Our Board of Trustees represent a wide array of backgrounds and experiences, but we all share a passion for ocean conservation, education, and citizen science. Learn more about this dedicated team below.
Paul’s pathway to REEF began in 1971, when he left a successful law career to own and operate the Caribbean’s first liveaboard dive boat, the Cayman Diver. For the next nine years, as captain of the vessel, he amassed a notable collection of fish and invertebrate images, many taken in their natural habitat for the first time. Soon Paul, in collaboration with marine taxonomists from the Smithsonian, Philadelphia Academy of Sciences, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and the California Academy of Sciences, began collecting specimens to help document identifications. These early efforts lay the groundwork for his enduring collaboration with the scientific community. In 1989, Paul and co-author Ned DeLoach published their first marine life field guide, Reef Fish Identification—Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. While assembling material for this book, Paul and Ned were surprised by the lack of comprehensive species distribution information. This planted the idea of establishing an organization, powered by trained volunteer divers and snorkelers, for gathering much-needed data. They founded REEF in 1990. Paul’s service and legacy demonstrate the power one individual has to change the world. Despite “retiring” from the board, Paul continues to serve with distinction and excellence; attending events, participating in programs, and providing counsel to our staff and board.
Anna took an early retirement from her mainframe computer career to work with husband, author Ned DeLoach. She started shooting underwater video to assist him in studying and documenting fish behavior for their book, Reef Fish Behavior: Florida, Bahamas, Caribbean. Her comprehensive video footage proved indispensable for analyzing fish behaviors detailed in the book and series of articles that she and Ned write for diving magazines. In 2011, she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame. A REEF member since she participated in the very first REEF Field Survey in July 1993 in Key Largo, Anna has taught many fish identification classes, co-led multiple REEF Field Surveys, participated in some of the first lionfish research trips in the Bahamas, and joined the Grouper Moon Project in Little Cayman in 2018. She created the Introduction to Fish Identification teaching DVD used in REEF’s Caribbean survey starter package. She also produced Sensational Seas I (2004) and Sensational Seas II (2010), DVDs that debuted at dive industry film festivals and were sold as fundraisers for REEF. Anna chronicles her adventures with Ned on their website, blennywatcher.com.
Shortly after graduating from Texas Tech University in 1967, Ned moved to Florida to dive. During his 20-year teaching career in Jacksonville, Florida, Ned was active in the Florida cave diving community and wrote many articles for popular scuba diving publications. In 1979 he formed New World Publications and published The Diving Guide to Underwater Florida, in print for 40 years. In 1985, Ned, recently appointed editor-in-chief of Ocean Realm magazine, invited Paul Humann to join him as co-editor. After two years they left the magazine business to independently publish marine life field guides. Their first publication, Reef Fish Identification, Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas appeared in 1989. It was during the work on that first book that Ned and Paul and co-founded REEF. Over the years Ned and his wife, Anna, have written a series of columns about marine life for diving magazines in the United States and Asia. Currently their writing and photography appears as a regular feature in Alert Diver. Their dive travels are chronicled at BlennyWatcher.com.
Jim was one of the first people consulted by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach in 1989, when they had the idea for forming REEF. As a long-time diving friend and corporate attorney for their company, New World Publications, Jim served as sounding board, and provided wise counsel as they created their vision for the organization. He knew immediately that the time was right to incorporate and establish the organization as a 501(c)(3) charity, and guided them through the process. Jim serves as a founding Board member, assisting with budgeting, financial transparency, and legal matters. Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, Jim and his wife Jan live in Delaware, where he has practiced law since 1979. He is an active diver and underwater photographer.
Originally from Terre Haute, Indiana, Marta lived all over the East Coast during her work as a sales executive with DuPont. She and her husband Paul now call Key Largo, Florida, home (just a few miles from the REEF Campus). She joined REEF in 1998, initially to improve her fish ID skills. In 2005, she and Paul took their first REEF Field Survey trip to Guanaja, Puerto Rico, and she was hooked on fish surveying. She is an Expert-level REEF surveyor and is approaching the Golden Hamlet mark of 1,000 surveys. Marta brings vast expertise in business models, finance, and donor relations to REEF. She also serves as REEF’s Key Largo Volunteer Coordinator, helping our local volunteers with events, garden club, and more. In addition to her service on REEF’s board, she is a board member of MarrVelous Pet Rescues, an animal rescue organization in the Upper Keys. Marta received her BS in Chemical Engineering at Purdue University and her MBA at University of North Carolina.
If you are a certified diver and participate recreationally, or in the business, you’ve crossed paths at some point with Alex Brylske’s work. As former Educational Program Manager for PADI, former training consultant at Divers Alert Network, and VP of Educational Development at Pro Dive International, Alex literally wrote the book(s) on modern diver education. He also served as an editor at Dive Training magazine from 1992 to 2016, authoring over 250 articles on marine science, resource management, and dive safety, and recently returned as their Sustainability Editor. Alex taught for ten years at the College of the Florida Keys, during which time he developed courses in marine resource technology, marine ecology for tourism professionals, and field-based labs. In 2019, Alex founded Ocean Education International (OEI), a consulting firm focusing on environmental education and professional development services for the marine tourism industry.
Growing up in land-locked Oklahoma, it would seem unlikely for Janet to become an ocean lover; however, with a native Floridian as her father, Janet became a certified scuba diver as a teenager, over 45 years ago. With a BS in Chemistry and MS in Engineering Management, Janet worked as a Semiconductor Research Engineer developing processes for creating microchips at Texas Instruments for many years before she and her husband, Doug, traded their “corporate, city life” for rural entrepreneurship, owning and operating a Bed & Breakfast in Taos, New Mexico for nearly a decade. After meeting Paul Humann while diving in Fiji in 2011, Janet immediately joined REEF and participated in her first REEF Field Survey Trip. She has since gone on to become a prolific survyeor and is an Expert in several regions. Having worked with nonprofits for over 40 years, Janet brings finance and budgeting experience to the Board. She also serves on the board of La Puente Home, a Colorado nonprofit that provides assistance to homeless and hungry. Janet founded The Pelton Charitable Foundation, Inc. in 2005. When they are not traveling, Janet and Doug split their time between Austin and Colorado.
Harris, together with wife and fellow board member, Mel McCombie, splits his life between academia and the ocean. When not teaching and at home in Connecticut, they spend time on Bonaire. Harris previously served on the board of Bonaire’s Coral Reef Management (Fundashon Pa Bon Koral), and has volunteered on projects for the Bonaire Marine Park. His first contact with REEF came in 1993 on a 5-day voyage in the Dry Tortugas, where he learned fish identification from REEF co-founders, Paul Humann and Ned De Loach, sparking a lifelong fascination with the reef. Thanks to REEF, no dive on the same site is ever the same because REEF taught him to see, not just to look. Harris earned his Ph.D. from Yale University and A.B. from Harvard College. With Mel, he enjoyed a year in Egypt, where he wrote on poetics, popular music, and went diving as often as possible.
Scott has been active in the marine conservation field for almost 27 years, and as a REEF Board member his work supports the organization’s mission at the nexus of science, conservation, and the public. He first became involved with REEF’s programs in 2005 when he joined the Grouper Moon Project research team to assist with fish tagging. Scott now serves as one of the Grouper Moon principal scientists, and values his role in a project that serves as a showcase example for how marine conservation in the Caribbean should be done. He also serves on several ocean-related regional and federal organizations, and has a strong belief in the value of citizen science and the role that non-profits like REEF play in the conservation and management of our marine world. His research interests include the physiological ecology and conservation of fishes. Scott and his wife Selina (also a fisheries biologist) established the Heppell REEF Marine Conservation Internship scholarship fund to support traditionally underserved populations to participate in REEF’s internship program.
Mel joined REEF in 1993 and did her first field survey in the Dry Tortugas, where Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach taught the fish ID course. She joined the board (along with husband Harris Friedberg) in 2015. McCombie is a longtime academic who has taught art history and American Studies at Smith College and The University of Connecticut; she co-directed the American Studies graduate program at Trinity College for twelve years, taking a year out as a Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, then taught in the graduate program at Wesleyan University. Administrative and professorial work in the academy has taught her much about managing people. She and her husband live part of the year in Bonaire, dive as much as possible, and believe passionately in the power of citizen science and cooperative projects to improve the environment.