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Bringing it Back" in January 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Sep 7, 2021


We have made it to our final memorable moments segment where we take a look back at the moments in the last year that our staff will never forget. If you missed our previous 3 segments check them out here: Heads Up, Talking Science, and Diving In. Now, what has our Restoration Team been up to in 2020?

January, February, and March

The first few months of 2020 were all about new beginnings and collaboration. Our Restoration Program Manager, Jessica Levy, and CEO, Scott Winters, were traveling the world, serving as panel members in Washington DC to discuss Mission: Iconic Reefs, organizing with coral experts in Costa Rica during the Coral Restoration Consortium, and connecting with community members here in Key Largo!

CEO Scott Winters and Restoration Program Manager Jessica Levy serve as panel members in Washington DC for a discussion of Mission: Iconic Reefs ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

April, May, and June

While COVID-19 had our team thinking of new strategies to keep our divers safe, it wasn't the only catalyst for innovation. Our Coral Tree™ design works incredibly well for housing and growing branching corals like Staghorn and Elkhorn but we needed to make some adjustments for boulder corals.

Our original Coral Tree™ design is perfect for hanging, growing, and caring for branching corals such as Staghorn and Elkhorn. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Our Restoration team got to work designing a whole new type of Boulder Coral Tree. These new trees resemble a ladder, with 4 stories of upward facing trays on each side, for a total of 8 trays filled with boulder corals! Once the new trees were assembled we had to organize! Our Tavernier Nursery has over 500 Coral Trees™ and sometimes we've got to rearrange them to ensure all our "corals are in a row".

Boulder corals grow on our newly designed boulder Coral Trees™

July, August, and September

This summer we pulled off the world's first large scale coral genotype exchange in connection with University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Mote MarineLab!

Staghorn corals are 'swapped' amongst coral restoration organizations to increase genetic diversity and recover lost genotypes. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

This exchange is helping collaborating organizations better protect, study, and restore populations of this critical animal. The full press release can be read here.

Outplanting corals on Florida's Coral Reef is easiest in the calm summer months. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Summertime in coral restoration means low wind, flat seas, and perfect conditions to return corals to the reef. This year we really had to take advantage of the calm weather and it paid off. We returned 3,000 corals to just one of our restoration sites, Pickles Reef!

October, November, and December

Fall brought about an entirely new type of restoration project for us, a wild coral rescue mission! We have been working in collaboration with the Florida Keys Electric Co-op to relocate hundreds of wild corals from construction zones on electric structures and pilings, into our nurseries.

Our newly built shallow water nursery acts as a half-way home for rescued wild corals!©Coral Restoration Foundation™

The corals have a transitional home in our shallow water nursery where we have designed special tables for them to rest and acclimatize to their new environment. Our dive team monitors the corals for signs of stress or damage, particularly disease. Once they are established they will be cleared for movement to our Tavernier Nursery and eventually returned to the reef!

We want to take a moment to thank all of our readers for engaging with and sharing our weekly Coral Chronicles. Each of our these stories comes straight from our team in the field. We are constantly motivated by your interest in our work and are grateful for your ongoing support. Thank you all and we hope you'll continue to read, learn, and share our mission in 2021!



Our ongoing project with the Florida Keys Electric Co-op has seen great success in the short time since it began in November 2020. We’ve collected 247 corals across 10 different species, and some of these corals have never been represented in our nurseries!

Adding their genetic information to our gene bank ensures that we are restoring a diverse and resilient reef ecosystem. Our divers and topside teams have been working hard to make sure that these rescued corals are carefully collected and accurately tagged so that they can one day be safely returned to the reef.

Corals rescued from construction zones live comfortably in their temporary home, our shallow water nursery. ©Jess Levy/Coral Restoration Foundation™

In December, we were thrilled to collect a coral that we have never worked with before. The coral was discovered on an electrical piling and our divers were able to remove the whole colony successfully, keeping the polyps perfectly intact. When the coral was safely on board our team looked around at one another and finally the question everyone was thinking was said aloud, can anyone identify this species?

There are hundreds of coral species and even a boat filled with coral scientists can become stumped when presented with an unfamiliar face. Some educated guesses were thrown around, but no one was confident enough to declare a final identification.

“I am so excited that we are adding more species to the CRF™ nurseries. It’s been a blast finding corals that we’ve never worked with before and learning more about them every day," exclaimed Restoration Program Intern Lauren Zitzman

Restoration Program Intern Bailey Thomasson showing off the recently rescued Rose Coral, Manicina areolata. ©Lauren Zitzman/Coral Restoration Foundation™

When our Restoration team arrived back at the warehouse with the mystery coral, they opened several ID books and websites to find out this beautiful creature was a Rose Coral (Manicina areolata). It is safe to say this species won’t soon be forgotten and has become a personal favorite for some of the staff.

Our project with the Florida Keys Electric Co-op to rescue and return corals to the reef has allowed our team to expand our horizons within coral restoration and we are excited to continue discovering new species, adding them to our nursery gene bank, and releasing them to their homes on the reef!



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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