2023 marks the 30th anniversary of the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Since its launch in 1993, this citizen science program has generated one of the largest marine life databases in the world through marine life sightings surveys conducted by volunteer divers and snorkelers. A key aspect of the project's success and impact is that REEF data are available to everyone. Over the past three decades, hundreds of raw data files have been provided to scientists, government agencies, and other groups, for use in a wide array of studies and policies to better understand and protect the oceans. These data requests have resulted in over 250 scientific publications. Visit this page to see a full list of scientific publications that use REEF data.
Over the past year, REEF staff have fulfilled 16 data requests, including these recent examples:
- Kyle Dettloff, a statistician at the NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Fisheries Science Center (SEFSC), is using the REEF database to evaluate depth distribution of invasive lionfish in the Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA) through time. REEF provided Kyle with over 24,000 sightings records of invasive lionfish in the Caribbean and Florida.
- The TWA dataset was provided to Dr. Joe Serafy from NOAA/SEFSC to evaluate fish biodiversity patterns and trends to help inform wind power development in the Caribbean basin.
- Dr. Meg Malone from Florida International University was provided data on Great Barracuda in southeast Florida, to evaluate the REEF sightings data in comparison with trends seen in other datasets. Dr. Malone noted that it is extremely difficult to capture Great Barracuda population trends by using more traditional scientific data collection methods such as transects and point counts, and the data collected by REEF surveyors will provide much-needed supplementary data about this species.
- REEF survey effort data were provided to Emily Shumchenia from the Northeast Ocean Data Portal to support ocean planning in the New England region. This is an updated data request; Emily first requested data for the Portal in 2020. Established in 2009, the Northeast Ocean Data Portal provides free, user-friendly access to expert-reviewed interactive maps and data on the ocean ecosystem, economy, and culture of the northeastern United States. The Portal’s maps show the richness and diversity of the ecosystem and illustrate the many ways that humans and environmental resources interact.
- REEF provided data to Alice Daeschler and Michael Gerdes from Coral Restoration Foundation to evaluate the status of herbivores in the Florida Keys, with specific interest on sites undergoing coral restoration. Sightings data on herbivore species in the following families were included in the data request: parrotfish, surgeonfish, butterflyfish, damselfish, and invasive lionfish.
- REEF data were provided to Teagan Baiotto, a doctoral student at University of Southern California, to evaluate population trends of fishes and invertebrates in the US West Coast Sanctuaries.