CRF™ HITS TDC ELKHORN OUTPLANT GOAL ON PICKLES
Summer months at CRF™ mean outplanting, outplanting, and more outplanting! While we do plenty of work outplanting to increase our restoration efforts, we can’t forget about our partners either. Recently, our team has focused on completing restoration work at Pickles Reef that is supported by the Monroe County Tourist Development Council.
Interns Ellen (right) and Darcy (left) outplanting elkhorn corals onto Pickles Reef. ©Shane Gallimore/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Over the past month, our restoration team along with our team of interns has been outplanting at Pickles whenever the weather has allowed. Last week, we met our goals for this year’s work at Pickles Reef, mooring ball two. Thanks to the support of the TDC, we were able to outplant another 3,000 corals back onto the reef - 2,000 staghorn and 1,000 elkhorn corals!
Outplanting photo of new elkhorn corals. ©Ellen Hudson/ Coral Restoration Foundation™
We hope to watch these corals grow for years to come and to inspire recreational divers and tourists to do whatever they can to conserve the Florida Reef Tract.
THE FIRST LARGE-SCALE EXCHANGE OF STAGHORN WAS A SUCCESS
Outplanting hasn’t been the only focus of the restoration team this month. Along with maintaining our nurseries and getting corals back onto the reef, we've also been busy preparing for a Staghorn exchange with various organizations in southern Florida. CRF™ connected with University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Mote Marine Lab to schedule a trade of Acropora cervicornis corals last week. Read the official press release here.
Transporting corals for the swap. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
The exchange took place on June 23, 2020, when our restoration team received a total of 66 different genotypes from our partners and gave around 27 genotypes to each organization. Although the corals were properly cared for through aerated containers, our restoration team promptly took the new corals to the Tavernier nursery for installation. All of the new genotypes we received were hung on seven newly added trees in the genetic preservation section of one of our nurseries.
Exchanging and expanding the gene bank is an essential component to safeguarding the genetic variation of our corals and allowing CRF™ to outplant corals of a greater genetic variety. Partnering with other conservation groups and scientists paves the way for more research to help us understand the ecosystem, like how it's being negatively impacted and how we can implement new restoration practices.
Adding new genotypes to the CRF™ gene bank. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
Another vital feature of this coral swap is to ensure these genotypes are not just concentrated in a single genetic bank, but are also spread throughout organizations in south Florida, allowing for contingency plans. CRF™ and many of our partners have off-shore nurseries, which leave them susceptible to natural disasters such as hurricanes. If one organization happens to lose a genotype by uncontrollable factors, it’s critical to have populations safeguarded in other locations.
"CRF™ was so excited to give over 20 genotypes and receive over 70, new and previously lost, genotypes into our gene bank. This is a big stride in collaborations between south Florida restoration groups and safeguarding genetic diversity," said Jess Levy, CRF™ Restoration Program Manager.
Genetic variation is key for environmental restoration and conservation. The variation of coral genes can allow for the population to thrive under more unpredictable conditions. Just like in humans, certain corals are more susceptible to particular diseases or are more sensitive to different conditions. Variation on reefs is also important for spawning. Once our outplants are established and thriving on their new home, having genetic diversity helps promote the reef’s natural process for randomizing genetic material. This is a beautiful tool that has helped corals thrive for the last 500 million years.
Staff preparing Coral Trees in the gene bank. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
Increased genotypic variation among corals means healthier, more resilient reefs! We are thrilled to continuing working with such a remarkable group of organizations. Here’s to our successful swap and the hope for even more collaborations to come!
NEW INTERNS OUTPLANT FOR THE FIRST TIME
Our new summer interns joined the crew in mid-May, but because many of them came from all over the country, the majority of their training was completed remotely during a 2-week quarantine. While land training was well-executed through online meetings, there’s no substitute for our in-water training.
Topics and procedures were introduced on land, but once quarantine was completed and interns were reintegrated with staff, our new interns were ready to back-roll off our vessels onto the reef.
First round intern Aliah outplanting elkhorn corals at Pickles Reef. © Shane Gallimore/ Coral Restoration Foundation™
During training, interns learned how to fragment corals from Coral Trees™, place them into crates, swim the crates safely to the surface, and transport them to the reef. Once on the reef, they partnered up and learned the hard work that goes into outplanting including the importance of clearing algae completely, making sure epoxy sticks properly to the reef, and ensuring you don’t knock over newly placed corals. Needless to say, there’s a decent learning curve.
“My first outplanting experience was amazing! It took a while to get the hang of it, but it was so nice to see the whole process in action. My first outplant site was Carysfort Reef, so it was very special to add new corals to all of our previous outplants!” said Bailey Thomasson, CRF™ Intern.
This wasn’t just training for incoming interns but also for our lead interns and new restoration program interns. They had to hone their leadership skills to be able to train and share tips and tricks. Lead interns work closely with new interns to train and mentor them throughout their first four months of their internship. For the summer restoration program interns, this term is meant to push them, so they can lead a team of their own. After 8 months of gaining important knowledge, they work closely with the restoration staff to complete CRF's restoration goals. The process of seasoned interns training new interns fosters a close-knit team. While most of our interns are from all across the country, it's amazing to see everyone come together over our mission at CRF™.
Interns Jim and Charis outplanting corals onto Carysfort Reef. © Shane Gallimore/ Coral Restoration Foundation™
Outplanting can be difficult, but it’s one of the most rewarding parts of joining the CRF™ Coral Crew. After a few more trips to the reef, the new interns have become pros! Now we have a full crew of 20 interns ready to outplant corals onto the Florida Reef Tract this summer.
"Bringing It Back" Editorial Team
Ellen graduated with a B.S. in Marine Science and a minor in Environmental Policy, Institutions, and Behavior from Rutgers University in 2017. Growing up in New Jersey, her summers were largely spent boogie-boarding and building sand castles at the Jersey shore. It was her first Discover Scuba in Bermuda at the age of 13, however, that sparked her passion for coral reefs and diving. During her undergrad at Rutgers she took part in a study abroad program in Little Cayman, where she monitored the bleaching severity of corals around the island and had her first coral nursery and outplanting experience. It was here that she learned about Coral Restoration Foundation™, and it quickly became her dream to be a part of the CRF™ team. Recently, she completed her divemaster certification and is absolutely ecstatic about joining the CRF™ team in beautiful Key Largo. She is excited to do her part to restore this amazing ecosystem and hopes to inspire others to protect and conserve it for generations to come.
Haley recently graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with her Bachelors in Marine Biology. Haley grew up in Yuba City, California, a small agricultural community. Even though she didn’t have many experiences at the ocean growing up, she always knew it was something worth protecting and discovering. Going to college near the beautiful California kelp forests, she couldn’t help but want to get into the ocean and begin diving. In her studies she was able to do research in the Mediterranean off of Corsica on invertebrate forging behavior. It was through her research that she discovered her love for conducting marine science. After graduating, she had the pleasure of visiting Saudi Arabia and was able to dive on the Red Sea reefs. This lead her to CRF™ to better understand coral restoration efforts and to fuel her curiosity of implementing science to restore our world’s oceans.