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UT Intern Spends Summer on the REEF

Published: July 11, 2012
Jana Huebner ’13 is interning this summer with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) in Key Largo, FL.
Jana Huebner ’13 is interning this summer with Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) in Key Largo, FL.
Jana Huebner ’13 hadn’t planned to collect grouper stomachs in the rain while wearing her dress clothes, but as an intern this summer for the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF), each day brings new surprises.

“Depending on the day, it varies a lot on what I do, but every day is something new and exciting,” said Huebner, a marine biology major, who is enjoying her internship in Key Largo, FL.

“REEF stands in the front line against the invasive lionfish in the Caribbean through research and removal efforts,” said Huebner. They provide lionfish collection permits, safe handling workshops and mass lionfish removals, called Lionfish Derbies. REEF also works to protect spawning aggregations of Nassau groupers from fisherman.

“REEF encourages and aids divers and snorkelers to go out and participate in fish surveys,” said Huebner, explaining that a survey involves noting fish species and their abundance. “The data is available to the public and is used as support for researchers and marine conservationists. Throughout the month of July is our Great Annual Fish Count, where we really push to get as many people in the water and count.”

Huebner supports REEF as an intern through education projects and participating in opportunities to conserve the ocean. She organizes the monthly lionfish contest with everything from advertising and public relations to data entry with the incoming lionfish. She also is organizing the Great Annual Fish Count. With both projects, she helps spread the word by talking with local dive shops, publishing press releases and doing radio promotions. She’s even presented to the Georgia Aquarium.

“Basically, I think the ocean rocks and want to keep it that way,” Huebner said.

While she does some basic office administration, she also spends a half day in the water diving with a local dive company and conducting fish surveys.

“You’d be surprised how many people come up to us after the dive and ask us what we are doing and would like to do one too,” she said.

Huebner said one of the most challenging things has been the financial restraints nonprofits face where they are constantly looking for funding sources.

“It’s a lot of ‘selling’ the mission of REEF to advance it,” she said. “Though this is a difficulty, I feel like I have learned new skills to help overcome it.”

Huebner said the hands-on experience in the UT classroom has been helpful.

“With some of the experiences I’ve had with the internship, I’ve felt like I’m more prepared because of my education at UT,” she said. This included a connection with the recent UT travel course to Honduras that Huebner participated in this spring.

On that trip, Huebner used fish identification books written by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach, the founders of REEF .

“We used their books as bibles for my UT Coral Reef travel course . Not only did I get to meet them, but have lunch with them,” she said, admitting this was a marine biology nerd highlight. “This is the equivalent to meeting George Clooney and hanging with him at his house. It was a pretty amazing and unbelievable day.”

While not at REEF, Huebner volunteers with the Coral Restoration Foundation, another local nonprofit organization that helps restore coral reefs by growing and transplanting coral. She helped bundle 10 staghorn coral segments together from their nursery and then dove at the nearby reef to transplant the coral onto the reef.

“The process took the whole day, but it was so amazing and something I’ll never forget,” she said. 

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