Each year, Reef Check’s Kelp Forest Program recognizes the most active surveyors in each region with the Golden Slate Award. With the recent passing of Dirk Burcham, a multi-year recipient of this award, Reef Check is proud to announce that we have renamed this award to the “Dirk Burcham Golden Slate Award” in honor of his role as a most invaluable member of our team of citizen scientists. Congratulations to the 2021 honorees!
The 2021 Dirk Burcham Golden Slate Award is shared by Kyra Anderson and Ted Sharshan, each of whom volunteered 21 days last year! Ted was part of the inaugural Reef Check California training course in 2006 and is the only Reef Check diver to volunteer at least one day every year from 2006-2022. He has volunteered 224 days over the 16 years that he has been with Reef Check. Ted is the embodiment of “dive with a purpose” and we are extremely grateful for his years of service.
Kyra joined Reef Check in 2017 and quickly became extremely involved and also served as data captain on many surveys last year. Additionally, she has surveyed across all three regions of California. Perhaps most impressive of all, she accomplished all of this while completing her Master’s degree at Cal Poly last year, where she studied how barnacles respond to different stressors.
Lastly, we would like to extend one more huge thank you to Bev Wimer, who has been the heart and soul of our data entry team. Since 2020, she has entered 64 surveys.
We are extremely thankful for these three wonderful people and are excited to have all of them back this year!
Honoree Sharon Cu volunteered 22 days with us in 2021 and shares the following with us:
“I am thrilled to have earned the Golden Slate my first year as a Reef Check volunteer! My path towards marine citizen science was forged early in childhood, having spent many summers snorkeling in the warm waters of the Philippines. Teeming with life, the underwater world and nature in general captivated me. In grade school, I incessantly asked teachers which creatures we might study the following years. In high school, I discovered a shared interest in ocean critters with future fellow Reef Checker and “Buddy of the Year,” Laura Allen. After majoring in Biological Sciences, my education primarily focused on human physiology as I completed medical school and residency in Emergency Medicine. Working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic has been draining and stressful, but it was during these years that my passion for diving blossomed. The beautiful kelp forests of the Central Coast provided a peaceful, restorative haven.
I moved to Monterey the summer of 2020 after coming to love chilly dives playing amongst nudibranchs, cormorants, and sea lions. Reef Check provided the perfect opportunity to “Dive with Purpose,” learn more about the ecosystem in my backyard, contribute to the scientific community with like-minded divers, and explore less-frequented sites. My favorite dives last year were in Morro Bay, where the abundance of fish was almost overwhelming, adorable otters rafted between the kelp, and humpback whales lunged and breached around us. (Lest I paint too rosy a picture, the most challenging condition I’ve ever been in was on the same trip, where Laura and I descended into such bad visibility, we could not see the transect tape or each other within a few feet away — Reef Check dives are never boring!) This community amazes me with its commitment to ocean and wildlife conservation, and I look forward to volunteering for many years to come.”