By Reef Check California's Regional Manager Colleen Wisniewski & Director of Science Cyndi Dawson
For the third year in a row, Reef Check California (RCCA) staff and instructors gathered for three days of strategic planning, program evaluation and team bonding at Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI) Toyon Bay. This is the one time of year we try to gather together all our instructors who are teaching RCCA statewide in order to recalibrate, share ideas and have a little fun in a beautiful location. It is also a time when everyone receives updates on the larger Reef Check organization and gets an idea of how RCCA fits in with the overall mission and goals of the Reef Check Foundation (RCF).
This three day event is a mix of presentations, round table discussions, diving, team building and fun. Notable topics of conversation included sharing the results of some recent strategic planning done with the RCF Board, a review of RCCA achievements to date and goals for the future, a lively conversation (with a lot of key input provided by all our attendees) about RCCA’s approach and interactions with marine management in CA, a review of dive safety policies/procedures and an important discussion about clarification on RCCA protocol issues. All in all we had some very timely and important discussions about the program.
The field portion of the retreat had us at Long Point on CIMI's great dive boat the "Discovery." The instructors all performed the same surveys on two sets of transect lines and then we compared numbers after the dive to ensure we were all on the same page. It is the one opportunity we have each year to evaluate all our instructors and staff, and to fine tune our survey skills. We had some great discussions, including some close inspection of three species of Sargassum. Since this first dive was a success, we moved to another dive site around the corner in search of giant black sea bass. We didn't find these large fish but we did find 50+ ft visibility and very mellow, amazing conditions – quite unusual for this dive site. The dive trip was a great way to bond underwater with our dedicated and talented group of RCCA Instructors.
We finished our Monday afternoon meetings with some team building exercises that had us
swinging on ropes, balancing on a huge teeter-totter and passing people over our head through a giant “spider web.” This was an excellent excuse to break out of our meetings for a while, get to know one another more and learn to work together better. Plus it was a lot of fun! Another enjoyable activity was the 3rd annual top secret Maze competition, with Geoff as the winner this year. It’s always an entertaining event!
It was an amazingly productive week and we generated a long list of action items to tackle in the coming months. Thanks to all who took their own time to travel to the retreat and contribute their ideas and thoughts. Our instructors and volunteers are the reason behind RCCA’s growing success, and their continued input will ensure we stay on the right track. Extra special thanks also go to Catalina Island Marine Institute and Guided Discoveries who make this annual event possible by providing meeting space, boats, scuba tanks, accommodations, meals and amazing staff. We look forward to another amazing retreat next year!