Author: Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Ph.D., Co-Executive Director: Science & Engagement
Long-term data are essential for understanding how ocean species, communities, and habitats change over time. Citizen science programs like the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project make it possible for us to collect data that spans a large area and/or period of time. Meanwhile, other types of scientifically-collected data tend to be project-specific and are often tied to short funding periods, and these challenges are particularly true for environments that are difficult to sample, such as nearshore ocean habitats. A new scientific paper published last month in the journal Fisheries used REEF survey data from British Columbia, Canada, to evaluate the utility of the REEF dataset for addressing information gaps in certain species. REEF volunteers have been active in this area since 1998, providing a valuable dataset about the marine life found there.
The paper shows how citizen science data from REEF can be used to answer scientific questions via case studies. The first case study examines Lingcod (Ophiodon elongatus) population responses to management decisions, and the second is on detecting the abundance pulses of various rockfish species (Sebastes spp.) young-of-year, or rockfish species that are less than a year old. The results of these case studies suggest that data from REEF, despite limitations, can be used to improve our understanding of nearshore marine ecosystems. It's another great example of how REEF members and citizen scientists are making a difference! To view this paper and see a summary of all scientific papers that have used REEF data and programs, visit www.REEF.org/db/publications.
The full citation of the paper is: Campbell, J, J Yakimishyn, D Haggarty, F Juanes, S Dudas. 2022. Citizen Science Surveys Provide Novel Nearshore Data. Fisheries. Sept 2022. doi:10.1111/fsh.10831
Author: Amy Lee, Communications and Engagement Manager
We're jumping for joy because our annual REEF Fest celebration is taking place in Key Largo on October 13-16! If you haven't yet registered, you can still make plans to join us for educational ocean presentations, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and fun evening socials. Check out all the details and register for REEF Fest at www.REEF.org/REEFfest.
Don't miss the REEF Campus Open House on Thursday, Oct. 13 from 5-7pm! We hope you can also join us for the free ocean seminars at Murray Nelson Government Center on Friday, Oct. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15. There are also limited spaces remaining for diving, snorkeling, and kayaking, but be sure to register as soon as possible to confirm your space. REEF Fest 2022 is made possible thanks to the generous support of our sponsors, including First Horizon Foundation, Florida Keys Brewing Company, A Moveable Feast, DAN, and Keys Weekly.
If you can't make it to REEF Fest in person, all of the seminars will be livestreamed on the REEF Facebook page and YouTube channel. The seminar schedule is below. All times listed are in EDT.
Friday, October 14
• 2:30-3:30 pm: Goliath Grouper: Tales of a giant Florida icon presented by Dr. Chris Stallings, Associate Professor, University of South Florida
• 4-5 pm: Cultivating Climate Resilience with Citizen Science presented by Dr. Andrea Grover, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha
• 6:30-7:30 pm: Solving the Evolutionary Mystery of the Clownfish-Sea Anemone Symbiosis with the Help of Citizen Science presented by Dr. Ben Titus, Assistant Professor, University of Alabama and Senior Marine Scientist, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Saturday, October 15
• 2:30-3:45 pm: Wonders of the Ocean: The World Beneath presented by Dr. Richard Smith, Underwater Photographer, Author, and Marine Conservationist
Author: Amy Lee, Communications and Engagement Manager
Eighteen teams of scuba divers took to the water and collected 919 invasive lionfish during the 2022 REEF Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival. Teams fished from sunrise to sunset on Friday, Sept. 9 and Saturday, Sept. 10. The event concluded on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Postcard Inn Resort & Marina in Islamorada, with an outdoor festival featuring lionfish tastings, cooking and dissection demos, games, interactive booths, and live music. More than 400 people attended the event, along with over 20 partner organizations who hosted booths. You can view an album of photos from the derby here.
More than $6,500 in cash and prizes were awarded to teams who brought in the most, largest, and smallest lionfish. The “Most Lionfish” category included the competitive Apex Predators division and the Reef Defenders division for casual lionfish hunters. Team Forever Young led the Apex Predators with 400 lionfish. Team Massai Warriors finished second with 116 lionfish, and team ZooKeeper placed third with 115 lionfish. Fourth and fifth place went to team Wynwood Dive Crew with 46 lionfish, and team The Hunters with 21 lionfish. In the Reef Defenders division, team Men of Science won first place with 74 lionfish. Team Squid Ink brought in 55 lionfish for second place, team Will 2 Spear won third place with 46 lionfish, and Barnacles placed fourth with 19 lionfish.
Competition was close in the largest and smallest lionfish categories. Team Squid Ink won first place in the “Largest Lionfish” category with a 401 mm fish, nearly 16 inches long. Team Forever Young’s second place fish measured 395 mm, and team ZooKeeper won third place with a 391 mm fish. The smallest fish of the derby was 82 mm (just over three inches!) harvested by team Men of Science. Team Barnacles won second place with a 92 mm fish, and team Forever Young brought in a 95 mm fish to win third place. Team Men of Science also caught an 82 mm live lionfish, to be displayed in an educational exhibit at the REEF Campus. Full results from the 2022 derby, as well as past REEF derbies, are posted online here.
“Everyone can play a role in this conservation effort, whether it’s by removing or eating invasive lionfish, or helping to spread awareness about the issue. We are so thankful to all of the derby teams, volunteers, and festival attendees who helped make the Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival a success,” said Alli Candelmo, Ph.D., REEF Conservation Science Manager.
The 2022 Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival was made possible thanks to the following supporters: Ocean Reef Conservation Association, Triad Foundation, Ocean Conservancy, Postcard Inn Resort & Marina, Sharkey’s Sharkbite Grill, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Forever Young Spearfishing, Baker’s Cay Resort, ZooKeeper, Mesara Foundation, Monroe County, Florida Sea Grant and Looe Key Reef Resort & Dive Center. Activities occurred within NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary under permit. This event was funded in part, through a grant agreement from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Coastal Management Program, by a grant provided by the Office of Ocean and Coastal Management under the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972, as amended, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award No CZ516.
Be sure to mark your calendars for the 14th annual REEF Florida Keys Lionfish Derby & Festival on Sept. 7-10, 2023! Fishing will take place Sept. 8-9, and the festival will be on Sunday, Sept. 10 at Postcard Inn Resort and Marina. For more information about REEF Lionfish Derbies, visit www.REEF.org/lionfish-derbies.
Author: Sierra Barkdoll, Citizen Science Coordinator, and Hilary Penner, Conservation and Education Programs Manager
Fishinar: Snorkeling in Bonaire
Thursday, October 20, 8pm EDT
Click here to register.
Bonaire is home to plenty of incredible snorkeling spots. Join us to learn tips and tricks to identify some of the fishes you'd expect to see while snorkeling and exploring the shallow reefs of this diverse Caribbean destination.
Into the Blue Book Club: with special guest Carl Safina!
Thursday, November 10, 8pm EST
Click here to register.
We are pleased to welcome bestselling author and ecologist Carl Safina to our next Into the Blue Book Club meeting! You may have seen Carl on the PBS series Saving the Ocean. He has published ten books and created the Safina Center, a nonprofit focused on conservation through science, art, and literature. Carl's book Becoming Wild: How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace was our most recent book club selection. Becoming Wild examines non-human animal societies through close-up experiences with sperm whales, chimpanzees, and scarlet macaws. All are invited to join in this meeting, whether you have read the book or not! For more details about Into the Blue Book Club, visit www.REEF.org/bookclub.
Author: Stacey Henderson, Program Services Coordinator
Mark your calendars because you won't want to miss our REEF Field Survey Trip to the small Caribbean island of Saba on April 22-29, 2023. Click here for all the details. Known as the "Unspoiled Queen" for its pristine natural beauty, Saba's National Marine Park was established in 1987, protecting a healthy ocean ecosystem including fish, turtles, sharks, and corals. Although Saba is only five square miles, there are more than 30 dive sites to choose from. Thanks to the island's volcanic origins, there is a variety of dive sites ranging from shallow patch reefs to seamounts and pinnacles. We'll enjoy daily dives with local operator Sea Saba Dive Center, known for providing an all-around excellent experience. During the trip we will stay at Juliana's Hotel, surrounded by tropical gardens. The property has an art studio, full-service restaurant, and Wi-Fi throughout. In addition to diving, Saba has plenty of other activities including birdwatching, art classes, hiking, and more. If that's not enough to convince you, Alert Diver magazine even featured Saba in this recent article! To sign up for this trip, email trips@REEF.org. Hope to "sea" you there!
Author: Amy Lee, Communications and Engagement Manager
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're excited to introduce Katie Barnes. Katie is participating in the REEF Marine Conservation Fellows Program as Communications and Engagement Fellow. In the coming year, she will work closely with our team to support communications, outreach, and member engagement with our marine conservation programs. Read on to learn more about Katie, and be sure to say hello if you see her at the REEF Campus in Key Largo!
Katie grew up in New Bern, North Carolina, only 45 minutes from Atlantic Beach. She has always loved being out on the water, whether swimming, boating, snorkeling, or just relaxing. She attended North Carolina State University (NCSU) and graduated with a B.S. in plant biology and minors in marine science and animal science. Her interest in ocean conservation was sparked during a Reef Relief service learning trip in Key West, where she learned about protecting coral reefs. In college, she attended a semester-long program at NCSU’s Center for Marine Science and Technology (CMAST), where she learned about coastal and marine ecosystems through classes and research. Katie worked with faculty to conduct an independent project on the Crystal Skipper, an endangered species of butterfly. After the semester ended, she received funding from the USFWS and the Office of Undergraduate Research at NCSU to continue this research until she graduated. As a creative outlet, Katie has her own Etsy shop where she sells artwork and digital art. Combining her skills in science and art, she created the NCSU Marine Science Club logo, and designed posters to present her research visually. Katie is excited to marge her artistic and creative skills with her passion for science to help make a difference at REEF and spread awareness about marine conservation.
Welcome, Katie! We're glad to have you with us!
Author: Sierra Barkdoll, Citizen Science Coordinator
This month's featured Conservation Challenge is Gear on the Go! If you have some REEF swag in your closet, this is the perfect challenge for you. Whether it's a t-shirt, hat, visor, rash guard, beanie, or even a mask strap with the REEF logo, we'd love to see how you represent REEF when you're out and about! To complete this challenge, email a photo of you in your REEF gear to conservationchallenge@REEF.org. You may even be featured on our social media in the future!
For more information about the Conservation Challenge and details about other stickers you can add to your collection, visit www.REEF.org/conservationchallenge.
Author: Janna Nichols, Citizen Science Program Manager
Welcome to Citizen Science Corner, our quarterly feature to celebrate those who recently reached a milestone in our Volunteer Fish Survey Project. Here are achievements from July, August or September 2022:
Juvenile Hamlet Award
The Juvenile Hamlet Award is for individuals who have conducted 500+ REEF surveys. You can read more here. Congratulations to our latest Juvenile Hamlet Club members:
Kat Fenner: Surveys done in CIP, IORS, PAC, TEP and TWA regions
Cindy Molitor: All surveys done in the Pacific Coast region
Will Ribbens: Surveys done in the CIP, IORS, SOP, TEP and TWA regions
Super Golden Hamlet Surveyors
The Golden Hamlet Club is for those who have completed 1,000 REEF surveys. Super Golden Hamlet Surveyors have reached this benchmark multiple times! We're proud to congratulate two surveyors who recently completed 4,000 surveys each! You can see all Golden Hamlet Club members here.
Experience Level Advancements
REEF Experience Levels are a way for divers and snorkelers to measure their fish ID knowledge along with their surveying experience. From beginner to expert, you'll find plenty of resources and friends to help you along the way. Experience Levels are achieved by submitting a certain number of surveys and passing a fish ID test. For more info, visit www.REEF.org/experiencelevels. Let's hear it for these REEF members who have advanced an Experience Level! All listed below are Level 2 unless otherwise noted.
Joe Vechinski - Level 3
Central Indo-Pacific (CIP)
Sara Cowles - Levels 4 and 5
Indian Ocean / Red Sea (IORS)
Northeast US & Eastern Canada (NE)
Alison Kruk - Level 3
Pacific Northwest (PNW)
South Atlantic States (SAS)
South Pacific (SOP)
Tropical Eastern Pacific (TEP)
Don McCoy - Levels 2 and 3
Tropical Western Atlantic (TWA)
Mary Adams - Levels 4 and 5
James McKay - Level 4
Lauren Bulik - Levels 3 and 4 (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Rachael Lewus - Level 4
Cayla Bernstein - Level 3 (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Grace Davis - Level 3 (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Rhoda Green - Level 3
Alexa Bryant (REEF Staff)
Alexis Kuhre Haag (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Brooke Enright (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Frankie Read Cutting
Natalie Patetta (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Nick Robie (REEF Marine Conservation Intern)
Patrick De Bortoli
Author: The REEF Team
Boo! Here to get you in the Halloween spirit is our spooky October Fish of the Month, the Ornate Ghost Pipefish, Solenostomus paradoxus!
Survey Regions: Ornate Ghost Pipefishes are found from the Red Sea and East Africa to the Central Indo-Pacific and South Pacific, including Indonesia, Philippines, Micronesia, Fiji, and more. Follow these links to see distribution reports for this species in the following REEF survey regions: South Pacific (SOP), Central Indo-Pacific (CIP). Their range also includes the Indian Ocean & Red Sea (IORS) region, but have not yet been reported on a survey there.
Size: They can reach just over 4 inches, or about 11 cm.
Identifying Features: Ornate Ghost Pipefishes have slender bodies and long, narrow, pipe-like snouts. They have short filaments on their body, giving a spiky or "prickly" appearance. Their colors can vary depending on habitat, and they may be seen among crinoids, black corals, gorgonians, and soft corals. They come in shades of red, orange, yellow, white, black, or even a combination of colors.
Fun Facts: Ornate Ghost Pipefishes eat tiny crustaceans and are usually seen hovering with their heads facing down. They may be solitary, in small groups, or in pairs containing a male and female. Due to their unique appearance, they are a highly sought after fish for photographers and surveyors. It is thought that they spend the majority of their lives floating in the open ocean as larvae, until they settle to the bottom as adults.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for our next Fish of the Month.
Photo by Florent Charpin.