Exploring Marine Conservation in the Classroom Using Reef Environmental Education Foundation Data

Access Fish Population Data from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) (more info)
This webpage was prepared for SERC by Heather Rissler in consultation with Bryan Dias of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation
Author Profile

The Dataset

Accessing Fish Population Data from the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) (more info) allows users to explore how REEF involves divers (experienced and novice) in marine conservation efforts by supporting the collection and maintenance of an extensive fish population database. Divers collect data on fish species diversity and relative abundance at dive sites covering the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Use and Relevance

Spotfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon ocellatus, from REEF database.
Scientists and government agencies use this dataset to address a wide range of issues that are accessible by understanding fish population dynamics, including understanding relationships between species and habitats or planning and managing aquaculture, research, and conservation efforts.

Use in Teaching

Report areas for Tropical Western Atlantic Ocean, from the REEF database.

This dataset can be used to teach the following topics and skills in Biological Oceanography:



Exploring the Data

Data Type and Presentation

Processed data are provided in tabular format that indicates sighting frequency and abundance for each species sighted at a particular geographic location. Raw data for species sightings are also available (this data is used to calculate sighting frequency). Information on calculations and interpretations involving REEF data is available.

Accessing the Data

Data can be accessed by geographical location using the REEF databases interactive map. Once a location is chosen, a geographic area report can be generated for the entire area or for specific dive sites within the area. Geographic Area Reports provide density and sighting frequency data. Data can also be accessed by generating a 'Distribution Report' for a specific species of interest. 'Comparison reports' can be generated to compare sighting frequency and density for species at multiple locations. All data are provided in HTML tabular format.

Manipulating Data and Creating Visualizations

One way that students can manipulate data from the REEF database is to import data from various geographical locations into a spreadsheet program, such as Excel, to generate graphical representations of species distribution in varying habitats.

Tools for Data Manipulation

Raw data can be downloaded and imported into a spreadsheet application such as Excel for further processing. The Starting Point site provides a tutorial for using Excel.

About the Data

Collection Methods

REEF data are collected by community observers (including observers from Novice and Expert levels). Data from dives are submitted to REEF and maintained in a searchable database. Numbers of fish sighted are collected by assigning observations to relative abundance categories: single (1), few (2-10), many (11-100), or abundant (>100).

Limitations and Sources of Error

Data are presented from both Novice and Expert observers. Expert observers collect data on species of fish that they are highly confident (90 to 100% accuracy) in identifying. The REEF database maintains an information page that addresses issues related to data interpretation and data accuracy.

References and Resources

Scientific References that Use this Dataset

Education Resources that Use this Dataset

Other Related Scientific References

Related Links