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A Key Collaboration: University Of Alberta And CRF™ Unite For Mutual Goals

Updated: Apr 4




Despite being located thousands of miles away from one another, the Coral Restoration Foundation and the University of Alberta’s Biological Sciences Department have fostered a close relationship based on a common goal: the restoration of our planet’s vital coral reef ecosystems. In 2018, Dr. Stephanie Green, Canada’s Research Chair at the University of Alberta’s Green Lab and the Coral Restoration Foundation established a working relationship, laying the groundwork for a mutually beneficial flow of science, expertise, and resources between the foundations. This sharing of resources links deep scientific questions with large scale coral restoration, advancing knowledge and enhancing reef conservation field. 

 

In December 2023, Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) workers were delighted by the arrival of a shiny, new steel-blue Parker boat parked in the restoration center’s gravel parking lot. This boat, dubbed the “Green Flash,” provides consistent and convenient access for the University of Alberta’s Biological Sciences Department to conduct their coral reef research as well as representing a valuable opportunity for additional, and admittedly more comfortable, restoration diving for of CRF’s interns and staff.   

   

 Dr. Green broadly studies why and how biodiversity changes in aquatic ecosystems, and how this information can inform conservation and environmental restoration globally. She was a Banting Fellow at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University as well as a David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow at Oregon State University before her time at the University of Alberta.  

 

Currently, Dr. Green and her graduate students are in the Florida Keys endeavoring into research excursions from the Green Flash. Julia Briand’s work deals with coral restoration data across scales, seeking to examine restoration outcomes to inform potential future work. Caitlin Hall is examining the impacts of corallivore species, such as the notorious fireworm, on restored corals, how their population density reacts to restoration efforts, and how to reduce this predation on our reefs. Isla Turcke is studying the mangrove to reef life cycles of parrot fish, researching the ‘highways’ of macro-algae herbivores and the nutrients they bring and how this information may inform site selection for restoration efforts into the future.  Their on-going research explores topics, discoveries and outcomes that are invaluable to both CRF and the larger coral restoration community.  

 

A prime example of the innovative coral research enabled by CRF can be found in a 2022 study published by Aneri Garg and Dr. Green. In this article, the authors explore the ability for coral models to fill the ecosystem niche of living corals on our reefs, analyzing fish recruitment attracted by morphologically realistic coral models when compared to that accrued by living corals. Using staghorn corals donated by CRF, molds were created and then filled with concrete, and the resulting models were out planted using CRF’s methods alongside living corals of similar structural complexity from CRF’s Carysfort Nursery. The following analysis found that, despite increased fish recruitment to the concrete models, the structural complexity of corals alone is not the driver for fish recruitment, emphasizing the importance of biogenic habitats in reef ecosystems1. This is one example of the research conducted by the University of Alberta, that further evidences the importance of CRF’s large-scale restoration of Florida’s reefs using nursery-grown hard corals when considering fish recruitment, an important metric for reef ecosystem health.  

 

While CRF focuses almost exclusively on the large-scale restoration of hard corals in the Florida Keys, the University of Alberta researchers seek to answer complex scientific questions within those same reefs. Despite a difference in approach, the common goal of ensuring the survival of coral reefs amidst an uncertain future binds these institutions in a mutually beneficial affiliation. At CRF, we look forward to continuing this relationship in a positive direction, with new research supporting our mission in the Florida Keys and beyond.


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