REEF director hits the ground running - A person standing next to a tree - Tree
Caroly Shumway is executive director of Reef Environmental Education Foundation. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

With 9.5 million records and 233,000 surveys to date, Reef Environmental Education Foundation continues its mission to conserve ocean life through citizen science, research and environmental education. At the helm as executive director is Caroly Shumway, who’s been on the job since Aug. 20.

A third-generation oceanographer, from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Shumway is a fish geek with 27 years of experience in marine and freshwater conservation, research, policy and education. Her experience primarily comes from her time in the Asia/Pacific region, Africa and the U.S. She’s led fish biodiversity surveys along the Congo River, dived in Lake Tanganyika to explore fish habitat and recently reviewed coral reef restoration work in the Maldives. 

Entering the six-month mark in her tenure with REEF, Shumway says she wants REEF to be even more impactful than it already is. 

“We want to take advantage of the data, which we have 25 years worth, and maximize use of that,” she said. “Our citizen science, we have a large database. It’s useful data for the community and the government to stay apprised of.”

Shumway, who grew up in Rhode Island, says she loves the small town, low-key and funky feel of the Keys. 

“To me, the essence of the Keys is the underwater pumpkin carving contest in October,” she said. “

Do you have a nickname? I don’t. My name’s unusual enough. 

Do you have life credo or motto? Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

How would you describe your time at REEF so far? Great. I love my staff. I have a really great team and I really enjoy the community and I like our board. Our work is super important to protect our coral reefs.

What were you doing before REEF? I was chief scientist for the U.S. Agency for International Development, which is part of the State Department in Washington, which provides global aid for people all over the world.

Where did you live before you came to the Keys? I was in Washington D.C., right after that I went to Rhode Island and lived there for 25 years. Prior to that I was in Fiji. 

What drew you to the area? The job and the feel of the community. 

Is there something about the area you find unique? I’m a big fan of craft brew, so I’ve gone to the brewing companies like Florida Keys Brewing Company. What’s also cool are the peacocks. I enjoy seeing them. I also like the Gumbo Limbo trees. They’re so cool. 

What’s something people don’t know about you? I led a biodiversity survey down the Congo River in Congo, which is a challenging and scary place to be. 

In your spare time, what can you be found doing? Kayaking, diving, reading and watching movies. 

You’re going to lunch with a famous person, who would it be? Meryl Streep.

Favorite guilty pleasure? Guacamole and tzatziki and crackers. 

Your go-to drink? A porter.

If you could anywhere, where would you go? I want to go to Singapore and Vietnam.

What superpower do you wish you possessed? To fly. That would be so much fun. 

Your favorite TV show/movie? I love “The Princess Bride.” I love the motto. 

Finish these sentences…

My friends and family would describe me as … adventurous. 

My dream vacation is … lying on a hammock on a beach, reading, snorkeling, diving, the whole works and good drinks

REEF is … an organization you should get to know!

Reef would like … to invite people to join us in our seminars and webinars we have. And we’re always looking for volunteers.

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