Join us to learn about marine life during REEF Fest 2022! We have a great lineup of guest speakers including scientists, naturalists, and underwater photographers. Seminars are held at the Murray Nelson Government Center (102050 Overseas Hwy. Key Largo, FL 33037.) Please see the detailed schedule below for dates and times.

Seminars are free and open to the public, but pre-registration is requested. 

Click here to register for REEF Fest!

For those who are not able to attend in person, REEF Fest seminars will be livestreamed on the REEF Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Seminar Schedule

Friday, Oct. 14

2:30 pm -- Goliath Grouper: Tales of a giant Florida icon
Presented by Dr. Chris Stallings, Associate Professor, University of South Florida

Goliath Grouper were fished to near extinction in the 1980s, prompting a federal fishing moratorium to protect the species. After over 25 years of protection, the largest grouper in the western Atlantic has shown initial signs of recovery in Florida waters. Chris will discuss the history of the fishery, how we have overcome the challenges of estimating the population status of a protected species, and some of the controversies (and falsehoods) surrounding the recovery of Goliath Grouper.

4 pm -- Cultivating Climate Resilience with Citizen Science
Presented by Dr. Andrea Grover, Associate Professor, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Resilient communities are able to withstand and recover from adversity, and though resilience to climate hazards is increasingly important for many communities, it takes deliberate effort to develop a shared capacity to adapt to changing conditions. Andrea will discuss how citizen science can support community-driven climate resilience initiatives, and how to support successful citizen science collaborations that cultivate community capacity.

6:30 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

Clownfish-sea anemone symbiosis is an icon of tropical coral reefs in the Indo-West Pacific. Comprised of 28 described species of clownfishes and 10 host sea anemones, the symbiosis has been an evolutionary conundrum: 25 of the 28 clownfish species have evolved within just the past 5 million years; while symbiosis with sea anemones is largely attributed as the key innovation that triggered this adaptive radiation, no host-driven patterns of diversification have ever been recovered that can account for the vast array of color-pattern or biogeographical variation seen across the range. Combining citizen science photographs with comparative genomic analyses has now shed new light on this long-standing mystery, which may have important implications for implementing long-term citizen science initiatives involving this iconic mutualism.

Saturday, Oct. 15

2:30 pm -- Wonders of the Ocean: The World Beneath
Presented by Dr. Richard Smith, Underwater Photographer, Author, and Marine Conservationist

Richard’s richly illustrated talk investigates the smaller, often overlooked animals that inhabit coral reefs - from his Ph.D. research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, fishes so small they barely stretch across a five pence piece, to other cryptic and diminutive habitat specialists that are being discovered regularly thanks to recreational divers. During our journey through the Coral Triangle, we will encounter many newly discovered fishes, parasites and unusual reef creatures and how their discoveries have come about. As the oceans change, the habitats these animals depend upon are becoming ever more uncertain.

Speaker Bios

Dr. Andrea Grover is an associate professor in the College of Information Science and Technology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. They have studied citizen science from an organizational perspective since 2009, examining the design, management, and technology configurations supporting diverse stakeholders in citizen science. Andrea serves as an advisor and collaborator to citizen science initiatives around the globe in disciplines ranging from astrophysics to social sciences. Their recent work focuses on evaluating individual and collective performance and productivity in citizen science, with current studies on embedded assessment of volunteer skills using secondary analysis and a cybersecurity citizen science project.

Dr. Chris Stallings is an associate professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. His research seeks to understand the factors that affect the sizes of fish populations, including those that are of commercial and recreational importance. His recent work on Goliath Grouper involves non-lethal methods to estimate population size, age structure, reproduction, and life histories in Florida waters.

Dr. Richard Smith is a British award-winning underwater photographer, author, and marine conservationist who aspires to promote an appreciation for the ocean's inhabitants and raise awareness of marine conservation issues through his images. A marine biologist by training, Richard's pioneering research on the biology and conservation of pygmy seahorses, led to the first Ph.D. on these enigmatic fishes. Richard is a member of the IUCN Seahorse, Pipefish and Seadragon Specialist Group. He has named the two most recent pygmy seahorse discoveries from Japan, Hippocampus japapigu, and South Africa, H. nalu. Richard organizes and leads marine life expeditions where the aim is for participants to get more from their diving and photography by learning about the marine environment. His bestselling book, The World Beneath: The Life and Times of Unknown Sea Creatures and Coral Reefs is out now:


Dr. Ben Titus is an evolutionary biologist interested in understanding how biodiversity evolves in tropical marine mutualisms. He is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Alabama, and senior marine scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, where he combines extensive field research with systematics and genomic approaches to understand symbiosis at all levels of biological organization. His work spans from broad order-level phylogenetics to phylogeography, species delimitation, population genetics, full genome sequencing, and behavioral ecology.