Salty Girl of the Month: Anna Neumann, Reef Check California

Since we launched Salty Girl Seafood, one of the first things that people say is how much they love the name. Often we are asked, what does it mean to be a Salty Girl?  

salty: of the sea, sailing or life at sea.

This is a series of blogs honoring our kindred Salty Girls--women whose lives and livelihoods revolve around all things ocean.

Like so many great Salty Girl stories, this month’s Salty Girl attributes her love of the ocean to her family. After spending countless summers sharing the joys of the ocean surrounded by family and friends, Anna Neumann pursued her passion for the sea as a student of Oceanography and Scientific Diver at Humboldt State University. Her dive skills soon brought her to Mexico where she became a dive instructor and, of course, took full advantage of the good life down south! Today, Anna combines her dive skills and passion for the ocean as a regional manager for Reef Check California, the largest statewide citizen-scientist monitoring program for California’s marine protected areas (MPA) and nearshore rocky reef ecosystems. Anna works with people from all walks of life to teach them how to collect the necessary data to inform the science that protects our reefs and nearshore environment. The ocean is at the center of it all for this Salty Girl, and we’re inspired to see her sharing all that the ocean has to offer with those around her.

SG: What do you love most about the ocean?

AN: I love everything about the ocean. I love the dichotomy of it, how forceful and dynamic it can be pushing me mentally, physically and emotionally and at the same time be captivating, soft and healing. I love the moment when I first submerge and everything goes quiet, then I tune into the environment and I can start to hear the little clicks and taps. And as I settle into my dive all the stress that plagues life on the surface falls away. I also love how the ocean brings together the people I love. Summer days spent boogie boarding with my mom, aunts and cousins laughing so hard it hurts to breathe, kiteboarding with my dad and brother in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, and diving with my scuba and Reef Check family on the north coast. The ocean has found a way into every facet of my life and I love it that way.

SG: What does being a Salty Girl mean to you?

AN: Embracing the salt, sand, sunburn and everything that comes along with a long day spent underwater!  It means traversing airports, train stations and boarding crossing with soggy bags and no clean clothes. It means pulling urchin spines out of my hands and knees and patching holes in wetsuits.  It means being unapologetic about my passion for the ocean.

SG: Who first got you hooked on the sea?

AN: My parents! We were always at the beach on the weekends and spent many summers sailing North and Central America. They threw me in the ocean when I was a little kid and I never really got out of the water. Every summer (for almost 10 years) my family would host "Daddy Bob's Surf Camp" were all of our friends and family would gather at a local beach and we would teach them to surf or just play around in the ocean for three days non-stop. It was always the event of the summer for me and I started doing marine biology talks when I was in high school and realized how much I liked teaching folks at Surf Camp about the ocean.

SG: When you close your eyes and think of your favorite time on the ocean what do you see?

AN: I think of diving Hopkins Marine Station in Monterey where giant kelp shoots to the surface and seals glide by to say “hello”. Every rock teams with life from sponges and bryozoans, to crabs, sea stars and snails in the cracks shy rockfish hide while their more outgoing counterparts dart between blades of kelp.

SG: What does a healthy ocean look like to you?

AN: I think a healthy ocean is all about diversity, not only different types of fish or invertebrates but a diverse group of organisms within each trophic level.

SG: What is your favorite seafood recipe?

AN: Lingcod or rockfish tacos with onions, cilantro and lime is a classic meal. However, during crab season, I make a delicious spicy crab bisque with coconut milk instead of cream.

SG: What do you never leave home without?

AN: My dog, Fin! He’s my best buddy and we go everywhere together! My wetsuit and a trauma kit have also found a permanent place in my truck.