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"Bringing it Back" in April 2022 with the Coral Chronicles


SHARING KNOWLEDGE ACROSS COMMUNITIES

Recently two representatives from The Nature Conservancy who are stationed in Hawaii came to Coral Restoration Foundation™ for a learning exchange. Julia Rose and Eric Conklin run a developing coral restoration program in the Hawaiian Islands and were able to utilize our organization’s 15 years of research and development to bolster their own knowledge and expertise. We shared resources and tools and gave insight to all our work including nursery and restoration site selection processes, pros, and cons of different coral outplanting techniques, and of course our photomosaic monitoring process!

CRF™ Restoration and Science Teams work with scientists from The Nature Conservancy to share information about reef restoration site monitoring through photomosaic technology. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


Learning exchanges are at the heart of our mission to empower others to join in and support healthy ocean ecosystems. We are dedicated to sharing the lessons we have learned in coral restoration since our founding in 2007. Our hope is that this information will foster a community that works toward ocean conservation goals together, sharing knowledge and resources to reach large scale, global, reef restoration initiatives.


During our learning exchanges it is important for our team to acknowledge and discuss our standing as experts in reef restoration, specifically in South Florida on Florida’s Coral Reef. While many techniques are transferable the environment and community being directly impacted must be considered first and foremost. For example, CRF™ prioritizes restoration for Acroporid coral species (staghorn and elkhorn) because they are the historically dominant reef building corals of Florida’s Coral Reef. Eric and Julia, however, will be putting their efforts into boulder corals. CRF™ does work with boulder corals and we are currently in the process of developing our boulder coral work to meet massive scale restoration goals. We were able to share our boulder Coral Tree™ construction, genotype organization, fragmenting and outplanting techniques, and monitoring strategy. We shared the challenges we have faced and overcome and the innovations that have made our work more efficient over the years.


This would not be a true learning exchange without some time experiencing the work up close and personal. Julia and Eric joined our restoration team in one of our many open ocean Coral Tree™ Nurseries and returned a few hundred boulder corals to the wild themselves!

It was a pleasure to host Julia and Eric as representatives of The Nature Conservancy and fellow coral lovers and we are looking forward to continued collaboration for the betterment of reefs from Florida to Hawaii and around the world!

Scientists with The Nature Conservancy practice the boulder coral outplanting technique employed by CRF™ in the field!

 

BREAKING RECORDS IN CORAL RESTORATION

Our Restoration Team is never resting. If they are not actively returning corals to the wild, they are working to maintain our hundreds of Coral Trees™ or creating detailed blueprints to realistically achieve our goals for number of corals returned to the reef. While we try and outplant corals as often as possible, the right weather conditions are essential. Too high winds create dangerously strong waves which means returning corals to the shallow waters where they lived historically and are most likely to survive naturally becomes virtually impossible.

CRF™ divers work in shallow areas to return endangered corals to the wild. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

However, waves will not stop our Restoration Team from getting out on the water and completing worthwhile dives, we simply change the focus of our diving. Recently we have been using our time to visit our many open ocean Coral Tree™ Nurseries to conduct regular maintenance, inventory, propagation, and coral health checks. When calm seas arrive, we will be ready to meet our restoration goals and return tens of thousands of corals to the wild.


Nursery maintenance and coral propagation is necessary for efficiency, especially as our goals for outplanting increase every year. In 2021 we returned a total of 35,011 corals (22,185 staghorn, 7,922 elkhorn, and 4,904 boulder) to the wild. This year we aim to surpass that goal and set a new CRF™ record!

To make sure we are in the best position possible to achieve our lofty goals, we are making several improvements to our larger nurseries. On the structural side, we are expanding and adding new Coral Trees™ so we can propagate and raise more corals. In addition to increasing our coral stock, we have been reorganizing our nurseries, so they are easily navigable, and our work can be as efficient as possible. We have placed like genotypes next to each other, making harvesting faster when multiple trees are needed. Finally, we have been filling our Coral Trees™ to capacity ensuring a full 60 corals are growing on each Tree™ at one time.

CRF™ Coral Nurseries are all operated "in-situ" meaning in the open ocean. Our nurseries can produce 45,000 reef ready corals each year. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Though each year our goals become larger we know that our team is capable. When we are supported by forethought and planning we are confident. Working in the field is unpredictable but when we support one another and set ourselves up for success we can accomplish great works.

 

"Bringing it Back" Editorial Intern

Max has been an avid scuba diver and enthusiast for all creatures and ecosystems since he was a child. From an early age, and growing up next to the ocean, Max fell in love with sea creatures and ocean life. After his first experience diving in a coral reef he knew he never wanted to leave and vowed to enter a career helping protect and research them in the hopes of lessening the effects of coral bleaching. When Max attended college at the University of Santa Cruz, he quickly got into the marine biology scene, finding the one Ph.D. candidate grad student working on coral bleaching and participating with his work. Here Max learned a lot about the biology, physiology, and chemistry that surrounds a coral animal. From the correct parameters of the environment that is necessary for a coral to thrive to the ins and outs of the symbiosis coral have with zooxanthellae. Now Max is taking his next step and working at the Coral Restoration Foundation to further develop his skills in the work needed to go into restoration and everything behind the scenes needed to make an organization like this run smoothly.


Coral Chronicles Editor

Madalen Howard is CRF's Communications and Outreach Coordinator. Madalen comes to CRF™ via a winding road from the Tennessee hills, to the South Carolina low country, ending here in Florida’s Coral Reef. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a Minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in 2016. Her experience ranges from field research to education, and communications.

Madalen spent the last 4 years as a Field Instructor and Social Media Strategist for MarineLab Environmental Education Center. Here she was able to study and teach marine ecology, while snorkeling through mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs every day. While at MarineLab she combined her education and research background, entered the world of communications, and developed MarineLab’s social media department from the ground up.


Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature. With CRF™, she is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration, creating inclusive pathways to scientific discovery.

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