The Transect Line – April 2009
  Newsletter Highlights
Singing Contest Winners Announced! Coral Cay Hosts First EcoDiver Training in the UK
Reef Check Heads to Vegas for Party for the Planet Public Outreach Volunteers Needed
Reef Check California Update Join Us on the Isla Natividad EcoExpedition!
RC Dominican Republic Awarded Grant    
 Singing Contest Winners Announced!

Congratulations to the winners in Reef Check’s Singing Contest! Using the “Year of the Reef” song, nine groups of kids from around the world expressed their culture and passion for reef conservation through music. Thanks to the generous support of Body Glove, along with ReefLab, each group will receive a cash prize! “We want them all to be winners, as they all went to a lot of trouble to make those videos,” said Body Glove President Russ Lesser.

$1000 1st Place:

Trinidad and Tobago


$600  2nd Place:

Netherlands Antilles


$400  3rd Place:

Dominican Republic


$400 Honorable Mention:

American Samoa


Congratulations are also in order for the five lucky raffle winners, who will each receive a $50 gift certificate to and a Reef Check hat and t-shirt.

You can check out all the videos online at the contest website. Be sure to leave comments for your favorites on the Reef Check YouTube page. Thank you to those who sent in videos and those who voted online for their participation in this contest, and to Body Glove, ReefLab and for their committed support to raising awareness among the world’s youth.

 Reef Check Heads to Vegas for Party for the Planet

The third annual Party for the Planet took place April 18 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. This great event was organized by Adrienne Rowland and Jack Jewell from Shark Reef, and attracted people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Conveniently located indoors, attendees escaped the mid-day heat, while lots of natural sunlight lit up the booths. Reef Check, the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History, the Nature Conservancy, Evergreen Recycling and other groups featuring information on solar energy, environmental consulting, and sustainable seafood were present, along with “Recycling Man” and the “Blue Shark.”

Throughout the day, RC staff and volunteers engaged the public in monitoring methodology. First, a transect line and underwater pictures of RC’s indicator species were laid out on the floor. People were then asked to “conduct” a survey by walking along the transect line, identifying the species, and writing them down on the slate they were carrying. Those who got all species right got a Reef Check t-shirt. Many of the kids present were attracted to this activity and enjoyed going through the species and finding out their names.

Such success may not have been possible without the participation of Benedikt Negro, Niki Konstantinou and Ryan Hartnett, who with a great sense of humor engaged the passer-bys. Benedikt, originally a mime artist in Berlin, has been performing in Cirque’s “O” Show for the past five years. Dressed in a grey suit, surf trunks and red tie, he graciously donated some of his precious time to “perform” underwater surveys at the Reef Check booth, with the help of his inseparable slippery fish, mask, snorkel and fins.

Ryan and Niki, both professional divers with Cirque’s “O” Show, shared with the public their knowledge of marine ecosystems. In addition to promoting RC in Las Vegas though different means, Niki visits local schools to speak about marine science to kids. He is an avid film maker, photographer and waterman. Ryan Hartnett has a B.A. in Film Studies from UCSB. Work in the field of Special Effects has taken him to such places as New Zealand, Morocco, and Thailand. An interest in diving led to instructing work in Mexico, Cayman Islands, and Saba, Netherland Antilles. 

Thanks to all the people that made Party for the Planet a great event; we look forward to expanding RC in Las Vegas!

  Reef Check California Update
By Reef Check California Director of Science Cyndi Dawson

April was the official start of the 2009 RCCA Field Season. This past month we conducted several Recertifications, including two in Monterey and one in Los Angeles. We had full boat loads of RCCA divers who had been trained in previous years who attended to tune up their survey skills for the upcoming year. We also began training a whole new cohort of RCCA Divers for 2009. Classes were completed in Monterey, Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Santa Barbara. At the end of April we will have over 100 divers ready to begin taking data for the 2009 Survey Season. We will continue to hold Recertifications and Trainings monthly through July and will have trained well over 300 divers in RCCA Survey Methods by the end of 2009.

We continue to actively engage with decision makers throughout the state to ensure that the data RCCA collects are being interjected into the marine management process. On April 8, I gave public testimony at the Fish and Game Commission meeting in Lodi. You can view the testimony (Select “Video” for April 8, 2009 and fast forward to 2:57:10) where I provided the Commission with an update on RCCA and highlighted our continued commitment to collecting high quality data to inform marine management. In April, we also took part in a workshop organized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Ocean Service to create a map of ocean uses in the north central region of the state (Alder Creek to Pigeon Point). This was another way we were able to bring the knowledge of our volunteers into the management process by using the Site Description sheets we have for all our sites that include a categorization of the uses known at each site. I also was able to contact some of our local volunteers in the region to get additional information to include in the mapping workshop. Participants in the workshop were from a wide range of ocean users including agency staff, consumptive, and non-consumptive sectors. All were very receptive of the RCCA data and excited to learn more about the program.

There is no better way to take direct action to improve marine management in California than to become a trained RCCA Diver. There are still a few spots in some of the RCCA Trainings throughout the state. If you are an experienced certified diver please visit our training page and sign-up, the spots are going fast! If you are a non-diver and are interested in taking the RCCA Training Course, please contact for more information and pricing.

We continue to be on the front lines of improving marine management in California and need your support! Your donations to RCCA go directly to supporting the collection of the critical data needed to sustainably manage California’s marine resources. If you aren’t a member, please join us!

  Reef Check Teams in Action
Reef Check Dominican Republic Awarded Grant

Reef Check Dominican Republic (RCDR) has just been awarded USD$ 21,428.57 by the Programa de Pequeños Subsidios (PPS/FMAM/PNUD) to reestablish lobster populations inside La Caleta marine reserve. The project includes investing in artificial habitat and an educational campaign for fishermen to ensure long term success. Reduction of fishing pressure on coral reefs will be achieved by investing in artificial habitat where lobster can hide (artificial refuges) and transplanting lobster to non-reef areas. Shifting to a more sustainable fishing method will be achieved by conducting workshops on coral reefs, marine protected areas, and sustainable fishing, as well as marine biodiversity inside the marine park of La Caleta. To increase the lobster population inside the reserve and the direct benefit to adjacent fishing communities, RCDR will fortify the cooperative structure and establish a system of registration and catch control.

At La Caleta National Marine Park, RCDR works very closely with the government through the Environment and Natural Resources Secretariat through an agreement to manage the MPA more effectively. Workshops and meetings will be used to expose the community to modern concepts of the management of MPAs, and then define geographic limits for better control and regulation, along with better regulation of diving activities in the area. A monitoring program on reef health has been in place for two years with the goal of determining the effectiveness of the management actions that are being implemented.

For more information, contact RCDR at

Coral Cay Hosts First EcoDiver Training in the UK
by Reef Check EcoDiver Course Director Jonathan Shrives

Over the last eight years I’ve had the pleasure of teaching Reef Check in plenty of sunny and exotic locations; from the atolls of Indonesia to the fringing reefs of Honduras and Oman. But now as a newly fledged UK EcoDiver Course Director, I found myself in an altogether colder location! Standing on the steps of Waterloo station, I had an appointment with a first for Reef Check – an EcoDiver Trainer course in London! Some of you may be thinking I’m a bit far from the nearest tropical coral reef, but it is with good reason I braced the chilly March air. An exciting new partnership between Reef Check and Coral Cay Conservation had me visiting their headquarters in London. Coral Cay Conservation is one of the largest expedition companies in the UK, and over the last two decades have had thousands of divers volunteering on projects around the world. So it’s extremely exciting that they are looking to run Reef Check projects in the Philippines and later on in Tobago and Papua New Guinea.

I had recently returned from leading a month of Reef Check surveys in Honduras for Biosphere Expeditions. Although Biosphere has been conducting Reef Check surveys for several years, this was the first year we had conducted the new EcoDiver program. I must say, things have certainly changed since I first started as a Reef Check team member nine years ago. Back then, all we had was a dog-eared photocopied manual! The new EcoDiver program is light years ahead, and makes teaching Reef Check both far simpler and much more enjoyable. The students really enjoyed having the EcoDiver kit, and the new resources teach the techniques from a multitude of angles. Everybody learns differently; some respond better to a DVD than a lecture, while others prefer reading materials. The kits provide all of these different materials. Also by owning a kit, people have access to the slides, ID slate and DVD anytime they need. We found that the new exam was also a useful tool. Although some might find it daunting at first, it is a great way for people to find their strengths and weaknesses, and discover what they really need to review for the transects!

So it was armed with this experience of teaching EcoDivers for Biosphere Expeditions, that I met Jan-Willem van Bochove, Chief Technical Advisor for Coral Cay Conservation. Jan introduced me to the team at their London Headquarters, and with an early start and a mug of coffee, we all sat down to start the EcoDiver trainer course. Initially we started with a review of Reef Check survey methods, particularly highlighting any changes in the methods since 2006. Many of the staff present had conducted Reef Check surveys before, so this was a relatively straight forward session. We then continued on to review the EcoDiver program itself. We looked at some of the new benchmarks for certification of EcoDivers, reviewed example lesson plans and teaching schedules, and then compared Caribbean and Indo-Pacific identification presentations. Somewhere we managed to squeeze in a quick break for lunch and finished off the course with a review of teaching methods, diving logistics, and of course, the three identification exams; all passed with flying colors! We finished the course on a high, and hopefully the enthusiasm of expedition companies such as Coral Cay and Biosphere Expeditions will encourage a whole new generation of EcoDivers to get certified! Despite the current economic climate, the UK has a growing number of expedition and science ecotourism companies operating around the world, with a diverse collection of international volunteers. For me, as the first UK EcoDiver Course Director, the future looks both exciting and encouraging! I can’t wait till my next course! If you’re in the UK and looking to become an EcoDiver Trainer and certify some EcoDivers for Reef Check surveys, then please feel free to contact me through the main Reef Check office at

  Mark Your Calendars
Public Outreach Volunteers Needed – Help Us Tell The Reef Check Story!

Do you care about the ocean and enjoy meeting new people?  The Reef Check Foundation, the world’s largest citizen-science organization focused on marine conservation, needs help from Los Angeles area volunteers at public events. We will specifically need volunteers for Scuba Show, held May 30 & 31 at the Long Beach Convention Center. Volunteers must be energetic individuals who are passionate about ocean conservation, and feel comfortable talking with a steady stream of visitors at the Reef Check booth. All volunteers for May and later events will be required to attend a free 2-hour training session on May 16, 2009 at 10am that includes: basic ecology of reefs and summary of Reef Check Tropical and California Programs. Volunteers who participate in the events will be given a free Reef Check t-shirt.

These events are a great opportunity to make new connections, learn more about diving and the marine world, and help preserve and rehabilitate reefs worldwide. Spots are limited, for more information contact our Program Manager for Outreach Mary Luna

Liveaboard EcoExpedition to Isla Natividad, Baja California
Rediscover the Kelp Forest while living the Experience of a Lifetime!

Dates: October 29 – November 5, 2009 (8 days / 7 nights)
Departure point: H&M Landing, 2803 Emerson St. San Diego, CA 92106
Price per Reef Check California certified diver: $3000 USD
Price per non-RCCA certified passenger: $3200 USD

Take your diving to the next level during this scientific, cross-cultural liveaboard expedition! Dive and snorkel in one of the best preserved kelp forest ecosystems in the California Current, witness the Natividad's fishers' progressive management techniques, and invest in preserving Baja’s natural capital.

You can join this trip of a lifetime as a trained Reef Check California (RCCA) Diver or a guest. As an RCCA diver, you will dive your way down the Baja Peninsula to Isla Natividad, conducting scientific monitoring and helping Mexican governmental agencies, fishing cooperatives, international academics and NGOs collect key data on rocky reef sites. Superb diving abounds around Natividad; RCCA divers and guests will have plenty of time to enjoy recreational dives in the amazing kelp forests and take in some of the many exciting species at sea and ashore, including rays, lobster, sheephead, bottom dwelling sharks, sea bass, whitefish, yellowtail, the endangered black vented sheerwater and the cutest mouse you will ever see!

For more information, please contact Reef Check's Mexico Program Manager, Mary Luna.