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REEF is a non-profit organization of divers and marine enthusiasts committed to ocean conservation through education, service, and research. Marine Conservation Interns support REEF’s main conservation programs: the Volunteer Fish Survey Project, Invasive Lionfish Program, Explorers Education Program, and Grouper Moon Program.


Three times a year, REEF accepts four individuals to intern at REEF Headquarters in Key Largo, Florida. Interns learn a variety of skills that include non-profit management, public speaking, conservation fieldwork, marine education and teaching experience, and data management. REEF interns build relationships with leaders in marine science and conservation, and leave the internship well rounded, experienced, and ready to begin careers in the marine conservation or non-profit field.

LOCATION: REEF Headquarters in Key Largo, Florida

SUPERVISOR:  Brittany Parker, REEF Education and Operations Program Manager

PAY: This is an unpaid internship

DATES: Start and end dates are flexible depending on University schedules and other school or work commitments. The three semesters follow the general schedule:

- Spring semester: January to May 
- Summer semester: Late May to August 
- Fall semester: Late August to December 


- Must have completed at least two years of college
- National and international individuals accepted
- Experience with Microsoft Office Suite 
- Strong verbal and written communication skills
- Excellent people skills – we work with the general public daily
- Detail oriented, ability to take direction and follow through with projects
- Enthusiasm to teach and instill a connection to the marine environment with the public
- Students from disciplines outside marine science are encouraged to apply
- Although not required, basic Open Water SCUBA certification preferred


Interns can expect to be exposed to a wide range of activities that vary from season to season. While each internship is unique, typical activities include:

- Performing fish identification surveys while SCUBA diving
- Assisting with invasive lionfish fieldwork, capture, and dissection of lionfish
- Assisting with invasive lionfish education, outreach, and control programs
- Presenting seminars for school groups and dive clubs
- Planning and implementing special events like REEF Fest and Lionfish Derbies
- Assisting with Ocean Explorers Summer Camp and creating Camp Content (Summer Internship Only)
- Writing articles for websites, newsletters, and social media
- Helping members of the public that visit the REEF Interpretive Center and office 
- Creating flyers and other promotional materials
- Responding to phone calls and emails from REEF members

In addition, interns are encouraged to implement independent projects related to their areas of interest. For example, a graphic design major could create new infographic posters or an education major could create fish identification lesson plans for grade school classrooms. Other past intern projects have related to biological assessment fieldwork and data analysis, language translations of REEF materials, writing, artwork, web design, and GIS mapping.


The internship program is a full-time position that is typically four months in length. Interns will work 40 hours per week. Interns assist in the REEF office and Interpretive Center Monday through Friday during business hours, and weekend work is occasionally required in conjunction with special events like lionfish derbies and community outreach.

Interns are also allowed time out of the office to dive and volunteer in the community during the work week. Each week, interns can participate in REEF’s Volunteer Fish Survey Project and dive for a half-day (2 dives) at no cost with one of REEF’s Conservation Partners. Interns are also encouraged to volunteer with local environmental organizations for a full or half day each week.


Although the internship is unpaid, the benefits of interning at REEF are plentiful.

- Exposure to different non-profit educational and environmental organizations
- Experience in local Florida and Caribbean fish identification
- Opportunity to become a member of the Advanced Assessment Team
- Practical field experience in monitoring protocols, procedures, and data management
- Opportunities to teach others about the marine environment
- Treated as a valuable member of the REEF team
- Given diverse tasks and responsibility for important projects
- Networking with important figures in marine science, SCUBA diving, underwater photography, conservation
- Opportunities to dive in the Florida Keys
- College credit, if appropriate
- Letters of recommendation provided upon successful completion of the internship
- Dive training certifications from local dive shops and instructors, where applicable
- Making long-lasting friendships with like-minded individuals
- Living in the beautiful, sunny Florida Keys, where the ocean is your backyard!


- Reliable transportation (public transportation in Key Largo is limited and you cannot easily haul dive gear on a bike)
- Although not required, it is encouraged for interns to have their own dive gear. Diving is a benefit to the program and the cost of gear rental adds up quickly.


REEF provides a furnished house during the internship and covers a portion of the cost. Each intern contributes $600 each month toward the cost of housing and utilities. All utilities and high speed internet are included in this price. Any additional costs vary from intern to intern based on expenditures.


Conducting REEF Fish Surveys: Each week REEF Interns have the opportunity to go scuba diving with a local dive shop and conduct fish surveys. Interns act as REEF ambassadors on the dive boats, encouraging other divers to become REEF members and get involved with the Volunteer Fish Survey Project.            

Working at REEF Headquarters Office: A significant portion of the internship consists of working in the REEF HQ office in Key Largo. Tasks range from answering phone calls and shipping out store orders to scientific data entry and event planning. There's never a dull day in the office!

Data Collection and Management: Interns assist in REEF's ongoing lionfish and invasive/exotic monitoring projects in South Florida. Duties include recording invasive/exotic species sightings, conducting fish population surveys, lionfish collection and removal, and lionfish dissections.

Educational Outreach at Community Events: Interns represent REEF and increase the public's awareness about marine conservation and ocean ecosystems at community events. REEF Interns set up interactive displays and talk with the public at events such as seafood festivals, art shows, fishing tournaments, science nights, and boat shows throughout the Florida Keys and South Florida.

Teaching Workshops and Seminars: Interns have the opportunity to engage with the public by giving presentations on fish identification, marine ecology, and invasive lionfish. Audiences include adults, grade schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. REEF Interns build confidence and gain public speaking skills throughout the semester.

Volunteering: Interns are encouraged to spend time each week volunteering with non-proft, governmental, educational, or environmental organizations. These volunteer projects are a great opportunity for interns to expand their skill sets and network with other professionals in the field.

Assisting with Lionfish Derbies: Interns help organize and implement REEF's Summer Lionfish Derby Series in Key Largo and South Florida. There are a wide array of jobs to do at these events including registering teams, measuring lionfish, filleting lionfish, dissecting lionfish and educating the public. 

** Please note that while REEF Marine Conservation Interns are presented with many opportunities to dive, participating in dives is not a requirement nor a responsibility of the internship. All diving and volunteer opportunities occur during the interns' free survey or volunteer time each week (on half or full day for each activity). REEF supports diving by making introductions with local dive shops or volunteer organizations, but REEF does not directly lead or provide dive trips for the interns.