Women in Reefing Part 1: A Tribute, A Legend, An Icon, A Titan, A Coral Lover

Co-Authored by Metrokat and Felicia McCaulley

We are excited to start a series of blogs on Women in Reefing. There are so many incredible, talented achievers in the hobby, we wanted to take the time to highlight the magnitude of their love for this hobby and what makes these women memorable.

In Part 1, we begin with a Tribute to one that we lost very recently.

Lori Johnson – A Tribute

Lori Johnson reef
Loris Reef

Lori Johnson was a prominent figure in the reef aquarium hobby for many years. She kept reef aquariums for decades; her first tank was set up in 1992 when she built her house. Lori was active on message boards and facebook groups where she helped countless hobbyists find success with their own reef tanks. She was an admin of several facebook groups – Saltwater Aquarium and Reef Keepers, Saltwater Aquarium Lounge, and Fish Doctors Reef and Aquarium Health. She was passionate about reefing and her cats – Boo, Bae, and Buddy.

lori johnson harlequin tusk
Harlequin Tusk

Lori left our world on April 9th, 2020 and will be missed by countless friends and her family. She was best known for her kind heart and her sometimes “dark” sense of humor. She was frank and honest with hobbyists about any mistakes they were making, but she was always helpful. She was a hard worker who compiled many authoritative guides on reefkeeping and medication regimens. Lori was a brilliant medical nurse for most of her life who valued peer reviewed literature and scientific evidence and applied that to her reefkeeping. She was an invaluable asset to our hobby and will be sorely missed.

Lori Johnson Torch coral
Lori loved her Torch Corals

Lori was my online friend for many years.  Originally a customer, she purchased a large sump that was under her reef tank to this day.  She loved helping others, and was really good at connecting people with the best source to find what they needed. Her sense of humor was always there, ready to lighten the mood, but more importantly she never seemed to take offense no matter the person. The more she learned, the more helpful she was, and I often thought she reminded me of me, in the facebook world that was hers. My interaction with Lori was nearly daily, and I’m really missing having her in my chat. The funniest thing to me was how she could destroy electronics, almost like it was her superpower. We really lost a hero, and no-one will fill her spot.
– Marc Levenson

“She was always happy to help any type of person at any stage of reefkeeping. She was as patient and generous as they come. She did things behind the scenes that no one knew about (like offering to pay vendors to send people things they needed), never seeking the recognition. She was extremely active and despite whatever she had going on in her own life always found a way to make others feel valued, heard, and cared for”
– Chris Weinreich

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Joy Meadows – A Legend

Joy Meadows albert thiel gary meadows
Joy Meadows, Albert Thiel, Gary Meadows

Joy has been an avid aquarium hobbyist for nearly 4 decades starting in the late ‘70s. In 1996, with her husband Gary, she formed one of the first commercial/ retail online companies to sell live rock, corals, clams and other assorted invertebrates to the public. She still remembers that her favorite coral from the ‘80s was the Elegance. Their greenhouse facility was the first facility of its kind and helped set the standard for livestock facilities of today. Her intuitive use of lighting began during the design phase of Harbor Aquatics and continues to this day. Harbor Aquatics was so highly regarded for the quality of their livestock it became the ground for many aquarium products sold in our industry today.

joy meadows harbor aquatics green house
Harbor Aquatics Greenhouse

When Gary passed in 2000, Joy continued to manage the company till 2004 when she sold after getting burnt out. In 2002 Joy was introduced to LED lighting designer Tullio DellAquila and they formed a professional friendship implementing LED moon lights at the Harbor Aquatics facility.

In 2006 Joy Meadows teamed up with PFO Lighting to launch the Solaris.The Solaris was really the first true full spectrum LED lighting system in the hobby. In 2008 Joy Meadows teamed up with Tullio DellAquila to form what is now known as Reef Brite. Joy is VP Sales at Reef Brite.

When asked about the changes in the hobby from when she first got into it to now, Joy  observed that today’s hobbyists make it too complicated. They spend a lot on equipment and her best advice is to keep it simple. She ran a 20,000 gallon facility with just live rock and skimmers back in the 1990’s. She wants to encourage every hobbyist to read the books that are out there, her favorites are the ones published by Julian Sprung.

Joy Meadows with Carlos Chacon
Carlos Chacon and Joy

I met Joy back in 1999 on my first visit to Harbor Aquatics. The local reef club had organized an outing. Little did I know then that I would meet someone that after 20 years, can still call a friend. From sharing a meal at Harbor Aquatics to spending Thanksgiving together, to attending industry trade shows, Joy has been an influential figure in my life. She is one of the most selfless, kind, and loving people I know. She is determined, but always making sure everyone around her feels at home. She is driven, but will not hesitate to lend a hand.  I feel fortunate to know her and will ever feel privileged to call her my friend.
Happy Mother’s Day, Joy. Love always, Carlos.
– Carlos Chacon


Rachel Fogle – An Icon

Rachel Fogle Reefweeds Deathdopus
ReefWeeds Deathdopus

Rachel Fogle is the creative icon behind ReefWeeds, reef inspired UV art. She got into reefing in 2015 as a 10th anniversary present for both her husband, Jeff, and herself. It ended up being Rachels hobby even though Jeff continued to have his own tanks. Rachel cares deeply about all the livestock in her care and it fuels her creativity when it comes to her art.

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rachel fogle reefweeds acropora walt disney
ReefWeeds Walt Disney

Rachel started ReefWeeds in 2017 as the first reef-inspired UV art in the hobby. It was interesting for her to see the industry side of the hobby since she enjoys meeting people at shows and seeing their reaction to her art in person.

rachel fogle red sea peninsula
Red Sea Reefer 500 Peninsula

Rachel’s favorite tank was a SCA 66. She loved that tank and mentions it often as the system that hit a stride she hasn’t been able to reach since. We all have faced that problem with our tanks at some point or another. Rachel currently has a Red Sea Reefer 500 peninsula which is in her studio at home. She had a wall cut out so the peninsula looks like it’s built in and can be seen from the whole kitchen as well.

rachel fogle bevo cowfish
Bevo

She enjoys keeping LPS and Softies – mushrooms, zoanthids the most out of all corals. We saw many videos and pics of ‘Bevo’, her Longhorn Cowfish. He ended up stuck in a maxi mini carpet anemone and didn’t make it unfortunately. Another of her favorite tanks was a macro algae tank and she hopes to someday have another one again.

rachel fogle reefweeds reef koi series
The Iconic Reef Koi Series

She has definitely set the trend for UV art. We can all agree that she is often imitated but never duplicated, her vision, composition, talent is #OG all the way.

rachel fogle with friend
Rachel with a friend

“A reef tank is a work of art on its own, however Rachel Fogle can translate that to canvas with a purpose and passion that is unparalleled. Many people make art but few are truly artists that embrace their muse and are able to give joy to so many through it. It is a pleasure to have been able to experience the hobby through her art, but most of all to call her a friend and inspiration.”
– Peter Cherrick, RNN


Karen Brittain – A Titan

karen brittain bandit angelfish captivebred
Bandit Angelfish

We get so excited whenever we hear of new species of fish being captive bred right? Karen Brittain is one of the incredible people we can give credit to for working on some of the most challenging fish species. Karen was born and raised in Hawaii and is a marine ornamental fish breeder specializing in breakthrough captive breeding and larval rearing. She earned her marine science degree from the University of Hawaii and for more than three decades has done some truly amazing things in the field of marine ornamental aquaculture.

karen brittain fish
Bodianus Sanguenius

Brittain gained experience during her employment at Waikiki aquarium, where she had the opportunity to do larval rearing work. Then in 1997 she formed Reef Friendly Fishes breeding and raising fish in her home in Hawaii.

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karen brittain borbonius
Borbonius Anthias

She joined Rising Tide Conservation in 2013 from her facility in Hawaii to help the University of Hawaii with questions about larval rearing.

She has successfully spawned and raised some of the rarest and most sought after fish in our hobby such as the Sunrise Hogfish, Masked Angelfish, Candy Basslet, and Hawaiian Yellow Anthias. She earned the prestigious MASNA Aquarist of the year award at the New Orleans MACNA in 2017. Karen is truly a Titan in our hobby.

“Karen has been a life-long inspiration. She is the aquaculturist I always wished I could be.”
– Todd Gardner, MASNA 2013 Aquarist of the year award recipient


Nicole Helgason – A Coral Lover

nicole helgason
Steve Acropolis outdoor coral farm

Nicole Helgason is a professional scuba diver and can often be found photographing corals and sharing her passion about coral reefs around the world. Tela Honduras ranks as one of Nicole’s favorite dive spots.

Originally from Canada, she now lives in Colorado and is Reef Builders Event Manager and is responsible for running ReefStock shows in Denver and Sydney. Nicole is also a manager for Reef Builders social media accounts and runs her own blog dedicated to teaching people about corals. Nicole has a Bachelors degree in Coastal Geography from the University of Victoria.

nicole helgason diving
Sanur, Bali, Indonesia at the Ocean Gardener Coral Nursery

Nicole started the Girls With Reef Tank Group on Facebook as an empowering place for women to share their knowledge of reef keeping with others. The aquarium hobby is predominantly a male audience and sometime women are shy to post and ask questions in larger reef aquarium group pages. Sometimes the response in these groups is critical rather than helpful. The group has a mix of experiences reefs, shop owners and professionals in the aquarium hobby as well as new members just starting out.

nicole helgason
Nicole started a Coral Restoration Project in Bazaruto Island, Mozambique

Nicole is especially proud of her work on the Caribbean coral identification section of her blog. Nicole wants to inspire scuba divers to explore the reefs with new eyes. Resilient as a coral, that’s how one person describes her.

“Nikki continues to be at the top of her industry. As a PADI Dive Instructor with many years of professional dive experience, she has quickly become one of the top specialists in the world for Caribbean Coral identification as well as having the ability to identify corals from anywhere around the world. When it comes to coral restoration and coral reefs, she is one of the most passionate individuals that I ever met and is a great stewart of coral reefs around the world.”
-Lou Schiavo Jr., WWC


We are pretty sure you have met many inspirational women, drop us a comment to mention them and stay tuned for more blogs about #womeninreefing.

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