The Transect Line – September 2009
  Newsletter Highlights
Reef Check to Re-Launch “Artists For Reefs” Gallery Banner Year For Reef Check Italia
Reef Check California Update Sea|mester Teams Unite in Malaysia for Surveys
St Maarten Hosts Reef Check EcoDiver Training Space Limited for Baja EcoDiving Trip!
Calling All Artists! Reef Check to Re-Launch “Artists For Reefs” Gallery

This fall, Reef Check (RC) is partnering with artists to re-launch the online gallery “Artists for Reefs.” The gallery was first launched by the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) in 2008, as part of the International Year of the Reef campaign. RC agreed to take over the gallery once IYOR was over. The main goals then, as now, are to promote appreciation for the beauty and importance of marine environments among the general public, and to raise funds for reef conservation projects.

The gallery will include one-of-a-kind, and limited-edition art pieces featuring a variety of marine themes. Through it, marine conservation supporters will be able to support RC international programs by purchasing amazing sculptures, paintings, prints, photographs, posters and other uniquely marine works of art. In addition, they will support the work of talented artists around the world who are active in protecting one of their great sources of inspiration.

If you are an artist interested in becoming involved please contact us at

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

We are in the final push of the survey season and so far the ocean has been kind. To date we have completed 50 surveys and are on target to complete over 60 sites statewide this year. Southern California has made a big push over the last week completing 6 surveys in 7 days. This was facilitated through our partnership with the Department of Fish and Game, and their commitment to let us use their vessel the Garabaldi. Since Reef Check California (RCCA) has also partnered with the University of California at Santa Barbara and the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, we have been able to train divers in RCCA Methods who are also certified American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS) Scientific Divers. The AAUS certification is required to dive off any state and federal vessel, and these partnerships have been important to allow the continued expansion of our monitoring network to include sites on the Channel Islands, which are difficult to reach in one-day charter boat trips. We also completed our Pt. Lobos State Marine Reserve surveys this month on the central coast, which included one site located in the no-dive area of the Reserve that was made possible through our partnership with California State Parks. We are committed to continuing to support our partners and to publicize their support of the RCCA program. You can see photos of many of the recent surveys at

Another highlight of the past month is the filming of a documentary episode starring our very own Southern California Regional Manager Colleen Wisniewski. The new series is called “SciGirls” and is focused on getting girls involved in scientific research. The location for the shoot was at Catalina Island Marine Institute at Toyon Bay (CIMI), one of our partners. CIMI hosted the film crew, as well as Colleen and the girls that were part of the episode. The girls and Colleen spent 3 days diving on the island and collecting data inside and outside a marine reserve. We developed a modified protocol to allow the girls to collect data while snorkeling from the surface for the episode. Reef Check California, CIMI, and our Nearshore Ecosystem Database will all be featured prominently in the episode airing early next year. We will post a link to the episode as soon as it's available.

If you want the inside scoop on what is happening with RCCA you can follow me on Twitter. I will continue “tweeting” throughout the season to keep everyone updated on the RCCA program and my exploits as RCCA’s Director of Science. All relevant updates will also be posted on the Forum including daily blogs when I am on the road spreading the word about Reef Check.

We continue to be on the front lines of improving marine management in California and we 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 and help ensure the sustainability of reefs worldwide!

Reef Check Teams in Action
St Maarten Hosts Reef Check EcoDiver Training
By Reef Check Curacao Coordinator Paul Hoetjes

Earlier this month, Reef Check (RC) Executive Director, Dr. Gregor Hodgson visited St. Maarten to train people to become certified Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers. This training was organized by the St. Maarten Nature Foundation, the dive shop Ocean Explorers, and the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA); with funding from the Caribbean Marine Protected Area Managers (CaMPAM) network. Participants included the rangers from the Nature Foundation, Ocean Explorers staff, Bonaire’s National Marine Park Manager Ramon de Leon, ranger Joi Jenkins, Reef Care Curacao volunteer Marjo van den Bulck, and Paul Hoetjes of the central government department of Environment and Nature (MINA), and coordinator of the Netherlands Antilles Coral Reef Initiative (NACRI). The workshop also discussed the most appropriate reef sites for a regular monitoring program in St. Maarten.

The RC training was a follow up to a CaMPAM “train the trainer” workshop. These CaMPAM workshops are part of the work program of the SPAW (Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife) Protocol of the Cartagena Convention, which aims at protecting and developing the marine environment of the Wider Caribbean Region. Participants in the CaMPAM workshops commit to subsequently organize trainings on their islands. In the case of St. Maarten, the workshop served to train the Nature Foundation’s marine park rangers in the RC methodology. Within the Netherlands Antilles the coral reef monitoring data are collected through NACRI, and a summary is included in the “Status of Coral Reefs of the World,” which is published every two years by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

DCNA facilitated the participation of people from the other islands in this RC training in an effort to help build capacity for protected area management on all Dutch Caribbean islands. As a result of this training St. Maarten, Bonaire, and Curacao now have certified Reef Check EcoDiver Trainers. St. Eustatius and Saba already have similarly certified marine park managers. With the help of these trainers, volunteers on each of the islands can be trained as EcoDivers to carry out regular RC monitoring. On St. Maarten a number of volunteers were trained in the RC method some years past. It is hoped that this group can be reactivated to help conduct a Reef Check monitoring program on St. Maarten.

Banner Year For Reef Check Italia
By Reef Check Italia Coordinator Carlo Cerrano

2009 has been an excellent year for Reef Check Italia (RCI)! Following last year’s launch of the EcoDiver MAC (Coastal Environment Monitoring) program for the Mediterranean Sea, 35 divers have now been certified as EcoDivers. The program consists of four different modules – visual census, sea water temperature monitoring, fixed stations that are devoted to divers, and beach monitoring for kids education. Of significant achievement, two Marine Protected Areas – one in the wonderful sea of Sardinia (Tavolara) and the other in Porto Cesareo on the coast of Salento (Puglia) – have adopted the RCI protocol to monitor their areas. In addition, RCI is now officially recognized as a non-profit organization.

Currently we are working on an English version of the EcoDiver MAC Program; a video of the project is already available on our website.

In 2010, we look to widen our partnership with other MPAs to involve them in monitoring using the RCI protocol. Reef Check Italia is also incorporating the standard tropical Reef Check EcoDiver program, which will target Italians spending their holidays in the tropics. A 2010 trip to monitor the Red Sea is being planned.

For more information, please visit

Sea|mester Teams Unite in Malaysia for Tioman Surveys
By Sea|mester's Jessica Fry

Sea|mester delivers unique educational journeys where students spend their entire semester at sea, sailing between islands, countries and even continents. They have been Reef Check partners since 2005.

On August 11th, the crew of S/Y Argo teamed up with the Blue Ventures Malaysia Expedition team to conduct Reef Check (RC) surveys around Pulau Tioman, Malaysia. The Sea|mester crew had joined S/Y Argo in Jomtien Beach, Thailand about 1 month earlier for a 1,200nm adventure south to Singapore.  The Blue Ventures Malaysia volunteers had been working hard to monitor and survey the reefs around Tioman, and contributing to local community and education projects.

At the beginning of the voyage, the Sea|mester students worked on mastering the skills of scuba diving. As we headed south everyone began developing their fish and invertebrate identification skills alongside learning to sail and taking classes in Oceanography. Our diving in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea focused on preparing for RC surveys and the culmination of the Oceanography course was the RC surveys planned for Tioman. 

Upon arrival in Tioman, both teams welcomed the new faces and were keen to see “the other side” of two different expeditions. We spent the first day training; above and below the water. Blue Ventures Malaysia volunteers buddied up with the Sea|mester crew to teach them some local knowledge of the marine life. We dove a beautiful site called Renggis, just east of Tekek Village. Here we were greeted with our first sea turtle sighting of the trip – although he was too busy eating to notice us! In the afternoon we dove the house reef, just offshore from the Blue Ventures Base and the Tioman Dive Centre. Here we completed a practice survey to be sure we were all set on procedures for the following day.

The next day all teams assembled at Labas ready to begin their surveys. Our original plan was to dive Sepoi, but this was called off due to a jellyfish invasion! Labas is a great site, with many rocky swim-throughs, caves, and nudibranchs on the rocks. After lunch we headed to Batu Malang to carry out our second survey. Again more beautiful nudibranchs, blue spotted ribbon-tail rays, and clownfish filled our views. The reefs of Tioman are beautiful with so much coral cover that, in some places, I struggled to find a rock to tie the transect line onto.

In the evening back on the beach we entered our data and enjoyed a social evening together; we had done our part to contribute to the Reef Check Surveys. The following day we explored the interior of Tioman; it is a beautiful island. The lush rainforest is home to many animals, but among the highlights seen on our hike to Juara were the Kecka monkeys, snakes and giant squirrels.

Mark Your Calendars
EcoDiving Trip 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)
Price: $1950 USD

Take your diving to the next level during this cross-cultural trip! 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.

Superb diving abounds in the lush kelp forests around the island. You can join this trip of a lifetime as a trained Reef Check California Diver or a guest and take in some of the many exciting species at sea and ashore, including rays, lobster, abalone, 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 or visit