REEF members are at the heart of our grassroots marine conservation programs. Over 50,000 divers, snorkelers, students, and armchair naturalists stand behind our mission.
This month we highlight Alice Ribbens, a REEF member since 2010. Despite being based in snowy Minnesota, MN (USA), Alice is an active surveying member who has conducted over 70 surveys in four of REEF's regions (TWA, PAC, TEP, and CIP). She is a member of Advanced Assessment Team in the TWA, and she is a SCUBA instructor who enjoys sharing her love of fish ID. Here's what she had to say about REEF:
How did you become involved with REEF?
I had always been interested in identifying creatures seen on my dives. My husband bought me the ReefNet fish ID software for my birthday in 2010. Through that, I found out about REEF. I joined right away and was hooked on Fishinars from our very first one!
If you have been on a REEF Field Survey, where and what was your trip highlight?
My first REEF trip was to the Sea of Cortez in 2012 aboard the Rocio del Mar. Diving with such an experienced group of divers and surveyors was incredible. Also very exciting to see my first whale shark (with Christy and Brice reminding us to put down “whale shark” and “remora” on our surveys)!
Do you have a favorite local (or not) REEF field station or dive shop?
I am an instructor at Scuba Center in Eagan, MN. They became a REEF Field Station in 2014. I have been running “Fish Nights”: we use a combination of REEF materials and fish photos to teach about fish ID. When a Fishinar is on a night that our classroom is free, we try to participate live. Otherwise, we pick recorded fishinars based on an upcoming trip or people’s interests. Although we don’t have a lot of active surveyors yet, the Fish Nights are very popular, a number of our instructors and divers have joined REEF, and everyone is learning a lot.
What is your favorite fish or marine invertebrate?
Diving in Minnesota is not too exciting in terms of fish, so I love to travel to dive. I always look in nooks and crannies for fish and critters. I’m a little obsessed with cardinalfish right now, probably because they are generally so shy. I was so happy to find pajama cardinalfish in Raja Ampat. I know they are not unusual, but they are so cute! (I loved anemonefish until one bit me—I had a fish hickey on my forehead for several days.)
Do you have any surveying, fishwatching, or identification tips for REEF members?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you first start. Fishinars are great to get the basics. With surveys, start slow, learn a few new fish every day, and write down what you know. (Photos are great, but work on your buoyancy skills before adding a camera.) Dive with a likeminded buddy so you can help each other with mystery fish. REEF Trips are like fish boot camp so if you can join one, do it. I thought I knew my TWA fish before my first REEF trip there, but was amazed at how much I learned!
Mangroves provide important nursery habitat for coral reef fishes, such as grunts, snappers, and others. While this has been shown locally in some studies, a new paper by scientists from NOAA Fisheries and University of Miami RSMAS used REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project data to evaluate mangrove-reef connectivity at the Caribbean regional scale. Their findings, recently published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, showed that the size of nearby mangrove forests directly influences reef fish densities of at least 6 species.This study is a great example of the power and impact that long-term, wide-spread citizen science programs such as the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project can have on addressing important ecological and management questions that would otherwise be near impossible to evaluate. Way to go REEF surveyors! Visit www.REEF.org/db/publications to see this and all of the 50+ scientific publications that have included REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project data.
#GivingTuesday is coming up! Are you ready to pledge your support for REEF's vital marine science and education programs? On December 1, watch your inbox for an important message from our co-founder, Paul Humann, describing how REEF is taking action to address our changing seas.
GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. We hope you will include REEF in your GivingTuesday giving plans.
Itziar Aretxaga, a long-time REEF surveyor who lives in Veracruz Mexico recently sent in this rare fish sighting report about finding a Swordtail Jawfish. What a great sighting! Here's Itziar's story:
"Earlier this year, I was taking part on an underwater photography competition in Veracruz, Mexico. Every year the diving operators and other supporting organizations launch it as a way to draw awareness upon the diversity and richness of the protected National Park of Veracruz. I had no hope of winning anything as I am a novice photographer with a very basic camera and no illumination, but I wanted to support their efforts. Each of us had a 90-minute time limit to take up to 100 photos.
I saw this jawfish on the sandy area immediately below the buoy in Cabomex, Anegada de Adentro, at about 14m depth. I knew it was not any of the jawfishes I had reported before: face markings, behavior, and burrow type gave it away as a different species. I was set on identifying it more than on making any impression on the competition jury, so I spent my allotted 90 minutes by the jawfish, as motionless as possible, and trying to make it get used to the camera just 15cm away from its burrow. The series of photographs allowed me to identify it as a Swordtail Jawfish (Lonchopisthus micrognathus) based on the body bars and the pointy protruding tail, as described in the sketches of the ReefNet Fish Identification DVD. In looking at the REEF database later, I realized it is extremely uncommon to see this species. So all in all, I felt I had won a big prize in that competition!"
Thanks for sharing, Itziar. If you have a rare sighting or fun find to share, please drop us a note.
We are very excited to announce our 2016 Fishinar schedule. We have a great lineup of free and fun webinars, covering a wide array of ocean topics. In addition to many fish and invertebrate ID classes, we also have a Manta-nar on the schedule, as well as sessions with dynamic guest speakers including Ned and Anna DeLoach, Ray Troll, and Val Kells. In total, we have 23 Fishinars planned for next year!
If you haven't yet attended a Fishinar, add it to your list of resolutions to do in the new year. From the comfort of your own home, or on-the-go on your mobile device, you can join in the camaraderie of your fellow fish-fanatics and learn from experts in our short, free, fun and interactive-styled Fishinars. Check out www.REEF.org/fishinars for more information, a complete list of classes, registration information, access to archives, and more. And keep checking back because more sessions are always being added.
2016 Fishinars (all times listed are EST)
Lesser Known Fish of Cozumel, Wednesday Jan 6th at 8pm, with Tracey Griffin & Jonathan Lavan
Manta-nar, Tuesday Jan 12th at 9pm, with Joshua Stewart from Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Pacific Northwest Invertebrates and Algae, Tuesday Jan 19th at 10pm, with Janna Nichols
The Grunt Club: New Members, Thursday Feb 11th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Northern vs Southern Gulf of Mexico, parts 1 & 2, Tuesday Feb 23rd and Feb 25th at 8pm, with Carol Cox
Cool Sharks, Thursday Mar 17th at 8pm, with Artist Ray Troll
Common Reef Fishes of Tubbataha Reef Philippines, Monday Mar 21st at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
Fishes of the Philippines Muck, Wednesday Mar 23rd at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
The Lionfish Invasion: Current Findings and Control Efforts, Wednesday Apr 6th at 8pm, with Emily Stokes
More Holy Moly Gobies, Wednesday Apr 13th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Fishes and Invertebrates of the Carolinas, Tuesday Apr 19th and Thursday Apr 21st at 8pm, with Janna Nichols and Frank Krasovec
You Do WHAT For a Living?: The next chapter, Tuesday Apr 26th at 8pm, with Scientific Illustrator and Author Val Kells
Hawaii Life on a Coral Head: Hawkfishes and more, Wednesday May 4th, at 10pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
The Wrasse Class- Back in School, Tuesday May 17th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Northeast's Less Frequently Seen Fish, Thursday May 26th at 8pm, with Janna Nichols and Jason Feick
Life in the Muck: Blue Heron Bridge, Wednesday Jun 1st at 8pm, with Carlos & Allison Estape
Super Duper Groupers, Part Deux, Wednesday Jun 22nd at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Less Frequently Seen Fish of Virgin Gorda BVI, Thursday Jul 14th at 8pm, with Janna Nichols
Fishes of Bermuda, Tuesday Aug 30th at 8pm, with Ned and Anna DeLoach
Underwater Residents of Barkley Sound BC, Thursday, Sep 8th at 10pm, with Janna Nichols
Common Fishes of Micronesia, Wednesday Sep 21st at 8pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
Sea Saba Underwater, Tuesday Oct 4th at 8pm, with Jonathan Lavan
Hawaii Life in the Sand, Monday Nov 14th at 10pm, with Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens
**All times Eastern Time**