Over the last quarter-century, REEF's programs and impact have grown in scale and scope, affecting ocean conservation and education world-wide. Despite our global reach, our headquarters remains in Key Largo where it all began in 1993. The REEF Headquarters building is housed in the oldest building in Key Largo and serves as a community touchstone for local residents and visitors alike. To support our growing programs, the REEF campus underwent a dramatic transformation over the last several months, thanks to generous donations from REEF members, members of the Florida Keys community, and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
A new Interpretive Center, adjacent to REEF’s HQ building, will provide space for REEF's public seminars and programs. This educational programming will be available to the local community and the tens of thousands of tourists that visit the Keys each year. In addition, live-streaming capabilities will allow for the center’s programming to reach an even wider audience. The center features self-guided exhibits and eye-catching displays highlighting the diverse marine and terrestrial habitats of the Florida Keys.
Inside the main HQ office, there are nine new educational exhibits centered around REEF's programs and important ocean issues, including - invasive species, endangered species, marine biodiversity, marine habitats of the Florida Keys, the importance of long-spined sea urchins, climate change, and an interactive exhibit about marine fishes from around the world. The Interpretive Center and HQ building are linked by the "Pathway to Conservation", created from over 100 bricks honoring our major supporters who donated during the Summer 2017 capital campaign.
In order to provide informal learning opportunities and outdoor recreational activities, we installed a Native Plants Trail to connect the REEF Campus to the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, which is used by 1.5 million guests and bicyclists annually. This educational oasis features interpretive signs describing the native fauna found on the trail, as well as shaded picnic tables, bike racks, and a drinking fountain.
We will be hosting a grand opening celebration of the new Interpretive Center and other exhibits during REEF Fest in December 2017. We hope you can join us!
We are proud to share the latest publication to result from REEF's programs - the paper, titled "Hydroacoustics for the discovery and quantification of Nassau Grouper (Epinephelus striatus) spawning aggregations" was published in the scientific journal Coral Reefs earlier this year. The Grouper Moon Project is always looking for new and/or better ways of accurately estimating the number of spawning Nassau Grouper at the aggregation sites being monitored. In 2014, we tested the use of a split-beam echosounder as a tool for surveying the abundance and size of fish at the aggregation site; the results of the study are detailed in this peer-reviewed paper. We found that the echosounder performs fairly well at providing an index of abundance, although the absolute accuracy of the method was not sufficient to replace other survey methods (e.g. mark and recapture monitoring). After calibrating the method with diver-based fish length surveys, the tool was able to accurately capture estimates of aggregating fish sizes. Surveys on all 3 islands (Little Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Grand Cayman) showed that the average size of Nassau Grouper on Little Cayman was significantly larger than on both Brac and Grand. Furthermore, the sizes of Nassau Grouper on Brac and Grand were not significantly different. Based on this study, the echosounder is a potentially useful tool for surveying aggregations, but is likely best used to complement more intensive diver-based survey methods.
Grouper Moon researchers, Dr. Brice Semmens and Dr. Scott Heppell, along with our colleague from Cayman Islands Department of Environment, Croy McCoy, were co-authors on the paper. You can find a link to this paper, along with information on all publications that have resulted from REEF's programs can be found at www.REEF.org/db/publications.
REEF Headquarters in Key Largo and much of the surrounding community are beginning to return to normal following temporary closure due to Hurricane Irma in September. Because of the storm it was necessary for REEF Fest to be postponed from its original September dates. We are excited to announce that we have rescheduled the event for December 7-10, 2017! We appreciate your patience while we coordinated with event partners and sponsors to reschedule the event. We hope that you will be able to join us for the ocean-themed seminars, diving, eco-adventures, and evening social events planned during this annual celebration of marine conservation. Some specific details from the original schedule have been slightly modified.
Please visit www.REEF.org/REEFfest for more information or contact Events@REEF.org with any questions about the event. REEF and the Florida Keys Community are excited to welcome you back to Key Largo for this exciting event. We look forward to seeing you December 7-10, 2017.
We are proud to release REEF's 2016 Annual Report, reviewing accomplishments from our ocean conservation and education programs. Click here to view the Annual Report. In the report, we highlight many achievements and successes in 2016, such as:
- Hosted our annual REEF Fest in Key Largo, attended by more than 400 ocean enthusiasts, divers, and conservationists
- Provided research to support legislation in the Cayman Islands that permanently protects endangered Nassau Grouper populations from overfishing
- Hosted 34 ocean education programs at REEF Headquarters for groups ranging from school children, to universities, to adult travel groups
- Received funding from Monroe County Tourist Development Council for improvements, additions, and renovations to REEF Headquarters
- Published the second edition of The Lionfish Cookbook, featuring more than 60 appetizer and entrée recipes designed to encourage the removal and consumption of invasive lionfish
- Presented scientific findings at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Hawaii, including an analysis of REEF survey data collected by volunteers in Bonaire Marine Park over the last 20 years
- Coordinated the first Field Survey Trips to the Central Indo-Pacifc region, resulting in more than 1,500 REEF surveys from the Philippines, Palau, and Yap
- Continued to host our popular monthly Fish & Friends event, a marine science seminar and social, featuring presentations on diving, marine biology, and underwater photography
- Honored Janet Eyre as our Volunteer of the Year
REEF was founded in 1990, out of growing concern for the health of the marine environment and the desire to provide ocean enthusiasts with ways to actively contribute to improved understanding and protection of marine environments. Looking back on more than two decades of hard work, REEF’s impact is remarkable. The most important part of this grassroots organization has always been the members who make it possible. Whether you’ve been with REEF since it was founded, joined somewhere along the way, or just became a member this year, we are profoundly grateful of the time, skills, and financial resources you give to make such a significant difference in marine conservation.
As climate change and tropical storms have increasingly drastic impacts on our blue planet, the marine conservation work we do at REEF is more important now than ever. The future of our ocean depends on each of us.
Are you a diver or snorkeler looking to make a difference in the health of our oceans? Join us on a REEF Trip and participate in our citizen science programs, which provide meaningful information about marine life. Scientists and resource managers use REEF survey data to better understand the changes happening in the marine environment. We have a great line-up of REEF Trips in 2018. Here are two unique opportunities planned for next summer to "Take a Trip That Counts": ecosystem studies in a remote and vulnerable reef system in Belize and a land and sea ecoventure in the cloud forests and reefs of Costa Rica.
REEF Expedition to South Water Caye, Belize - Aug. 18-25, 2018. Now taking signups! Click here for details
South Water Caye, Belize, is home to several endemic species, including the Social Wrasse and the Maya Hamlet. The goal of this exploratory trip is to study the effects of stressors such as invasive species and habitat loss on this remote area of the Mesoamerican barrier reef system, with a special focus on how these impacts are affecting species that are not found anywhere else in the Caribbean. Participants will conduct fish surveys as well as lionfish research and removals. In addition, other underwater survey methods will be utilized to gather data on this infrequently-studied area to determine how to best protect this unique marine ecosystem.
REEF Expedition to Costa Rica - July 14-21, 2018. Click here for details
This eco-adventure will give REEF members a chance to experience many alluring facets of Costa Rica, including abundant marine life, vibrant tropical rainforests and active volancoes. The trip includes a unique itinerary featuring diving or snorkeling to conduct REEF surveys, as well as land tours in two diverse regions of the country - Guanacaste and Arenal. This weeklong family-friendly excursion also includes a wildlife boat tour, volcano hike, Hanging Bridges guided walk, and even a chocolate tour and tortilla making lesson! Divers and non-divers of all ages are welcome on this trip.
Join REEF on one of these trips today! To view full our full Field Survey Trips schedule, visit www.REEF.org/trips. For more information, e-mail Trips@REEF.org or call (305) 588-5869.
Have you checked out REEF's online store recently? It's the perfect place to get gifts for the ocean lovers in your life. In addition to a great selection of marine life books and REEF survey supplies and gear, we have a ton a fun gift items -- Holiday Ornaments, Preservation Creature Puzzles, Hammerhead Bottle Openers, Swell Style Bags from Bungalow360, and Conservation Creature Plushes! Visit www.REEF.org/store to see all of our great inventory.