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"Bringing it Back" in August 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Sep 7, 2021


Our boulder coral gene bank is getting revamped! CRF™ currently works with two species of boulder coral - Orbicella faveolata (mountainous star coral) and Orbicella annularis (boulder star coral) - within these 2 species we have about 60 genotypes! Our gene bank acts as a physical database of corals, preserving genetic diversity for future coral restoration.

A Coral Restoration Foundation™ diver places boulder corals on a Coral Tree™ in our Coral Nursery. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Genetic diversity is an important aspect of ecosystem health, especially for coral reefs which are one of the most diverse habitats on the planet. Though colonies of the same coral species may look the same on the outside, they each have different DNA (genotypes), just

like we do. Diverse ecosystems are resilient to stressors. Some corals may be unaffected by a disease but die from a bleaching event. Others may barely survive a disease outbreak but be growing low enough in the water column to be unaffected by a shallow water bleaching event. When we return corals to the wild, we want to conserve genetic diversity so the entire ecosystem will remain resilient as different stressors and environmental changes affect the reef.

One of our Lead Interns, Nick, is heading up a project to streamline and organize our boulder coral gene bank. Step one is moving all the boulder corals in it into the same section of our open ocean nursery as our staghorn and elkhorn gene bank. As this move happens, we are also updating our digital Boulder Coral gene bank to ensure all the genotypes CRF™ currently handles are accounted for.

Our newest boulder Coral Tree™ design provides more space to organize corals by genotype and species. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

“It is important to me to be involved with the restoration department at CRF™ because I wanted a hands-on restoration experience for my intern project that also benefited the team as a whole," says project lead and Lead Intern Nick.

To house all the corals, we will be using our Bolder Coral Tree™ design. Each Boulder Coral Tree™ has 6 trays. Each tray is divided into 3 sections. Each section holds one genotype with 4 individual corals. This comes out to a total of 18 genotypes per tree! Two trees have been installed already and we will need about 5 trees in total for both boulder species. Our team has been working hard to improve the flow of our nursery and we cannot wait to see this project complete!

Coral Restoration Foundation™ divers work near a boulder Coral Tree™ in our Tavernier Coral Nursery. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™



The Summer 2021 Internship cycle ends this Friday, August 27th. It feels like just yesterday our 11 new interns arrived from all around the country, and even as far as Canada! Our internship cycles last 4 months with the opportunity to apply for increasing levels each semester.

A mix of CRF™ interns and staff pose in front of beautiful blue waters on Florida's Coral Reef in August 2021. ©Jess Levy/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Each semester we aim to teach the incoming cohort new skills like how to build, install, and fill Coral Trees™, return corals to the reef, teach the public about coral reef ecology and restoration, and so much more! But don't just take our word for it, let's hear from some of our first round interns directly

“Coming into this internship, the number of skills to learn was daunting, but each day that I learned a new restoration technique I felt amazing and accomplished! As an upcoming lead intern, I am excited to be able to pass everything I’ve learned in my first term onto this new group of interns!” – CRF™ Intern Connor Maheady

During my 4 months with CRF™ I felt challenged and pushed to become a better diver and marine steward. I am looking forward to continuing to learn more as a lead intern. My favorite memory of this summer was seeing, and capturing on film, a group of spotted eagle rays swimming through our Coral Nursery.” – CRF™ Intern Brynne Rardin
“There was one day towards the beginning of the summer where all three CRF™ boats were out putting Staghorn corals on Pickles Reef together. It was awesome to work together in a big team and look around at everyone underwater making a positive impact. The weather was perfect, and everyone was in great spirits. Being an intern with CRF™ was an eye-opening life changing experience filled with tons of memories like this with great people and I’m going to miss it as I head back to school.” – CRF™ Intern James Heiser

Our internship program is designed to equip people with the skills they need to succeed in a future career. We look forward to some of these interns sticking around and want to say farewell to those that are moving on to new adventures. Lucky for them they may get to witness coral spawning this week as we close out this summer round!


"Bringing It Back" Editorial Interns

Sami is from Cincinnati, Ohio and has loved seeing how CRF’s™ mission has inspired others to care about our oceans. Over the past eight months, she has enjoyed participating in outreach events, improving her scientific diving skills, and gaining confidence working on boats. This summer, Sami is excited to lead new interns in and out of the water and gain more knowledge about restoration efforts at CRF™. Sami will be working to build a permitting and restoration goals tracker to help paint the big picture of CRFs ever expanding restoration plans.

Coral Chronicles Editorial Intern

Tessa Markham is a recent graduate of Skidmore College, with a BA in English and Environmental Studies. She grew up in Wilton, in southwestern Connecticut, but spent her summers growing up either hiking and camping in the woods or swimming and sailing on the water. She has always been passionate about climate change and conservation. Diving for the first time in 2014 while taking a marine conservation course in the Caribbean leeward islands, she quickly amassed dives and got her PADI Instructor certification just three years later. Just after completing her instructor training, she spent nearly a month on the Yucatan

Peninsula conducting research on their reefs, looking at the ratio of soft versus stony coral death. She later channeled her distress at the degradation of the reefs to write a short story about coral bleaching, which was published in Volume 5 of the Oakland Arts Review in 2020. Her capstone thesis built on this theme and she wrote a collection of four creative short stories that detail and exemplify climate change-induced environmental damage through a narrative lens. She aims to combine her degrees and experiences to make a career in science communications, making research and conservation accessible to everybody.


Madalen Howard is CRF's Marketing Associate. 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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