The Transect Line – May/June 2014 Newsletter Archive
Red Sea Environmental Centre Completes 12th Series of Reef Check Monitoring Reef Check California Launches Speakers Bureau and New Video
New CA North Coast Regional Manager Joins Staff RC Australia Volunteers Monitor 24,000m2 of the Great Barrier Reef Over Three Years
Join Us at Our Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala Living Life on the Edge: Richard W. Grigg (1937-2014)

Red Sea Environmental Centre Completes 12th Series of Reef Check Monitoring

By Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer Nina Milton

From March to April 2014, the Red Sea Environmental Centre in Dahab carried out the 12th Reef Check survey series since 2006. A total of ten sites were surveyed at two depths, 5 and 10 meters (2 sites only at 10m).

The first week was spent on Reef Check presentations, underwater identification, and buoyancy control. The newly acquired knowledge was then tested on land and underwater.

Even before we could begin with the first survey dives, heavy rainfall hit the region, which occurs only every 2 to 3 years in the area. Due to the heavy rainfall and following floods, some sites had a high percentage of silt. Fortunately, most dive sites were not affected because they are not adjacent to the desert valleys (wadis) where the floods entered the sea.

Our team, all now newly certified Reef Check EcoDivers, was made up of four German students in biology, environmental science and aquatic tropical ecology, two experienced dive instructors from Egypt and Austria, and a freshly educated doctor of science (this year's winner of the Reef Check Germany Award). Joining our team was also a veteran Reef Checker from France who has participated in several Reef Check surveys worldwide.

Currently, the team is working on analysis of all the data recorded since 2006. At first glance, there appear to be no major changes. Hard Coral cover is relatively stable over the years at most sites with up to 45% cover at some sites. Nutrient Indicator Algae has increased slightly at some locations over the last couple of years. The fish surveys show that Grouper have declined in abundance since 2006 with small individuals (30 – 40 cm) as the most common size class. Most grouper are immature and cannot reproduce until they reach about 50cm in length. Other fish species targeted for food, such as snappers and sweetlips, showed low abundance throughout all years. Butterflyfish were the most common indicator fish, despite a decrease since 2006. The second most abundant fish group were Parrotfish. Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in Giant Clams of the smallest size classes. The local Bedouin free dive to collect large clams for food. Lobsters have not been recorded once since 2006. Some sites appear to be affected by the increase in tourism with damaged corals, mostly at sites used by novice divers and very popular dive sites, however, most reefs surveyed were characterized by relatively stable substrate cover. Given the general decline in coral reefs in places such as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, this is really good news.

Thank you to the team for lots of fun, enthusiasm, and the good work you all put in. Thanks to Sinai Divers for the great support over the years.

For more information on how you can get involved, contact Nina Milton at nina.milton(at)

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New California North Coast Regional Manager Joins Staff
By Anna Neumann, Reef Check California North Coast Manager

My name is Anna Neumann and I have been given the amazing opportunity to be the new North Coast Regional Manager for Reef Check California. I grew up playing in the waves in central California and have always had a deep passion for the ocean. I was able to intertwine my love and fascination for the water and my education by receiving my Bachelors of Science in Oceanography with an emphasis in Scientific Diving from Humboldt State University in 2013. I first started diving with Reef Check through the Humboldt State Scientific Diving program and was delighted to be able to count exactly how many sea stars or abalone I saw on every dive. Upon graduating from Humboldt State I moved to Playa del Carmen, Mexico and became a PADI Open Water Instructor. After nearly a year of teaching, diving and living in Mexico I traded in my 3mm wetsuit for a 10mm and moved back to California to work with Reef Check.

Ocean conservation has always been a passion of mine and I am excited to be a part of a program that is working to collect data that informs marine management and conservation by involving the public in the scientific process. I am stoked to be back diving such a remote coastline and monitoring the north coast marine protected areas (MPAs).

As part of being the North Coast Regional Manager, I plan to increase the number of survey sites as well as our network of volunteers in this region. In December 2012 about 13 percent of the northern California coastline was designated as MPAs covering 137 square miles. Currently, Reef Check surveys three sites in Mendocino County. As part of the MPA baseline monitoring program, Reef Check is planning to monitor an additional 8 sites inside and outside of these MPAs. This will allow us to characterize the ecosystem and compare the data from reefs that are protected to those which are not. Two of the new sites, Big Flat and Shelter Cove, will be in Humboldt County while the remaining sites – Westport, Pacific Star, North Casper Cove, South Casper Cove, Pt Cabrillo and Russian Gulch – are in Mendocino County. One site I am particularly excited about is Casper Cove; the southern side of the cove is closed to urchin fishing while the northern side remains open. We plan to survey both sides of the cove and hopefully obtain interesting information on the effects of urchins on the ecosystem.

I am excited to move forward on this project and meet all of the amazing Reef Check volunteers along the way. If you have any questions about surveying or diving along the north coast, please feel free to contact me via email or follow this link to our north coast survey schedule.

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Join Us at Our Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala
2014 Honorees: Julie Packard, Ed Begley Jr., and David Horwich

Please join the Reef Check Foundation on Thursday, October 2nd to celebrate the reefs and oceans! Reef Check's 2014 Save the Reefs, Save the Oceans Gala will be on the beach at the Jonathan Beach Club in Santa Monica. The evening will feature amazing music by Maria de la Vega and the Wayward Five, unique auction items, delicious food, and a chance to meet our amazing honorees and some of the thousands of volunteer Reef Check EcoDivers who monitor Californian 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 Julie Packard, marine biologist and Executive Director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Through her work at the aquarium, the Pew Oceans Commission, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and through service on numerous boards, Julie has dedicated her life to marine conservation and the promotion of sound environmental policy. Ed Begley Jr., actor, director and environmentalist, will be honored for his dedication to and passion for the ocean and environmental concerns. Ed has long been considered a leader in the area of reducing our carbon footprint. Volunteer diver David Horwich will receive the Citizen Scientist of the Year Award for his participation in the Reef Check California program since 2007.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit

Sponsorship opportunities are available. We are also looking for donated items for our auction. Please contact or 1-310-230-2371 for information on how to participate.

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Reef Check California Launches Speakers Bureau and New Video
By Anna Neumann, Reef Check California North Coast Manager

Though Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) dot the entire California coastline now, few people outside of ocean users and advocates know about them. Reef Check has been monitoring many of these areas and believes that it is essential to broaden the public’s knowledge about California’s MPAs. To this end we created a Speakers Bureau and produced a video with the goal to increase awareness about MPAs, the importance of ecosystem monitoring and to highlight a way in which the public can get involved here in California. This spring, we trained groups of Reef Check volunteers in Los Angeles and Monterey as speakers and now have a network of presenters ready to spread the word about California’s MPA network and how we monitor their condition. If you are interested in having one of our speakers give a presentation, please contact

Three RC volunteers, Kim Glenn, Camilla Hall, and Michelle Hoalton, are featured in the video discussing what it means to be a Reef Check diver and a citizen scientist. Throughout the dialogue in both the video and the Speakers Bureau presentations, audiences learn about Reef Check, the training involved in becoming a Reef Check citizen scientist, and what a survey involves. Kim, Camilla and Michelle share their motivations for becoming a Reef Check diver and what brings them back to the program every year. While Camilla and Kim speak about the friends they have made and continue to dive with outside of Reef Check, the video sums it up nicely:

“Reef Check volunteers are more than just a data counter. They really learn a lot about the marine environment and become a part of the community that cares about the ocean and does something about it. One volunteer can make a huge difference, all the data is going to be used by the state to look at the ocean and the health of our reefs.”

The video was released on May 29th on YouTube. Check out the video and share it with family and friends.

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Reef Check Australia Volunteers Monitor 24,000m2 of the Great Barrier Reef Over Three Years
Reef Check Australia (RCA) has released three reports on surveys conducted in recent years. This work was made possible by a dedicated group of field and office volunteers, industry supporters, funders and advisors. Find out more about your favorite Australia reef spot in these hot-off-the-press reports:

2011-2013 Great Barrier Reef Summary Report
2013 South East Queensland Season Summary Report
2013 Heron Island Summary Report

Click here to visit the RCA website to download the reports.

Last month RCA launched a series of regional posters to highlight key findings. Click the See More button below to see them all.

RCA kicked off their 2014 Great Barrier Reef survey season in May with a survey at Middle Reef. Find out how to get involved at

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Living Life on the Edge: Richard W. Grigg (1937-2014)
Oceanographer, Ecologist and Big Wave Surfer
Gregor (center) with Ricky and Maria Grigg, April 2011

By Gregor Hodgson, Reef Check Foundation Executive Director

On May 22, the world lost one of the most charismatic and hard charging individuals I have ever met. Ricky was my mentor during my PhD studies at the University of Hawaii and became a lifelong friend. Ricky Grigg grew up near the beach in Santa Monica, a part of Los Angeles, California. There he learned to swim, surf, and free dive to collect sand dollars and catch lobster, which he sold to tourists. His surfing instructor was Buzzy Trent a lifeguard, boxer and one of the top surfers of the 1940s. They surfed a 10’ 6” (3.2 m) board made from wood and Styrofoam with no wetsuit because they had not been invented yet. At 16, using his savings from shining shoes, he first flew to Hawaii for the summer to surf. Two years later, in 1955, Ricky, now a lifeguard, won the first paddle-board race from Catalina Island to Manhattan Beach, California, a distance of 32.5 miles (52 km). To practice, he paddled 10 miles daily along the coast for three months from the Santa Monica pier to Topanga Pt. (near the present offices of Reef Check).

Although millions of people surf, only a tiny fraction can surf big waves. By 1958, Ricky joined a group of pioneering California surfers who the year before, were the first to surf truly giant (>10 m face) waves at Waimea Bay on the north shore of Oahu. Ricky became one of the best big wave surfers in the world and won the prestigious Duke Kahanamoku contest in 1967. After completing his undergraduate studies in biology at Stanford (1958), endorsements, commercials and surf films such as Surfari (1967) helped Rick pay for his Masters at University of Hawaii (1964) along with his PhD at Scripps (1970).

Rick sailed to Tahiti in 1959, where he learned to free dive to 30 m for pearls. The fact that he was able to hold his breath for 3 minutes really helped on his dives. He started to wonder about the sustainability of the fishery. After returning to Hawaii, Rick studied the ecology, life history and physiology of black coral. This information was used to help create the first management plan in the world for a coral fishery. Later, Rick was involved in advising on how to manage the precious coral fisheries in several countries. After joining the faculty of the oceanography department at University of Hawaii, Rick began a research program on deep sea precious corals that ultimately led to the discovery of 93 species, of which 12 were new species and 24 were new records for Hawaii. One species of black coral was renamed in his honor — Antipathes griggi Opresko, 2009.

In 1993, a coral reef geologist at University of Miami, Robert “Bob” Ginsburg, invited about 250 coral reef scientists to a meeting in Miami in an effort to determine the status of the world’s coral reefs. At that time, there was a big debate with some arguing that coral reefs were in trouble. It was obvious to everyone by the end of the first day that it would be impossible to answer the original question. No one was systematically monitoring reefs globally. During the evening sessions a number of scientists (including Roger Griffis, Clive Wilkinson, Jeremy Jackson, John Ogden, Rick and I) got together and agreed with Bob’s suggestion that we should declare a Year of the Reef to promote more coral reef science and publicize the issues. Ultimately, the first International Year of the Reef was held in 1997. Several other major initiatives were spawned including Bob pushing me to design a global monitoring program, which I named Reef Check, and our partner the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network organized by Clive. Rick was one of the key Advisory Board members who helped me to refine the Reef Check monitoring protocol that we now use in over 90 countries/territories around the world (and that was the model for the California version).

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