Noah, Michael D POJ Michael.D.Noah at
Wed Feb 21 22:34:47 EST 2001


An outstanding response, and what a great idea.  Volunteer efforts like those of
REEF and ReefCheck are usually highly effective vehicles for getting good
science conducted, since they're not encumbered with having to pay for the hired
labor.  And you're absolutely right, the data collection element is the most
time and cost consuming part of the entire process; that you think you might be
able to simply redirect the team to the proposed project site for one or two
trips shows great flexibility, not to mention the fact that the volunteer's
participation in documenting an imminent impact to a reef system in order to
preserve other reef systems may provide considerable additional motivation to
some of the field crews - their data will be discussed and used almost

One comment that I do have is that surveying fish communities alone in an
attempt to evaluate the potential anthropogenic impacts that may have accrued to
their habitat from a project of this type can often be problematic, primarily
due to the number of other environmental factors (or stressors) that may be
simultaneously at play in driving the structure of the resultant fish community
present on any given reef system over time scales being investigated.  Even the
natural variance in the fish data that can be generated from observer to
observer or from site to site, much less the variance from season to season or
year to year, can often completely mask the "impact" that may be attributable to
the phenomenon that is under investigation - in this case, dredging and pier
construction.  Of course, if there is no reef where once there was, it doesn't
take a statistical test to ascertain there's been an impact.  Don't
misunderstand, he fish community data is absolutely important, particularly
since the presence or absence of many preferred fish species are often the
"litmus test" that the public and regulatory community uses to ultimately
evaluate habitat quality.  Unfortunately, the long-term, more subtle impacts of
a dredging and/or pier project to the underlying fish communities may not be
statistically evident for many years after the project has been completed - and
even then there have likely been so many other potential stressors at play in
the intervening period that one may have a very difficult time pointing a
defensible finger at the culprit (sea water temperature fluctuations, other
construction activities, non-point source pollution from urban runoff, etc.).

I guess what I'm gettin' at is, you may want to see if you can expand your
volunteer's capabilities by incorporating some habitat variables into the
surveys as well, such as the percent cover of live and dead corals, inventory of
hard coral species present, maybe even a feeling for the benthic soft bottom
community that exists in the sandy interstitial areas between the reefs as well,
and even a quick mapping of the existing reef system.  I'd also push for the
inclusion of data from adjacent reefs that may seem to be outside of the zone of
impact.  These latter reef systems may be able to act as temporal "controls,"
since they'll likely be subjected to all of the same environmental variables
that the reef system being impacted is going to be subjected to, before, during
and after construction, with the maybe the single exception of the impacts that
would be associated with construction.  That would help lead one to surmise that
the differences are indeed likely to be project-related.

Also, one recipient that you left off your reply was the Coral-List group at
coral-list at, I'm sure that many of them would be happy to
both hear your "offer," and many of them may even be willing to join in, given a
bit of encouragement, direction and logistical support (e.g., dates, times,
where to meet, places to shack up, etc.).

(stomp, stomp, stomp... the sounds of one walking down off of the soapbox)


-----Original Message-----
From: Leslie [mailto:leslie at]
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2001 2:55 AM
To: sre at; dallison at;
michael.d.noah at; caribwa at; lad at;
christy at; julie at
Subject: REEF

Hello all,

I was forwarded your emails regarding the pier construction in St.
Vincent.  I wanted to address the possiblity of collecting data from the
proposed dredging and construction sites.

Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) is a nonprofit 501(3)(c)
organization based in Key Largo, FL.  Each year REEF staff led numerous
Field Surveys throughout the Caribbean and other destinations.  REEF
Field Surveys are week-long events, centered on learning fish
identification and collecting data on fish assemblages.  Data are
collected by volunteer divers who conduct underwater fish surveys on
every dive.  Data are transferred from underwater slates to scannable
survey report forms.  The scanforms are scanned, "debugged", and
uploaded to REEF's database on REEF's website.  Anyone with internet
access can view the data.  REEF's data have been used by various marine
park managers, scientists, and national marine sanctuaries.  Currently,
REEF's database contains over 28,000 surveys - the overwhelming majority
are from the Caribbean.

A suggestion was made in one of the emails to gather baseline data
before the project begins and then go back later and gather post
information.  December 1-8, 2001, REEF staff will lead a Field Survey to
St. Vincent.  Ten to fifteen REEF volunteers will conduct underwater
fish surveys.  We could schedule our dives to visit the reef/dive sites
that will be affected by the proposed dredging and construction.  Again,
the data will be managed and housed on REEF's website and accessible to
anyone wishing to use the data.  REEF can also provide the data in a raw
file or as a summary report.

REEF and its volunteers would like to help.  It's possible that we would
be collecting post-dredging information since the Field Survey is
scheduled in December.  I'm not sure how fast these construction
projects progress in the Caribbean.  In the meantime, anyone can conduct
underwater fish surveys.  Those of you who are local to St. Vincent can
begin conducting surveys on those sites.  REEF provides scanforms free
of charge.  Survey materials can be ordered online.

One of REEF's expert fishwatchers conducted numerous surveys in St.
Vincent last month.  Her data has not been uploaded to REEF's website
yet, but we do have 50 surveys in our database from St. Vincent.  To
view this data, please visit  Nineteen
of the 50 surveys were conducted by REEF fish experts.  The other 31
were conducted by novices.  REEF members attain higher levels of
expertise with the number of surveys conducted and by passing a series
of slide-based quizzes.

Please let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions.  We can
provide publications on the validity of volunteers conducting REEF
surveys or publications on how REEF data have been used.

Thank you,

Leslie Whaylen
REEF Field Operations Coordinator
leslie at

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