgrazing kelp-eating urchins have destroyed over 90% of the region’s bull kelp. In Bonaire and Honduras, members can get certified in coral reef restoration in partnership with the Reef Renewal Foundation. In Socorro, Mexico, members can also join a liveaboard expedition where they monitor and identify giant manta rays.
Blue Endeavors hosts webinars on conservation, sustainability, photography and exploration, as well as annual fundraising events for shark and manta ray conservation research. Blue Endeavors hosts an after-school marine science and conservation “Aquanauts” program for elementary school students and also organizes dive trips for high school students to engage in coral reef restoration in Honduras and manta ID in Socorro, Mexico. Founder Vince Smith hopes these programs will inspire the next generation of marine biologists, ecologists and conservationists.
How can REEF members get involved with Blue Endeavors?
• Become a member - options start at $10/month. Click here for info.
• Sign up for a species ID, sustainability, or photography webinar. Non-members may attend their first webinar for free! Click here to view the calendar.
• Subscribe to our newsletter to learn more about our webinars, upcoming expeditions, events and citizen science dives.
• Follow us on Instagram @BlueEndeavors and on Facebook.
• You can connect with Blue Endeavors by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meet our November Fish of the Month, the Sarcastic Fringehead (Neoclinus blanchardi!)
Survey Regions: Sarcastic Fringeheads are found in the north Pacific Ocean, throughout the coast of California as well as Baja California in Mexico. Check out the sightings report for this species for REEF's Pacific Coast (PAC) survey region.
Size: They can range from 3-8 inches, and can grow up to one foot long - that's pretty big for a member of the Blenny family!
Identifying Features: Sarcastic Fringeheads are brown to gray, with light blotches or bars. They have fringe-like cirri above their eyes, and two metallic blue spots ringed in yellow on the dorsal fin. They also have an extremely large mouth with uniquely-designed jaws that fan out to the sides, which they use to appear bigger and more intimidating.
Fun Facts: Sarcastic Fringeheads live among sandy and muddy buttoms along coastlines. They inhabit crevices, holes, empty shells, or even bottles and cans. No matter where they live, they are highly aggressive toward intruders and defend their territory ferociously - especially males, who vigorously guard egg masses. Click here to check out a video of two male Sarcastic Fringeheads battling for dominance.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the December issue of e-News to see our last Fish of the Month for this year!