By Anna Neumann, Reef Check California Northern California Regional Manager
Reef Check California held its annual Humboldt State University (HSU) training in Fort Bragg. Twenty-eight undergraduate students joined the Reef Check California (RCCA) staff to learn how to identify, size and count about 80 species of fish, algae and invertebrates at Van Damme State Beach. Many of the students are pursuing degrees in marine biology, wildlife conservation, oceanography or recreation administration. The Reef Check certification is one part of the HSU Scientific Diving degree program. The students start off their program as novice divers and work their way through the HSU dive program until they enroll in the Scientific Diving course. The course is the last step for many of the students who are minoring in Scientific Diving. HSU Dive Instructors Rich Alvarez and Steve Monk first train students in Reef Check protocols in the classroom and pool. Then the students travel down to Fort Bragg and meet up with RC California's North Coast Regional Manager Anna Neumann and Volunteer Coordinator Danny Ladd to complete their training in the ocean where the average water temperature is about 50 F (12 C). In partnership with RCCA since 2009, HSU Scientific Diving alumni have gone on to work in the diving field as Diving Safety Officers, research divers for the National Park Service, and lab technicians; one diver even ended up working as a technician for NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab. We are very pleased to welcome these enterprising students to our growing team of volunteer divers!