The Transect Line – July/August 2015 Newsletter Archive
Join Us October 1 to Honor Our Heroes of the Reef Philippines EcoExpedition Shows Progress Made in Marine Conservation
Reef Check California Completes Expedition Along Big Sur Coast New EcoExpedition Offered in Tobago
Reef Check Australia Celebrates Achievements with Latest Report Salon Season for Reef Check

Join Us October 1 to Honor Our Heroes of the Reef – Tickets on Sale Now!

Please join the Reef Check Foundation on Thursday, October 1st to celebrate the reefs and oceans! Reef Check's 2015 Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala will be on the beach at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica, California. The evening will feature fun music, unique auction items, delicious food, and an opportunity to meet our amazing honorees and some of the thousands of volunteer Reef Check EcoDivers who monitor California and tropical reefs as part of the Reef Check Foundation's citizen scientist programs.

We will recognize the contributions of our “Heroes of the Reef” each having demonstrated an exemplary commitment to ocean conservation. This year, we honor Russ and Charlotte Lesser, ocean advocates and long-time supporters of Reef Check. Russ, the President of Body Glove and a long-standing member of our Board of Directors, and his wife of 50 years, Charlotte, are an extraordinary couple devoted to their family, friends, community – and marine conservation. Click here to read more about the Lessers’ remarkable achievements.

We also will be recognizing nine outstanding Reef Check California divers who have been surveying rocky reefs with us for 10 years:

Avrey Parsons-Field Claudette Dorsey Peter Ottersbach
Bill Field Dana Murray Rob Matteri
Bryan Murray John Manos Ted Sharshan

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please contact or 1-310-305-4622 for information on how to participate.

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Reef Check California Completes Expedition Along Big Sur Coast
By Anna Neumann, Reef Check California North Coast Regional Manager

For years people have warned me of the dangers of turning my hobby into my profession. ‘You will start to hate diving’ or they say ‘you will get bored or jaded.’ I have to admit swimming through the murky green water counting fish for two days straight can be a little uninspiring and tedious, however I’ve always told myself how lucky I am to have such complaints and at least I’m not sitting in a cubical crunching numbers. Then there are the days, and dives, that really make me realize how wrong those people are; case in point, the Reef Check California expedition along the gorgeous Big Sur coast of California.

In early May, Reef Check launched a Kickstarter campaign to run an expedition up the Big Sur coast to survey 9 new sites that would start filling in data gaps between San Luis Obispo and Monterey Bay. The campaign was a huge success. The trip created a buzz among our volunteers and recreational divers alike and we had no problem filling the boat with eager divers.

On the evening of June 21st when I arrived at the Vision, docked in Morro Bay, I was full of anticipation and almost giddy with excitement. Upon boarding I realized I wasn’t the only one, smiling and equally happy faces greeted me. We set up gear and laid out sleeping bags and explored the boat which was going to be home for the next three days. We took off at roughly 2am heading to our first sites in the Big Creek reserve. After the morning briefing and a few cups of coffee we geared up and made the first splash. As we descended onto the reef, blue rockfish schooled among the giant kelp that reached to the surface making the light dance through the water column. Giant kelp and bull kelp reached to the surface with Pterygophora creating a shady understory hiding vertebrates and invertebrates of all sorts. Vermillion rockfish darted through the kelp forest while the more friendly kelp and gopher rockfish came out of the cracks to say hello. Bigger fish like lingcod and cabezon also made appearances among the smaller fish, always startling me with their large size and grumpy faces.

On the second day, we moved farther north to the Point Sur reserve and made an early morning jump into 30-45 feet of visibility and 50 degree water. Once again the early morning and cold water misery were quickly replaced by the breathtaking reef. Wolf eels relaxed in nests of red kelp while abalone hid in holes and purple hydrocoral grew along the side of a pinnacle. As a second dive that day, we hit Andrew Molera reef which has now taken the top seat of ‘best dive of my life’ from the walls in Cozumel, Mexico. With more stunning visibility, jeweled snails, eels, abalone, rockfish, and anemones galore, I did not want the dive to end.

Our third and final day was spent in the White Rocks reserve where we were brought back to the reality of diving in central California. The near 18ft of visibility felt like a slap in the face in comparison to the previous days' dives, however the vermillion rockfish nibbling on my transect tape still brought a smile to my face. I was also very excited to dive a newly re-named reef called Daddy Bob’s Reef. The previous name, Paranoids, was unfitting and just a little creepy, so the team and I decided to re-name the reef after my father who helped us raise nearly $1500 in the Kickstarter campaign.

In total, we were able to complete surveys at all 9 of the planned sites and have a little extra time for a play dive. The new site list includes Point Sur, Andrew Molera, South Wreck, Esalen, Dolan, Lopez, Daddy Bob’s, Harmony and White Rocks as well as another new site surveyed the weekend prior on the southern side of the White Rocks reserve called 12 Mile.

Thank you to everyone who helped make this trip possible!

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Reef Check Australia Celebrates Achievements with Latest Report
By Jos Hill, Founder of Reef Check Australia

My first adventure on a coral reef was on the Great Barrier Reef while I was on a gap year back in 1995. I was hooked after one dive. As a Biology undergrad student, I spent the next few years learning everything I could about coral reefs. I was surprised to learn how little we knew about the scale of the problem at that time. I wanted to do something so I searched online for a way I could help. I was thrilled to discover Reef Check in 1999 and I jumped on an opportunity to coordinate surveys in Thailand. Solutions to complex environmental problems necessitate collaboration across communities, business and government. Reef Check provides tools for people to come together around reef conservation—and it was the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life that attracted me to this work. To this day I am committed to a collaborative approach to conservation.

In 2001, I moved to Australia to pursue a masters degree at James Cook University. At that time, a small group of marine biologists and dive tourism professionals were developing a plan to engage the general public in monitoring key dive sites on the Great Barrier Reef and they asked me if I would coordinate this effort. Thrilled about this opportunity, I organized the first Reef Check surveys from a borrowed cell phone and internet cafés in Port Douglas, Queensland. Today, I am inspired to see Reef Check Australia emerge as an award-winning environmental charity that has engaged hundreds of volunteers in monitoring reefs all around Australia, as well as contributing to a range of ocean conservation initiatives.

Reef Check Australia recently published its first long-term report that summarizes a suite of achievements it has made between 2001-2014. Since 2001, the organization has trained >300 volunteers, conducted more than 600 reef surveys, and educated tens of thousands of residents about the importance of Australia's reefs. A recent paper submitted to Coral Reefs describes how Reef Check Australia’s volunteers are able to report upon changes in hard coral cover with comparable precision as scientists from the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

Despite unsettling news from AIMS that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has lost half of its coral cover in the past 30 years, Reef Check volunteers have shown us that some reef areas have increased their coral cover over the past decade. RCA’s GBR Monitoring Program focuses on dive tourism areas and highlights a sample of some of the best reefs in Queensland—those reefs that recreational divers would expect to see when they visit. RCA data show us that we should not give up hope and continue to urge the Australian Government to implement policies that protect coral reefs for future generations.

Subtropical rocky reefs in Southeast Queensland are far less known than the GBR. These reefs live in a transition zone where tropical and temperate species co-exist and support a surprising diversity of species. Yet water quality pollution and fishing pressure put this unique environment under threat. Through reef monitoring, education and local engagement, RCA has helped to put these reefs on the map and has been praised for inspiring community momentum for marine conservation in this region. Today, RCA data inform government management planning in the region.

I want to take the opportunity to thank the staff at Reef Check HQ for the support and advice over the years and commend RCA’s volunteers, staff and board for carrying on this fabulous effort.

Click here to download the full report (4.2mb).

Jos Hill founded and led Reef Check Australia between 2001-2009. She is now Associate Program Director at the Coral Reef Alliance.

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Philippines EcoExpedition Shows Progress Made in Marine Conservation
By Gregor Hodgson, Reef Check Foundation Executive Director

The Philippines Siren was our base of operations for the 2015 Central Visayas survey expedition. A team of six guests hailing from Canada, the US, UK and one WWDS Dive Instructor from Spain took part in the EcoDiver training while in the crystal clear waters of the Cebu and Negros. Stops included MoalBoal, Dauin, Apo Island, Cabilao, and Balicasag – areas where I worked as a US Peace Corps Volunteer over 35 years ago. It was inspiring to see that blast fishing has stopped in this entire area. We only heard one distant blast off Bohol the entire trip. This used to be dynamite fishing central. All the work by NGOs including Reef Check, the government Bureau of Fisheries officers, and local mayors has finally paid off. The reward is in seen in the large numbers of small fish like Anthias that are now too numerous to count. It was also encouraging to see so many local towns trying to set up and maintain their own Marine Protected Areas so that the fish have time to reproduce. Our intrepid team was able pass all their tests and to complete our surveys which will soon be added to the Reef Check global database. As usual, the entire crew and dive staff of WWDS went out of their way to support our training and in addition to covering the training costs, even made a significant donation to Reef Check. The WWDS dive guides are incredible at finding all the weird critters that photographers like to shoot. So readers, if you want to have a fun dive trip and also learn how to do a Reef Check survey, please check our list of expeditions and sign up for next year’s amazing Visayas trip at

Thanks to the great support provided by WWDS dive staff and Siren crew!

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New EcoExpedition Offered in Tobago
Submitted by the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville

The Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC), Tobago, is the center for Reef Check in Trinidad and Tobago and a not-for-profit organization committed to an integrated community and ecosystem-based management approach for Northeast Tobago. An important component of the work programme at ERIC is establishing a baseline and subsequent on going monitoring of the coral reefs of the region to facilitate effective reef management plans.

Northeast Tobago comprises a diverse range of ecosystems that in turn support a globally valuable level of biodiversity in terms of at risk and endemic species, and migratory, iconic and commercial species, including the IUCN critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the EDGE-recognized Montastraea coral. A one or two week Reef Check EcoExpedition is your opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the development of conservation management in Tobago. Working alongside the marine biologists at ERIC, you will attain your Reef Check EcoDiver certification before carrying out daily Reef Check surveys in the area as well as exploratory research dives to help build a comprehensive understanding of the status of the local reefs.

Additionally, you may have the opportunity to take part in a visit to our tropical forests and engage in marine bird monitoring at one of the largest colonies of magnificent frigatebirds in the Caribbean, as well as attending evening presentations on topics of ecological and conservation interest. As the only operator of Reef Check EcoExpeditions in Tobago we offer you a unique opportunity to visit a region that embodies and retains its traditional and pristine nature.

For more information visit or email

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Salon Season for Reef Check
Reef Check Board Members Sue Chen and Russ Lesser

By Amy Weinstein, Reef Check Foundation Director of Development

Reef Check Foundation Board Members Sue Chen, Founder and CEO of NOVA Medical Products, and Russ Lesser, President of Body Glove, and his wife, Charlotte, hosted a salon event on July 9th in support of Reef Check at Body Glove’s spectacular new headquarters in Redondo Beach, California. More than 60 guests enjoyed the great food, company and remarks from Sue, Russ and Reef Check Founder and Executive Director Gregor Hodgson.

Prior to this salon, on May 19th, Reef Check Board President Helen Brierley and her husband, Dan McGanty, hosted a salon for about 50 guests at their beautiful home overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades. Alexandra Destin Pierre, Reef Check’s Outreach Coordinator in Haiti, was a special guest and speaker at this event.

In conjunction with World Oceans Day in June, Board Member Susi McConaghy hosted a reception at the Alexis Bittar boutique in Venice, California, in which proceeds from a week's worth of sales were donated to Reef Check.

In all, the three salon events raised over $30,000 for Reef Check’s work in California, Haiti and around the world. Thank you to all who contributed!

Should you wish to host a fundraiser in your community, please contact Reef Check Director of Development, Amy Weinstein, at 310-305-4622.

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