Exploring new dive sites has always fascinated me. Even if it’s a site that I’ve dived a hundred times, the idea of finding something new always intrigues me. Since joining REEF, I have also become interested in fish identification and it has completely changed how I explore a new site. Now I think, “what species of fish could I find diving here?” I always have an eye out for new potential dives sites or places I could find a species of fish I have never seen. I think this mindset fits well with the “explore” and “discover” parts of REEF’s tagline - “Explore. Discover. Make a Difference.”

Some of the REEF team recently met up at a park to watch the sunset. While there, we noticed an old abandoned boat basin that had been converted into a swimming area. The basin had been dredged and concrete walls were put in place, forming a big rectangle. Mangroves had started to creep in on one side and algae had completely taken over the rest of the basin. Jumping on the opportunity, I enlisted the help of fellow o-fishy-anados David Ehlert, our Campus Coordinator, and Amy Lee, our Engagement and Communications Manager, with surface support from my fellow lead intern Maya Ganapathy. Together we explored this new dive site that we decided to call “The Square.”

As I walked down the ladder I felt cold water seep into my wetsuit through holes in my boots and the zipper down my back. I slowly sunk deep enough to look into the water, and all I could see was green. Visibility was close to five feet, but we descended and set off to see what treasures lurked in “The Square.” The bottom consisted of a fine silt covered in puffs of green and red algae. If you put your hand down to steady yourself the mixture would easily consume your entire hand. I planned to spend some time looking over the concrete walls surrounding the basin, and also visit the mangroves and the deeper portions of the area.

First we discovered an abundance of Lettuce Slugs and Upside-down Jellyfish populating the entire basin. Some of the Jellyfish were as big as dinner plates while others were as small as thimbles. Crested Gobies were abundant; poking their heads out of their burrows seeing who had invaded their tranquil paradise. The larger males posed as if they were trying to intimidate me, but as soon as I moved closer to get a better look, they sheepishly darted back into their holes. I spotted a Fringeback Dondice nudibranch feeding on one of the Upside-Down Jellyfish and a couple of Bandtail Puffers passing by. I flashed my light into a hole on the concrete wall and noticed a Tiger Goby, which was the highlight of my dive. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a photo as it dashed away quickly. We did not last long in the 68-degree water, even with full hooded wetsuits, however we were able to make a whole loop around “The Square” and got a good idea of what to look for on future dives.

Despite the adverse conditions, having a place where we can go shore diving locally to find interesting and new things made this dive a success in my book. One of the most interesting discoveries was not in “The Square” itself but in a small pool bordering the basin. It was no more than a foot deep and was completely covered in a carpet of Upside-down Jellies, making a mosaic of color. In this small, shallow pool, were Sailfin Mollies - a fish I never expected to find. The males had a red hue to them with blue iridescent tail fins. I plan to continue my exploration of the Florida Keys and hope to find many more places to dive and survey. Check out your own backyard; there may be some interesting sites that have yet to be discovered.

Did you explore a new dive site? REEF uses a hierarchical 8-digit code system for survey site locations. Each geographic area has its own set of codes. After completing a survey, you can look up the 8-digit code for any site by searching the site name in REEF's data entry portal. If you surveyed a new location that is not in REEF's database, email to zonecode@REEF.org so that we can create a zone code for the site. Please provide the site name, general location, and ideally the latitude and longitude.