The Transect Line – March/April 2015 Newsletter Archive
Help Our Kickstarter Campaign Raise Funds to Survey the Big Sur Reefs Worldwide Dive and Sail Partners with Reef Check for Philippines Expedition
Reef Check Mentor at the Girls in Ocean Science Teen Conference Explore Indonesia’s Bangka Island with Reef Check Italy
Reef Check Welcomes Two New Staff Members The Complex Interactions between Sponges and Corals – an Interesting Case from Sulawesi
Reef Check Headquarters Moves into New Office    

Help Our Kickstarter Campaign Raise Funds to Survey the Big Sur Reefs
The one hundred miles of California’s Big Sur coast is one of the most remote, unique and pristine stretches of marine ecosystem along the west coast of the United States. But the same remoteness that results in less fishing and puts it out of reach of polluting industries and human population centers, also makes it difficult for scientists to study and manage this area. In this era of global environmental stress factors like ocean acidification, rising sea temperatures and the vast reach of plastics pollution, the knowledge of what changes are occurring in these remote ecosystems is key to successful management to protect these rich habitats. Reef Check has proposed an expedition in June to conduct a marine ecosystem assessment of the reefs along this coast, with partial funding through a Kickstarter campaign. We will lead a team of volunteer citizen scientists to scuba dive and survey fish and other species using scientific protocols that are integrated with studies being carried out throughout the rest of California. The data we collect will be made available through our online Global Reef Tracker ( so that fisheries managers, researchers, and the public can view and analyze what we find.

If the expedition is fully funded, Reef Check will document it and the ecosystems we find using Google Ocean’s latest specialized underwater camera to take panoramic “underwater street view” photos, which will be uploaded to Google Maps to help raise awareness of conservation issues. A successful expedition will be the beginning of a sustained effort by Reef Check California to survey the reefs off the Big Sur coast for years to come – just as we have done successfully for 10 years in other parts of California.

To donate to the campaign, visit our Kickstarter page at:

If you are interested in joining us as an expedition participant, details can be found here:

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Reef Check Mentor at the Girls in Ocean Science Teen Conference
By Colleen Wisniewski, Southern California Regional Manager, Reef Check California Program

On Saturday March 21st, I attended the annual Girls in Ocean Science Teen Conference as an invited science mentor. The two-day event was held at the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California with the goal of introducing high school girls to women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers. Approximately 100 girls attended the conference each day and eight female mentors led them in question and answer sessions and hands-on activities in their field of expertise. Attendees came from schools throughout Southern California and the event was organized by an impressive committee of middle school and high school girls. This annual event began in 2007 as a one-day affair and has now expanded to two separate weekend-long conferences, one for middle school girls in February and one for high school girls in March.

The group split into several teams and rotated through various lab-based activities. The girls also spent either a full morning or afternoon aboard the Ocean Institute’s research vessel, the R/V Sea Explorer. Colleen and Jill Harris, a Scripps Institution of Oceanography PhD candidate, along with Ocean Institute staff, led the girls in an exploration of waters just off Dana Point. The team used an underwater camera to observe invasive seaweed inside Dana Point harbor, went out to the kelp forest and collected some samples, performed water chemistry measurements and investigated marine invertebrates like bat stars, sea cucumbers and sea urchins in touch tanks on deck. The girls also learned how to perform turbidity checks using a Secchi disk (over 20 meters of vertical visibility!) and collected a water sample at 20 meters depth. The temperature was a very balmy 60 degrees. I also had a full set of scuba and survey gear set up so the participants could see what I ‘wear to work’ each day. The ocean was alive as everyone observed a few migrating gray whales and a giant pod of dolphins. The day ended with a raffle and prizes for participants, followed by a reception with the mentors and committee members. All in all, it was such an amazing way to inspire teen girls by having them closely interact with women enjoying real careers in ocean science. And who knows, perhaps one day a few of these conference attendees (or conference organizers) will be future Reef Check volunteers or environmental leaders!

2016 conference information will be available this fall, check out for details.
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Reef Check Welcomes Two New Staff Members
Reef Check recently hired two new staff members to join our team! Amy is based out of our Los Angeles Headquarters office, while Charleen is in Orange County in Southern California.

Amy Weinstein
Director of Development, Reef Check Foundation

Amy oversees Reef Check’s gifts and membership program. Based in Los Angeles, she has directed institutional advancement programs for the University of California, Santa Barbara; the UCLA Hammer Museum; Johns Hopkins University; Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Prior to joining Reef Check, Amy was the first Director of Major and Planned Giving, California, for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Charleen Conlogue
Southern California Volunteer Coordinator, Reef Check California Program

Charleen started volunteering for Reef Check in 2012. She spent most of her childhood on the beach where her love and curiosity of the ocean and its critters continued to grow. Charleen received a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology and Zoology from Humboldt State University. While at Humboldt, Charleen became an AAUS scientific diver and after graduating, she began working for Catalina Island Marine Institute where she became a NAUI Dive Instructor.

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Reef Check Headquarters Moves into New Office
After ten years in Pacific Palisades in the historic “Thelma Todd building”, Reef Check has moved into a new office at Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey, California. This new location will allow us to expand our education offerings for Los Angeles schoolchildren as well as guests visiting the marina. An array of touch tanks and aquaria are in the works to help inspire in all a love of the ocean and its inhabitants. Please update our contact information in your address books:

13723 Fiji Way, B-2
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

Phone: 310-305-4622 or 310-305-1081
Fax: 310-305-1042

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Worldwide Dive and Sail Partners with Reef Check for Philippines Expedition
Book your spot today! Worldwide Dive and Sail (WWDS) and Reef Check will once again offer an exciting trip to the Philippines this July 18 – 24 upon the luxury liveaboard yacht, the S/Y Philippine Siren. You will visit the Visayas region, home to some of the best diving in the Philippines, with its nutrient rich water supporting a variety of ecosystems and a wide diversity of marine life. Sites range from steep coral covered walls to gentle sloping reefs and muck diving hotspots. During the tour, you will visit and dive the islands of Cebu, Cabilao, Panglao, Balicasag and Pescador, along with Apo Island marine sanctuary and critter hot spot Dauin.

Reef Check’s Executive Director, Dr. Gregor Hodgson, will be on board to certify interested divers in the Reef Check EcoDiver program, while also giving presentations on topics such as reef survey techniques and Marine Protected Areas.

For more details and to sign up, visit

Reef Check would also like to take this opportunity to thank WWDS’ Siren Foundation for their recent generous donation. Guests on the Siren boats can rent a Nautilus Lifeline, a marine rescue radio with GPS, for a token charge of 1 Euro per day, a charge that goes into the Siren Foundation and is distributed across three marine NGOs (including Reef Check) at the end of each year. We appreciate the continued support of Worldwide Dive and Sail!

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Explore Indonesia’s Bangka Island with Reef Check Italy
October 26 – November 2, 2015
7 nights

Reef Check Italy and Coral Eyes, a research outpost in Bangka, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, have teamed up again this year to offer a field course on hard coral identification and coral reef monitoring. Located in the heart of the “Coral Triangle”, this course is specifically designed to train young specialists with the right skills to promote the value of coral reefs and aims to:

– provide the basic knowledge for identification of corals and their diseases
– present an overview of the well-established coral reef monitoring approaches, including Reef Check and Coral Watch
– apply different methods underwater
– advance the monitoring of the coral reefs at the Bangka outpost

Reef Check EcoDiver certification is included as part of this course.

Click here for more information or visit (English links are at the bottom of the page)

For further details contact Reef Check Italy at

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The Complex Interactions between Sponges and Corals – an Interesting Case from Sulawesi
Chalinula nematifera over-growing encrusting corals. Note the white band at the boundary between the sponge and coral due to the probable production of allelochemical compounds.

By Gianfranco Rossi, Reef Check Italia onlus

Gianfranco Rossi sends us this summary of a paper that Reef Check Italy and colleagues recently had published in the Italian Journal of Zoology. An encrusting sponge may represent an increasing threat to corals in the Indo-Pacific.

Chalinula nematifera is a common Indo-Pacific encrusting sponge able to overgrow living corals. Distribution data of C. nematifera are fragmentary; its presence is documented as a potential threat for coral reefs in the Mexican Pacific coast (Ávila and Carballo 2009). By standardized visual surveys carried out during April 2012 along 830 nautical miles of the eastern coast of Sulawesi (Indonesia), the presence of the sponge was recorded frequently at different sites in the Strait of Lembeh, Tanjung Flesko, Pangkalsian, Karang Vesuvius, Wakatobi. C. nematifera was observed spreading out over both old dead portions of corals and over living coral colonies. Unlike along the Mexican Pacific coast, where the sponge is almost exclusively reported on the branching coral Pocillopora verrucosa (Ávila and Carballo 2009) and never on massive corals, we found C. nematifera also on: massive-encrusting corals like Mycedium elephantothus, Platygira daedalea, Echinopora sp., Favia sp., Pachyseris sp. and Goniastrea sp.; laminar like Pectinia sp.; branching like Pocillopora sp., Stylophora sp. and Seriatopora sp..

In the early-stage covering phase on live corals, a white rim is very evident at the interface with the sponge. These bands of bare coral clearly suggest the production of allelochemicals able to kill the coral tissue. The slimy mucus produced by the sponge could be involved in this kind of competitive interaction.

The sponge growth evaluated on Acropora branches is fast, about 60 mm per month. These rates are higher than those observed in other sponge species. While this common species is found throughout the Indo-Pacific, its role on coral reefs has not been well studied. Our data suggest C. nematifera may represent a spreading threat to be carefully monitored in the future, to better understand its baseline distribution, growth dynamics, and recruitment in Indo-Pacific coral reef ecosystems.

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