By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
We are almost at the end of another successful survey season in California. This month we will complete our sixth year of surveys and will have expanded our monitoring network to over 80 sites statewide. In October, we completed our sites in Central California where we did 22 surveys and monitored every established site and added a site in San Luis Obispo. This remarkable task was only possible due to our committed team of volunteers in this region, including the long-time volunteers that have taken leadership and surveyed all of our shore-based sites in Monterey without the need for RCCA staff to be present at the surveys. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our volunteer leaders for this amazing feat! With their initiative we will be able to grow the program in the years to come.
This year also marks a remarkable success in volunteer retention for RCCA. For the first time, we have recertified more previously trained citizen scientists than trained new ones this year. This demonstrates how our body of volunteers is maturing and how more and more divers stay involved over the years. For a program such as RCCA that requires intensive training, it is of critical importance to retain skilled volunteers. Long-term involvement will not only lead to a more cohesive team that will get more surveys done but will also increase the quality of the data we collect (see article on recent paper about RCCA data). I would like to thank all of our volunteers for the commitment and hard work. Just in the last few weeks we have joined forces with two more academic diving programs in the central California region. The University of California Santa Cruz and California State University Monterey Bay will start to train their scientific divers in RCCA survey methods and we would like to welcome these programs into our network of partners and collaborators.
In southern California, RCCA’s survey season is still in full swing. Here we typically survey into the month of November and this year is no exception. We still have teams of volunteers and staff surveying the Channel Islands and mainland sites in this region. Through the MPA baseline monitoring program we have added additional sites in the San Diego region and around Santa Barbara and are planning on completing all of this year’s surveys before Thanksgiving. With the season soon coming to a close we also have to report that our long-time Volunteer Coordinator, Laurel Fink, is leaving Reef Check this month. Laurel will stay involved in the subtidal monitoring in southern California as she is moving on to a new position with one of our collaborators in the MPA baseline monitoring in southern California. We would like to thank Laurel for everything she has done and for helping to grow and solidify the program in southern California. We wish her all the best for her new position and look forward to collaborating with her on the monitoring of southern California’s MPAs in the future.