The Transect Line – November/December 2015 Newsletter Archive
Happy Holidays from Reef Check, Thank You for a Wonderful Year! Join Our Team – Become a Reef Check California Citizen Scientist
Invasive Seaweed Sargassum horneri Spreading in Southern California Upcoming Reef Check EcoExpeditions

Happy Holidays from Reef Check, Thank You for a Wonderful Year!
Dear Reef Check Supporter,

Coral reefs and California rocky reef ecosystems are underwater, so don't get the same attention as polar bears or elephants. Sadly reefs are “out-of-sight out-of-mind” for most people. So we need to work extra hard to raise awareness about the issues facing reefs and the solutions we are implementing. Therefore, your continued support for Reef Check is so important.

With your support this year we have moved to a new Marina del Rey office with classroom space for touch tanks for kids education programs. We also launched the redesigned Reef Check website. We continue to carry out training programs, surveys, outreach and conservation activities in California and around the world. Special highlights of 2015 include:

Tropical Program Successes:

  • Carried out training and survey expeditions in Indonesia, Maldives, Oman, Philippines and re-launched RC French Polynesia;
  • Worked with both the United Nations Development Programme and the UN Environment Programme to raise funds from the Global Environmental Facility to design and implement the first six Marine Protected Areas in Haiti. This includes the “best coral reef in Haiti” that we discovered in 2014.
  • Co-wrote a “Consensus Statement on Climate Change” for International Society for Reef Studies then helped to distribute this to key negotiators at the COP21 climate talks and achieve lowered emission targets;
  • Prepared and started to implement an “Emergency Response Plan” for the on-going Global Coral Bleaching Event. Set up and chaired a new Coral Reef Coalition with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington DC to address the biodiversity disaster caused by bleaching.
  • Worked with RC Australia to produce their 15-year report on reefs of E Australia.

California Program Successes:

  • Completed 17 public, university and aquarium training programs with 162 new EcoDivers trained (an increase of 50 over 2014) and two in Baja, Mexico.
  • Completed 90 surveys (up from 75 last year) including 17 new sites.
  • Funded Big Sur and Channel Islands surveys through Kickstarter.
  • Surveyed Magdalena Bay in Baja California, a former Marine Protected Area.
  • Published scientific analyses in respected journals Ecology and BioInvasion Records and co-wrote a report on the status of rocky reef ecosystems in Southern California.
  • Working with TNC to design an abalone Fisheries Management Plan for Northern California.
  • Designed classroom and on-board ocean education programs for Southern California in collaboration with AltaSea and Tall Ships.

Our Goals for 2016 are to:

  • Provide incentive funds for tropical small island teams to track the global bleaching event so that managers are not “flying blind.”
  • Add a tracking function to better track the success or failure of conservation activities on our “Global Reef Tracker” database.
  • Assist the government of Haiti, United Nations Environment and UN Development Programmes to design and implement the new Marine Managed Areas in Haiti.
  • Add more volunteers and sites in California and internationally to fill in gaps.
  • Develop abalone rehab program in Southern California.
  • Expand our grades 4 -12 student education program in California.

With your help, we can continue the world’s only truly global reef monitoring program. Please make your tax deductible contribution to help save reefs at:

Thank you. Have a wonderful holiday and fantastic 2016!

Yours truly,

Gregor Hodgson, PhD
Executive Director

Invasive Seaweed Sargassum horneri Spreading in Southern California
Reef Check divers recording the presence of S. horneri at Catalina Island in the spring of 2015

By Charleen Conlogue, Reef Check California Southern California Volunteer Coordinator

A recent scientific paper in the Journal ‘BioInvasion Records’ documented the rapid increase and spread of an invasive alga named Sargassum horneri along the coast of Southern California and down into Baja California, Mexico. The seaweed, which is native to the west coast of Japan and South Korea, was first detected in Southern California in 2003 when it was spotted near Long Beach. Reef Check has been tracking this species since 2006 and the data collected by our citizen scientists was used as the basis for this publication. The paper states: “The geographic expansion of S. horneri is characterized by isolated introductions to new islands and locations on the mainland widely separated from existing populations, followed by the steady colonization of surrounding areas.” According to co-author Dr. Jan Freiwald, who is also the Director of Reef Check's California Program, Reef Check’s consistent monitoring of the kelp forest ecosystems throughout Southern California allowed us to track changes in the S. horneri distribution.

The rapid spread of S. horneri is affected by both natural dispersal and humans moving individuals unintentionally. For example, divers or boats dislodging algae or fouling of vessels might transport algae to new locations. Based on the water temperature that S. horneri typically prefers, researchers predict further spread of S. horneri along the Baja coast, and if the ocean warms in the future, it may cause S. horneri to continue expanding northward along the California coast.

In response to the rapid spread of this invasive algae, Reef Check California recently revised its monitoring protocol so that our citizen scientists are not only recording the presence or absence of this species at our monitoring sites, but also quantifying the amount of S. horneri found at each site. With 90 monitoring sites statewide and three monitoring regions in Baja, Reef Check California will continue to look for this invasive species and report on its spread. Reef Check’s observations of S. horneri can be found on our online database – the Global Reef Tracker.

Citation: Marks, L. M., et al. (2015). Range expansion of a non-native, invasive macroalga Sargassum horneri (Turner) C. Agardh, 1820 in the eastern Pacific. BioInvasions Records, 4(4), 243-248.

Join Our Team – Become a Reef Check California Citizen Scientist
Interested in joining the Reef Check California team? Our 2016 training season is open for registration, providing 8 opportunities across the state to get involved in our rocky reef monitoring program.

Each training is held over two weekends (click here for a course outline) and includes classroom and pool sessions, along with a field weekend comprised of an overnight boat trip, day boats or shore dives depending on the training location.

Ft. Bragg– April 9-10, 2016 [class/pool] & April 23-24, 2016 [field]
San Francisco– June 11-12, 2016 [class/pool] & June 25-26, 2016 [field]
Monterey– May 21-22, 2016 [class/pool] & June 4-5, 2016 [field]
Sonoma– TBD
San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara– April 30 and May 1, 2016 [class/pool] & May 14-15, 2016 [field]
Los Angeles/Ventura– April 30 and May 1, 2016 [class/pool] & May 14-15, 2016 [field]
Orange County– June 11-12, 2016 [class/pool] & June 25-26, 2016 [field]
San Diego– July 16-17, 2016 [class/pool] & July 23-24, 2016 [field]

For a list of course prerequisites, and to sign up, visit our registration page at

If you are already a trained Reef Checker, please sign up for one of our recertification classes to be ready for our survey season.

Upcoming Reef Check EcoExpeditions

Reef Check Tobago EcoExpedition
Trinidad & Tobago
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, migratory, iconic and commercial species, including the IUCN critically endangered hawksbill turtle and the EDGE-recognised Orbicella 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. For more information, visit

Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Maldives
July 9 – 15, 2016
(only $2490)
This SCUBA diving voluntourism expedition will take you to the beautiful 26 coral atolls that make up the Republic of Maldives. There you will help marine biologists study and protect its spectacular coral reefs and resident whale shark population. All this because the Maldives government identified a need for further research and monitoring work as far back as 1997. Biosphere Expeditions is addressing this need with your help and will train you as a Reef Check EcoDiver. With this qualification you will then gather important reef and whale shark data. This year you will document bleaching.

For more information about the Maldives EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:

Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Malaysia
August 16 – 23, 2016

This SCUBA diving expedition will take you to Tioman, the Malaysian island named by Time Magazine as one of the world's most beautiful. Working in a small group of fellow divers, and based on a very comfortable and modern liveaboard yacht, you will assist the local researcher to study and protect the local Marine Park's beautiful but fragile coral reefs. Diving two to four times a day, the expedition includes training as a Reef Check EcoDiver. Please note that you need to be a fully qualified diver to take part in this expedition (minimum PADI Open Water or equivalent).

For more information about the Malaysia EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:

Reef Check/Biosphere Expeditions EcoExpedition: Musandam, Oman
October 23 – 29, 2016

This SCUBA diving citizen science expedition will take you to the United Arab Emirates and from there to the remote and mountainous Musandam peninsula of Oman. There you will study the diverse coral reefs fringing the areas where the mountains plunge into the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The reefs boast a rich mixture of beautiful corals and a multitude of fish and other animals. This pioneering study to map this unique underwater environment has already led to the creation of two protected areas. More data on the biological status of the reefs and of population levels of key indicator species are needed for educational purposes and to be able to put forward more ideas for more and larger marine protection areas. Data collection using Reef Check methods will also be used to make informed management and conservation decisions within the area. The expedition includes training as a Reef Check EcoDiver.

For more information about the Oman EcoExpedition and how to sign up, please visit:

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Reef Check, 13723 Fiji Way, Ste B2, Marina del Rey, CA 90292 USA