I've been wanting to volunteer with Reef Check CA ever since I got my OW certification - I'm a huge believer in citizen science and this was one way I could combine that with SCUBA diving.
From their website,
In California, Reef Check helps ensure the long-term sustainability and health of the nearshore rocky reefs and kelp forests. Reef Check California volunteers are divers, fishermen, kayakers, surfers, boaters, and a wide range of Californians who take a proactive role in making sure that our nearshore ecosystems are healthy and well managed. We monitor rocky reefs inside and outside of California's marine protected areas (MPAs). We work with marine managers, researchers and the public to provide the scientific data needed to make informed, science-based decisions for the sustainable management and conservation of California's ocean environment.
The training was spread over 2 weekends covering the survey methods, protocols, pool practice and organism identification. The latter was far more detailed and specific than I was expecting and was one of the hardest parts of the course. We practiced running the reels and counting in the pool on the first weekend and then had 2 3-dive days on the Silver Prince the next weekend.
The first day of diving was at the Aquarium Reef and was a real eye opener. It was waaay harder to try and identify organisms (or even find them, for that matter). The task loading was not as much of an issue for me thanks to the GUE training I've done but I did manage to get tangled up in the transect tape. I started to get into a bit of a groove by the end of the day but was still having a really hard time finding the abalone. Seriously, they're frickin' ninjas. Visibility in the shallows and this close to shore was subpar but not a huge issue as we were not even attempting the fish surveys.
-> 3 dives, 35-45ft, 30-35min, 52F
The second day was a little bit better - we did all 3 dives at Hopkin's Reef. The abalone still eluded me but I was getting a lot more confident with my overall survey methods. I had a little trouble estimating reef sizes and repeated the UPC transects a couple of times.
-> 3 dives, 35-45ft, 35-45min, 52F
Another thing we kept seeing was huge waves of stinging nettles in the top 20ft that showed up right around 3PM or so on both the days. I didn't get any photos but here's one I shamelessly stole from Ouvea and also this video from Beto.
In the end, our entire group got certified for algae, UPC and invertebrate transect surveys. The fish survey practice and certification will have to wait till next year.
A few BAUE divers met at Pt Lobos to expand the geotagging database. sea_otter and I paired up to head towards Granite Point Wall; her with the camera and me man-handling the GPS tube. The latter was a 2ft long sealed plastic tube with the GPS unit which had to be launched like an SMB every time we got to a photo site and reeled back down when we moved. We could have just left it up and trailed it behind us but there was too much kelp to allow that.
The conditions weren't the greatest for photography as there was a lot of particulates in the water. Additionally, the GPS tube proved challenging to manage until I attached it to my crotch D-ring - I realized this pretty much at the end of the dive and fought it the entire time. We didn't get many usable photos for the database and the ones we did end up using were of me in absolutely awful trim and with my light cord flopping around all over the place. Terrific. The other teams didn't have much luck either with their cameras.
It was actually a very nice dive with a lot of life behind the Wall. And it was my 100th :)