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

Updated: Jul 27, 2022


This work was funded by the United Way of Collier County and the Keys

CRF™ operates multiple open ocean Coral Tree™ nurseries from Key Largo to Key West. We maintain over 740 Coral Trees™ and can raise 45,000 reef-ready corals each year. Caring for the corals in these nurseries is a major component of our daily work and making this maintenance efficient increases our capacity to restore reefs. One of the best ways to increase efficiency and build our coral growth capacity is to expand and organize our nurseries. When put into practice that means installing new Coral Trees™ and moving existing ones to the proper locations.

When the time arrives to implement some of this organization our team refers to a “move list” which lays out a basic plan for where each existing Coral Tree™ needs to be. When completing a move list for any of our coral nurseries the end goal is to make sure that all coral species are within the same section with each genotype sorted in numerical order. This system of organization makes it easier for our team to navigate our nurseries particularly when we need to harvest certain genotypes for restoration on the reef.

Force Blue contract divers and CRF™ restoration divers execute a massive coral nursery makeover in just 3 days! ©Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™

This month CRF™ had a major expansion planned for our second largest Coral Tree™ Nursery near Carysfort Reef, and to complete the endeavor we were joined by contractors from Force Blue, a non-profit that works with former combat divers as a source of “mission therapy” repurposing their knowledge of SCUBA diving for conservation missions. Back in 2017 and 2018 CRF™ had the honor of training Force Blue Team I & II in coral restoration techniques. This year they came back with a new mission: Install 66 new duckbill anchors and move 154 Coral Trees™.

The mission sounds simple; expand and organize Carysfort Nursery. In practice this work would have taken our own team away from coral outplanting for an extended time, severely impacting our capacity to outplant corals. Enlisting Force Blue was a major help to our team! Their team of 6 divers, equipped with CRF™ restoration training and years of diving experience, completed every task on our checklist in just 3 days. In 9 dives they installed 66 duckbill anchors and moved a total of 154 Coral Trees™!

When a move list is executed, we attach a weight belt to the bottom rung of Coral Tree™ branches, carefully working around the corals. The weight belt causes the tree to become negatively buoyant allowing us to untie the tree from its duckbill anchor without the risk of it popping to the surface. After untying from the current duckbill, the Coral Tree™ is swum or walked to its new position in the nursery and retied using a taut-line hitch knot. The weight belt is removed, and the tree becomes positively buoyant again.

Force Blue also installed 66 new duckbill anchors which we needed so we can add more Coral Trees™ in the Carysfort Nursery. Duckbill anchors are a type of strong anchor that Coral Restoration Foundation™ uses to secure our Coral Trees™ to the sea floor. To install them we drive them into the sandy ocean floor using a piece of rebar and a post driver. After hammering it at least 4 feet deep we pull a string attached to the bottom of the anchor which rotates the duckbill from a vertical position to a horizontal position, securing it tightly underground. Here's a video of how duckbill anchors work!

Our Restoration Team spent months organizing the layout for this nursery expansion so that when it came time for the hard work with Force Blue, we had the maximum amount of bottom time possible. Thanks to the collaboration between the Force Blue contract divers and the CRF™ Restoration Team our coral restoration capacity has increased exponentially in our Carysfort Nursery! We are looking forward to the possibilities of working with Force Blue and other organizations in the future that support coral restoration and conservation in their own unique ways!

CRF™ and Force Blue, mission accomplished ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


Bringing it Back Editorial Intern

Alex Sapien found her love of ocean conservation through a volunteer trip to Madagascar

where she had so many wonderful diving experiences with the team and became obsessed with coral restoration. The research institute she volunteered at did work with monitoring and implementing artificial reefs as well as monitoring the health of their reef. She immediately began a degree program, once back home, that focused on conservation efforts within all aspects. During her time in university, she worked as a bartender and bar manager in her hometown of phoenix, a place that can sometimes make diving scarce. She is so excited to be able to learn from the Coral Restoration Foundation as well as having diving available right outside her doorstep.

Coral Chronicles Editor

Madalen Howard is CRF's Communications and Outreach Coordinator. She 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, marketing and digital communications.

With CRF™ Madalen creates inclusive pathways to scientific discovery through content creation and by building and fostering relationships with press, digital media creators, and local community members. Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature, and is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration.

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Jul 30, 2022

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