REEF Fest is just ten days away! Sponsored by Capital Bank Foundation, REEF Fest is an annual celebration of marine conservation held in Key Largo, Florida, on Oct. 17-20. The event features diving, ocean-themed seminars, and social events. REEF Fest is open to the public, and most events are free to attend. To see the complete schedule, visit www.REEF.org/REEFfest.
Diving, Snorkeling, and Kayaking
Limited space is still available on some REEF Fest dive boats. To view participating dive shops and register for dives, visit www.REEF.org/REEFfest/diving. In addition, a few spaces are still available on the guided kayak eco-tour on Saturday, Oct. 19. Open to beginners and experienced kayakers, the trip includes all rental equipment, a lesson on paddling techniques, snacks, water and a fully guided tour through the mangrove habitats of the Upper Keys. Register online at https://www.REEF.org/REEFfest/ecotour.
Marine Conservation Programs, Ocean-Themed Seminars and Sunset Kickoff Event
REEF Fest begins on Thursday, Oct. 17, with free marine conservation programming at REEF’s Interpretive Center, including an Invasive Lionfish Collecting and Handling Workshop at 2:30pm, a beginner fish identification class at 3:30pm, and an intermediate/advanced fish identification class at 4:30pm. Evening festivities kick off at 6:30pm, with a free sunset social on the bayfront lawn of the Murray Nelson Government Center. Following the social, the opening seminar will be presented at 7:30pm. Seminars will continue on Friday and Saturday afternoons. All seminars are free and held at the Murray Nelson Government Center. Check out the speaker lineup here: www.REEF.org/REEFfest/seminars.
Social Events & Reef Fish Behavior Book Signing
Tour the oldest building in the Upper Keys and mingle with REEF staff and board members during the REEF Fest Open House, held at REEF Headquarters (MM 98.3 in the median) on Friday, Oct. 18 from 6:30-9 pm. There will be raffle prizes, appetizers, wine, and local craft beer provided by the Florida Keys Brewing Company. The Open House is free and open to the public.
Renowned marine life authors Ned and Anna DeLoach will be introducing the much-awaited 2nd edition of their book, Reef Fish Behavior - Florida Caribbean Bahamas during REEF Fest 2019! REEF Fest attendees will have a unique opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the new, updated and enlarged 2nd edition during two special booking signing events throughout the weekend, one of which will take place during the Open House. The other book signing and purchase event will be on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 1:30-2:30 pm at the Murray Nelson Government Center. The book signings are the only way to purchase a copy of the book before its release later this year! The book retails for $49.95 plus tax.
The annual REEF Fest banquet, For the Love of the Sea, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 19 from 6:30-10 pm. Tickets are available for $70 per person and include a three-course meal, hors d'oeuvres, and a full-service liquor bar. Enjoy live music, friends, delicious food, and a silent auction featuring dive travel packages and marine life photography and artwork. Tickets can be purchased at www.REEF.org/REEFfest/dinnerticket.
REEF Fest concludes on Sunday, Oct. 20 with a Farewell Breakfast from 10am-12pm at REEF Headquarters. The continental breakfast will include pastries, bagels, fruit, coffee and mimosas. The Farewell Breakfast is free and open to the public.
REEF would like to thank our REEF Fest 2019 title sponsor, Capital Bank Foundation, as well as our platinum sponsors: Atlantis Philippines Dive Resorts and Liveaboards, The Carrow Foundation, and Florida Keys Brewing Company. We are also very thankful for the ongoing support of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
We are excited to share that Amy Lee has been selected by the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association (DEMA) Awards Committee as one of four finalists for the 2019 DEMA Wave Makers Award, an early career award for those making an impact in the diving industry.
Amy is REEF’s Trips Program and Communications Manager. She has a B.A. in Public Relations and a B.S. in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina. She came to REEF as a Marine Conservation Intern in the fall of 2014, and joined the staff in April 2015. Through all aspects of her work, Amy strives to merge her passions for diving, communication, science, and travel. Amy is a shining example of a young professional who is making waves in the industry by connecting divers with meaningful actions for ocean conservation. We are proud of her accomplishments in just a few short years and are so grateful to have her as part of the REEF Team.
The Wave Makers Award recipient will be selected by vote of the DEMA Membership. As a finalist, Amy has created a video detailing her plans to continue bettering the dive industry. The video will be shared on social media, and DEMA members may vote on www.DEMA.org for their favorite finalist. Voting is open from Oct. 7-Nov. 8. The Wave Makers Award will be presented at the DEMA Awards Party on Nov. 15 in Orlando.
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 Will Ribbens, a REEF member who lives in Minnesota. Will and his wife Alice love to travel and dive, and have attended REEF Trips in several survey regions. They attended our inaugural Indian Ocean Field Survey Trip in the Maldives earlier this year. Will has conducted 218 REEF surveys throughout the Caribbean, as well as the Pacific and Indian Oceans. We're thankful that Will is 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?
My wife Alice and I have been diving since the 1990's. Living in Minnesota, we mostly travel to dive. In our early days of diving, our logbooks were full of fish family names, which we thought was pretty cool. I gave Alice ReefNet software as a gift in 2010. Fish ID opened a whole new world for us. Alice went on her first REEF Trip (to Baja) in 2012 and I did my first REEF Trip to Bonaire in 2015. We met incredible people who were dedicated to knowing about and protecting marine life in a way that struck a chord with us. It brought a new dimension to the diving we already loved. Every dive is like a scavenger hunt where you don’t know what new species you will find. Now we can’t really think about diving without a slate in our hand hoping to find another fish for our life list.
What is your favorite part about being a REEF member?
My favorite part of REEF is the people. We come from all walks of life. The vast majority are open, adventurous, caring people. Each one has a really interesting story about how they became REEF surveyors. They are always willing to help out whether it’s with gear, fish identification, or a place to stay. We have become friends with many and look forward to seeing them on REEF Trips as well as non-REEF trips (yes, those still happen for us!)
What is the most fascinating fish encounter you’ve experienced?
While I love the small fish and critters, my most thrilling and fascinating fish encounter was on a non-REEF dive trip to Raja Ampat in Indonesia. We got to a cleaning station in heavy current and hooked in with reef hooks at about 50 feet down. A large female Oceanic Manta (the only one I have ever seen to this day) came and thrilled us by passing overhead several times to the point I had to duck and hide under some coral. I think she liked the bubbles on her underside. She did somersaults and “floated” gently by us for more than 20 minutes. Every diver thought she was looking just me in the eye as she floated from one side to the other.
Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
My tip for REEF surveyors is for the newer, less expert surveyors. I don’t think of myself as an expert but I keep learning a little at time. It helps me appreciate the dives I do by making me appreciate every dive for what it becomes. Some are simple and straightforward dives, and others have ripping current where it is hard to hold still in one place. Some are shallow and surge-y, and some are deep and dead still. But each environment holds the key to the families and species of fish I may find from schools of Jacks or immense Whale Sharks cruising by the reef, to tiny Gobies or Blennies hiding in the shallows. After a while I just start knowing what I need to be looking for in each environment to document my finds on my latest scavenger hunt.
REEF’s 2019 Lionfish Derby Series ended on Sunday, Sept. 15 with the 10th Annual Upper Keys Lionfish Derby and Festival, hosted by Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina. Throughout the weekend, 28 derby competitors scoured the reefs and brought in a total of 1,263 lionfish, a new record for REEF Lionfish Derbies in the Florida Keys. Nine teams competed for most, largest, and smallest lionfish in this year’s Upper Keys Derby, vying for more than $4,400 in cash and prizes.
Team Forever Young took first place in the “Most Lionfish” category with 395 lionfish. Team Florida Man finished second with 311 lionfish, and team Sharkbait placed third with 216 lionfish. Team Florida Man won first place in the “Largest Lionfish” category with a 397 millimeter lionfish, which is just over 15 inches long. Team Florida Man also won “Smallest Lionfish” with a 45 millimeter fish, named Sysco and is displayed alive in an educational aquarium at REEF Headquarters. The youngest derby participant, thirteen-year-old Will Wardlaw, led his team Wardlaw’s Warriors to place in all three categories!
Awards were also presented for the overall series winners. Team Forever Young removed 544 lionfish during the 2019 Lionfish Derby Series, the most of any team this year. They also collected the largest lionfish of the 2019 series, a 400 millimeter specimen. Team Florida Man’s 45 millimeter lionfish was the smallest of any lionfish caught during the 2019 Lionfish Derby Series.
REEF Lionfish Derbies educate the public about invasive species, gather important scientific information on lionfish populations, and promote a consumer market for lionfish. Throughout the day, festival attendees sampled a variety of delicious lionfish dishes prepared by professional chefs, participated in lionfish dissections and filleting demonstrations and games, and visited outreach booths staffed by conservation-oriented organizations and businesses at the picturesque setting of Postcard Inn Marina.
Lionfish, native to the Indo-Pacific region, are an invasive species in the Tropical Western Atlantic, and are causing significant negative impacts to native marine life throughout the region. Lionfish can result in a 65%-95% reduction in native fish populations on certain sites. Impacts to valuable commercial fish like grouper and snapper could cause severe ecological and economic damage to countries in the invaded range. Regular removals and public events such as derbies have been found to significantly reduce lionfish populations on a local scale.
Thank you to all the participating teams, staff and volunteers who helped make this year's Upper Keys Lionfish Derby and Festival a success, and to all the vendors and exhibitors who attended the event. This event was possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, including Postcard Inn Resort and Marina, Whole Foods Market, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Ocean Reef Conservation Commission, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Sharkey’s Pub and Galley, Keys Weekly, Florida Keys Brewing Company, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Activities occurred within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary under permit.
Dates and locations are currently being confirmed for REEF’s 2020 Lionfish Derby Series. For more information and upcoming events, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish-derbies.
REEF is seeking to hire a full time REEF Trips Program Manager. The position is based at REEF’s Key Largo, Florida (US) campus, and is available for an immediate start. The REEF Trips Program Manager executes REEF’s Field Survey Trip Program, a long-standing eco-travel program that supports REEF’s mission to engage and educate divers and snorkelers in citizen science activities. For complete details, visit www.REEF.org/jobs.
At the end of the August, ten REEF citizen scientists traveled to Little Corn Island, a tiny, remote stretch of land in the Caribbean, located about 75 miles northeast of mainland Nicaragua. This goal of this Field Survey Trip was to collect and report data about the fish populations in this infrequently dived and visited area. There is very little data available about the marine life inhabiting Little Corn Island, and our volunteer divers were excited to find many interesting species, color variations and range extensions in the area. One particularly exciting find was the Moth Blenny (Ekemblemaria nigra), which had previously only been reported from the Caribbean coast of Central and South America. Volunteers also photographed a potentially undescribed Goby, likely a member of the Elacatinus genus. This species is similar to the Yellowprow Goby (Elacatinus xanthiprora), with minor differences in appearance and behavior that the trained citizen scientists were able to recognize as a result of their participation with REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project. The group was also delighted to find multiple Golden Hamlets (Hypoplectrus gummigutta) on several of their dives!
REEF's Volunteer Fish Survey Project is a critical global database that can be used to better understand and hopefully mitigate threats to the ocean. Joining a REEF Field Survey Trip is an excellent way to become engaged in marine conservation and make a difference on your dives. For more information about upcoming REEF Trips, visit www.REEF.org/trips.
We are currently seeking applicants for our January through May 2020 session of our Marine Conservation Internship Program. This internship is open to college students with at least two years of coursework, as well as recent graduates. The deadline to apply is Sunday, Oct. 20. Visit www.REEF.org/internship for complete details and application instructions.
REEF Marine Conservation Interns support the organization’s innovative marine conservation and education projects, working as part of a dynamic and fun team. Interns have varied opportunities to be involved in both the office and the field, and support REEF’s marine conservation research, education, and outreach programs. REEF Interns play a key role in the daily operations of REEF, and gain valuable insight in to the workings of a non-profit organization. Interns work closely with all REEF team members. Ideal candidates for the internship program are passionate about the ocean, and are detail-oriented, organized, thrive on variety, and take initiative.
Interns gain leadership experience as they engage in activities focused on citizen science, community outreach, and education. They learn skills in a variety of areas, including partnership development, non-profit operations, donor relations, communication, marketing and promotions, data management, event planning, graphic design, and public speaking. They also have ample opportunities to enjoy all that the Florida Keys has to offer in their free time, including diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and interfacing with other non-profits and government agencies in the area.
Program activities and tasks vary by internship session depending on the organization’s current projects and priorities. Responsibilities include, but may not be limited to:
• Engaging with and assisting REEF members and donors, on the phone and via email, as well as in person at events
• Assisting REEF Campus visitors, including answering questions about REEF’s programs and processing in-person purchases from the REEF store
• Filling and mailing online store orders
• Facilitating educational programming, including Explorers Summer Camp, Classroom Programs, and Field Courses
• Coordinating and implementing special events like the monthly Fish & Friends seminar series, annual REEF Fest celebration, and Lionfish Derby Series
• Creating promotional and marketing materials such as flyers and social media content
• Updating web content and social media platforms
• Facilitating invasive lionfish education, outreach, and control programs
• Participating in conservation field work and data management
Four interns serve in each session (January – May and June – December). An intensive summer internship (June – August) may also be offered. Start and end dates are flexible depending on University schedules and other school or work commitments.
This month, REEF is proud to highlight one of our outstanding Conservation Partners: Blue Endeavors in Alameda, California. 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. Read on to find out how you can get involved with these centers of conservation action!
With more than 80 partners across the country and beyond, there are plenty of opportunities to engage. 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.
About Blue Endeavors
Blue Endeavors is a non-profit with a mission to empower everyone to help save our oceans through conservation, restoration and exploration. Blue Endeavors creates advocates for the ocean through scuba diving training and citizen science-based curriculum. REEF has been an essential part of programming at Blue Endeavors over the last two years. Blue Endeavors regularly hosts fish and invertebrate identification classes, conducts REEF surveys on group dives, and attends live Fishinars to engage the community with REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project. You can also earn scientific dive certifications at Blue Endeavors, or participate in coral reef restoration in Bonaire or Roatan with other Blue Endeavors members.
Conservation Actions – How can you get involved?
• Join Blue Endeavors and become a member online here. Members are invited to join local dives, meet-ups, “Deep Discussions,” and additional social events throughout the year. Although based in California for now, Blue Endeavors is expanding across the west coast of the United States and beyond so stay tuned for additional locations.
• Join a a REEF survey dive! Complete REEF surveys on local dives in Monterey with other Blue Endeavors members and staff.
• Attend a Fishinar screening and learn about different marine life topics from all of REEF’s project regions. Blue Endeavors regularly tunes in to REEF’s Fishinars, and you are invited to join in the fun!
Why is conserving marine environments important to Blue Endeavors?
Owner Vince Smith says, "Our members and staff all have different motivations for getting involved in conservation. As the founder, I started Blue Endeavors because I grew up diving in Monterey and have seen the elimination of species and ecosystems in places I have been diving my entire life. Working with high school students I found that most were aware of the problems facing the ocean, but felt powerless to do anything about it. I wanted to create an organization that paired awareness with action, and connected people to the oceans and to a larger community of those that want to make a difference. Blue Endeavors is a place where people who care about marine conservation can come, get trained in a fun environment, and work with a network of amazing scientists and organizations doing important work, like REEF."
For more information visit Blue Endeavor’s website, check them out on Facebook, or send an email to email@example.com.
Let's put our pectoral fins together for the following REEF members who have recently moved up an Experience Level in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project!
Volunteers have the opportunity to advance through 5 levels (Novice through Expert) within each of our survey project regions. Experience Levels are obtained by a combination of fish/invertebrate ID tests and numbers of submitted surveys. As they advance, their data is categorized in our online sightings database accordingly.
More about our experience levels can be found here:
- Rosemary Summers - Level 2
- Elizabeth Beson - Level 2
Pacific Northwest (PNW/PAC)
- Amanda Zielinski - Level 4
- Ellie Place - Level 3
- Cathleen Burns - Level 2
South Atlantic States (SAS)
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
- Robert Bentley - Level 5
- Marilyn Bentley - Level 4
- Richard Olson - Level 3
- Eric Frick - Level 3
- Clare Ramsey - Level 3
- Lee Gano - Level 2
- Mark Langston - Level 2
- Andrew Ibarra - Level 2
- Maya Ganapathy - Level 2
- Julia Brooks - Level 2
- Tom Schneider - Level 2
- Callie Mack - Level 2
- Stephanie Pettitt - Level 2
We're excited to see these surveyors increase their knowledge of marine life, move up a level, and look forward to the data they'll be contributing to our online database!