By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
It is almost the field season again at Reef Check California! Over the winter we compiled all our data and this month we will release our newest database containing 5 years of monitoring data covering the entire state. We have come a long way since RCCA’s first field season in 2006. Over the five years we have conducted over 300 surveys from 78 sites ranging from San Diego to Humboldt County and have trained 700+ citizen scientists. With the new data release the results of all this work, which could not have been possible without the enormous efforts by our volunteers, will be publicly available and ready to be used by stakeholders, marine managers and policy makers and the general public to inform the management of California’s marine resources. Go to our Nearshore Ecosystem Database (NED) at http://ned.reefcheck.org to sign up and download it, or to take a look at our graphical display of 5 years of data.
Last year we added four sites to our monitoring network. We were also able to survey several sites in northern California that we had not gotten to in several years, for example, our site at Sea Lion Rock north of Point Arena. In addition to these sites we surveyed 34 new sites in collaboration with the PISCO research group from UC Santa Cruz for abalone and sea urchin densities and size frequencies, as part of our work on the baseline monitoring project for the new Marine Protected Areas along the North Central Coast region of the MLPA initiative. We hope that many of you will take a look at the data, use it and get inspired to collect more data this upcoming year!
Personally, I have been with Reef Check for one year now and I am still always amazed by the commitment and enthusiasm of all of our volunteers. I am looking forward to another successful training and survey season this year, and can’t wait to see all of the familiar faces out on the water again at the recertifications and surveys or, if you are new to Reef Check, at one of our trainings. Our training and recertification schedules are posted at http://reefcheck.org/rcca/training_schedule.php and surveys are posted on our discussion forum. There are several new training locations this year. We will have trainings in Fort Bragg, Mendocino County and one in San Luis Obispo – both regions of the state where we would like to engage more divers and continue to grow our program. Please take a look at the schedule and sign up if you are interested in surveying this year.