April 29, 2009

Reef Check Heads to Vegas for Party for the Planet


Story by Reef Check Outreach Program Manager Mary Luna
Photos: Mary Luna, Ryan Hartnett

The third annual Party for the Planet took place April 18 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. This great event was organized by Adrienne Rowland and Jack Jewell from Shark Reef, and attracted people of all ages and cultural backgrounds. Conveniently located indoors, attendees escaped the mid-day heat, while lots of natural sunlight lit up the booths. Reef Check, the Las Vegas Museum of Natural History, the Nature Conservancy, Evergreen Recycling and other groups featuring information on solar energy, environmental consulting, and sustainable seafood were present; along with “Recycling Man” and the “Blue Shark.”

Throughout the day, RC staff and volunteers engaged the public in monitoring methodology. First, a transect line and underwater pictures of RC’s indicator species were laid out on the floor. People were then asked to “conduct” a survey by walking along the transect line, identifying the species, and writing them down on the slate they were carrying. Those who got all species right got a Reef Check t-shirt. Many of the kids present were attracted to this activity and enjoyed going through the species and finding out their names.

Such success may not have been possible without the participation of Benedikt Negro, Niki Konstantinou and Ryan Hartnett, who with a great sense of humor engaged the passer-bys. Benedikt, originally a mime artist in Berlin, has been performing in Cirque’s “O” Show for the past five years. Dressed in a grey suit, surf trunks and red tie, he graciously donated some of his precious time to “perform” underwater surveys at the Reef Check booth, with the help of his inseparable slippery fish, mask, snorkel and fins.

Ryan and Niki, both professional divers with Cirque’s “O” Show, shared with the public their knowledge of marine ecosystems. In addition to promoting RC in Las Vegas though different means, Niki visits local schools to speak about marine science to kids. He is an avid film maker, photographer and waterman. Ryan Hartnett has a B.A. in Film Studies from UCSB. Work in the field of Special Effects has taken him to such places as New Zealand, Morocco, and Thailand. An interest in diving led to instructing work in Mexico, Cayman Islands, and Saba, Netherland Antilles. 

Thanks to all the people that made Party for the Planet a great event; we look forward to expanding RC in Las Vegas!