EXPANDING IN THE WEST
While CRF™’s primary production nurseries lie in the northern portion of the Florida Reef Tract, our efforts span from Carysfort Reef down to Marker 32 in Key West. The Key West Nursery is our southernmost production site and supports our mission in the lower Keys.
Since May of this year, Forrest, our Key West intern, has been working with four students at the College of the Florida Keys (CFK). Jessie Appelhans, Ben Edmonds, Sam Richardson, and Madeline Ticer are four of these hardworking and inspiring students at varying stages in their education and career paths. We are grateful for them dedicating their time to restoring the southern portion of the reef tract.
Over the summer, the team has been hard at work in our Key West nursery, providing it with a much-needed maintenance and cleaning regiment. The four CFK interns, along with our team, have taken part in numerous outplanting dives to accomplish CRF™’s restoration goals on Marker 32.
Photo credit: Tiffany Duong
Going forward, our Key West team is hoping to inspire their community to take action alongside them, as well as increase participation from their peers at school. We are planning to attend several events throughout the Fall, including outings such as CFK Club Rush and Community Day. One event the CFK's Corinthian vessel already participated in this year was Coralpalooza™, taking eleven divers to aid in reef restoration. The education department at CRF™ is also working to increase the number of volunteer opportunities in Key West. The partnership between CRF™ and CFK is a great step towards expanding our program in Key West and we hope to grow this relationship onwards for years to come!
"Here in Key West, CRF™ has already made a huge impact this summer on the people and the corals we work with. I can't wait to continue this expedition this Fall and see just how much we can accomplish!"
- Madeline Ticer
DANCING TO A NEW JIG
While a lot of our restoration work takes place in water, some very important steps in our process take place on land. Thanks to volunteer Jay Caskie, these land-based steps just became a lot easier.
Over the past few weeks, Jay kindly offered his experience in carpentry to help us construct new jigs to replace our older jigs for our warehouse. These jigs are used to help us accurately drill and build multiple parts of our Coral Trees™ and bamboo structures for novel outplanting, as well as help us properly cut and drill tags for our corals.
Our land-based work is not always the most glamorous or exciting work to do, but improving what we do out of the water will only improve what we do in the water. Having these new jigs will allow for more consistent and efficient efforts by reducing human error and being more user-friendly. Thank you Jay for all of your hard work!
BIGGER, BADDER, BOULDER
This past week, our boulder corals received a lot of attention. Restoration Associates, Dan and Paige, installed a new tree in our Carysfort Nursery to stage outplant-ready boulder coral colonies! This tree is only one of several new trees that will be installed to support our work with boulder corals. Additionally, for the first time, our team took our larger boulder coral heads out to the reef to be outplanted!
While we have been outplanting boulder corals for about a year now, we have only ever outplanted our smaller plugs. Now by outplanting these larger plugs, we can increase the living tissue we are putting out onto the reef even more!
When outplanting these larger plugs, the overall process is similar to how we outplant our smaller plugs.This is done by clearing a dinner-plate sized piece of substrate, then drilling into the substrate to create holes for the plugs to be epoxied into. With the larger plugs we spread them out into different clusters. Our team specifically outplanted them onto dead boulder coral skeletons and cleared much larger plots across the entire skeleton to include 20 larger plugs within a single cluster! By outplanting many of these large plugs on an old skeleton, we hope that they will have a better chance for survival. With this method the larger plugs are supported by the coral skeleton structure and may help “reskin” the dead boulder coral by growing over it.
In the Florida Reef Tract we have more than 45 different coral species. In order for us to restore the coral reef ecosystem we have to work with multiple species. This is why we continue to put different species back to the reef. This work is made possible through the generosity of our supporters, including the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and the Virginia Wellington Cabot Foundation.
PLANTING, PLANTING, AND MORE PLANTING
July has been a busy month with 2,415 corals outplanted!. This includes the completion of our NOAA reef sites spanning across the Florida Keys at Marker 32, Looe Key, and Grecian Rocks. This leaves us with Coffins Patch, Sombrero Reef, and Pickles Reef to complete our elkhorn transects. As seen above, it can get pretty busy on our NOAA sites! This means one needs to be more spatially aware and have excellent buoyancy.
But we won’t stop after Coffins Patch, Sombrero and Pickles Reef! We have been expanding our novel outplanting and have outplanted 805 corals alone with our novel methods. This includes a method where we secure the corals with a hemp rope and a method where they are attached to a bamboo structure.
In terms of coral tissue, these corals for our novel ouplants are a lot bigger than the coral fragments we outplant at our NOAA sites. Our initial calculations show that the rope method has the potential to return 5 times the coral to the reef in the same amount of time. However, further monitoring needs to be done to compare long-term survivorship of the novel method to the standard outplant method.
"Bringing It Back" Editorial Interns
Alyssa, originally from Ohio, graduated from Ohio University with her BSc. in marine freshwater and environmental biology. As soon as she graduated she made her way down to Miami, Florida to be closer to the ocean. Since being at CRF she has created our Sips & Science monthly talk series. Now she is currently in her third semester with us as a Restoration Program Intern. She is excited to be co-author of "Bringing it Back".
Austin is from Indiana and graduated from Indiana University with degrees in Animal Behavior and Biology, a certificate in Underwater Resource Management, and a minor in Psychology. Austin is one of two Restoration Program Interns and a co-author of “Bringing It Back”. During his time at CRF, Austin has been working on testing plastic free materials for nursery trees, testing and documenting novel outplanting methods, and monitoring and treating pillar coral fragments. He is excited to see where these projects will go in his final month at CRF™.