By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
After a restful holiday break, Reef Check California is moving into its sixth year of monitoring California’s reefs. In the winter months before we start diving and surveying, we process last year’s data, review our survey protocols and make plans for the upcoming survey season. All of the data we collected over the 2010 season is now entered and ready to be viewed on our online Nearshore Ecosystem Database (NED) and we will release the new, updated database containing all five years of data this month.
With five years of survey experience and the continual refinement of our monitoring protocol, we are at a point where we can give our protocol a thorough review and update. When updating a long-term monitoring protocol it is critical that the changes are made in a way that insures that data remain compatible with data collected in the past. Therefore, protocol changes have to be carefully considered, documented and data consistency has to be insured. This winter we are tackling this task of reviewing and updating our survey protocol to make data collection more efficient while insuring that data is compatible across all years.
Once this review is completed, and to prepare for the new survey season, we will have a Reef Check California retreat on Catalina at which all staff and instructors will familiarize themselves with the protocol changes and recalibrate their survey and training methods. After this annual event, we are ready to train and recertify volunteers for this year’s season and are looking forward to an exciting and successful year of surveying. This year we are planning on growing our monitoring network as we have done every year. We will specifically focus on surveying additional sites along the north coast of the state. We will launch the field season by training new and recertifying experienced Reef Checkers as the year progresses. Our training schedule is now available at http://reefcheck.org/rcca/training_schedule.php. Please take a look and sign up if you are interested in becoming a new Reef Check volunteer or would like to refresh your skills for this year’s season.