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"Bringing it Back" in July 2023 with the Coral Chronicles

Orbicella Spotlight at Coral Restoration Foundation™

This month, we have been focussing on Orbicella, commonly known as boulder corals. They play a vital role in stabilizing coral reef ecosystems and are an integral part of our restoration efforts.


Boulder corals grow on our Coral Trees™, with each tree holding six trays parallel to the sea floor. We propagate new corals from the parent, or brood stock, and secure them on plugs using marine epoxy before settling them into the trays.


Keeping our corals healthy requires rigorous maintenance. Trays can become coated with fire corals, sponges, algae, and bivalves that we diligently remove. Regular cleaning involves scrubbing around and between plugs on the still-mounted tray, while major cleanings require removing and scrubbing down the trays. Overgrown trays are replaced to keep the tree pristine.


Orbicella stands out among stony corals, requiring a distinctive outplanting method. When "reef ready," we attach the Orbicella fragments to the skeletons of deceased boulder corals. Over time, these fragments grow, fuse, and cover the limestone skeleton with living tissue.



The outplanting process begins underwater with a survey for suitable old boulder coral heads. Each coral skeleton gets one tray's worth of outplants after we've cleared away algae and debris, creating a space for the new plugs.

We reached a milestone in June 2023, achieving our yearly Orbicella outplanting goals at Carysfort. This marked 1,000 boulder coral outplants at Carysfort and 2,530 overall for the year. We're gearing up to outplant our remaining 500 Orbicella corals.

While outplanting days epitomize our mission of active restoration, they couldn't happen without the efforts of our dedicated propagation and cleaning teams. Success at CRF comes with teamwork, problem-solving, and often, hearty laughter. Our shared passion for corals and dedication to our mission keeps us going.


 

Summer Traditions: Restoring Reefs with Sea Base

It's summer, which signals the start of our annual collaboration with Sea Base, a Boy Scout camp located in Islamorada. Each week, CRF interns spend two days diving with the Boy Scouts, providing them with nursery tours, guiding them in cleaning and harvesting tasks, and aiding in the outplanting of corals. Led by our interns, Jack and Theo, this program offers a firsthand look at coral restoration work to new Scout groups every week, equipping hundreds to contribute meaningfully to the Florida Keys' reef restoration.


Every Sea Base group begins their CRF journey with a Sunday evening presentation about our mission, followed by a hands-on refresher of tree cleaning and outplanting techniques before their dive. The Sea Base crew and the enthusiastic young Scouts bring a vibrant energy to our mission, injecting our efforts with youthful exuberance and hope for the future.

Diving days begin at Tavernier nursery where we divide the Scouts for tours and cleaning tasks, before moving to Alligator Reef for outplanting. Each intern guides a group, assisting in the underwater installation of four corals per cluster. The Scouts work in teams to clear the area and orient the coral before applying epoxy. Observing their progress and the burgeoning underwater clusters is a fulfilling experience for all.

This collaboration results in 80 staghorn corals being restored onto the reef each week. Over the course of a summer, that adds up to over 1,000 new corals! Post-outplanting photomosaics allow us to monitor the progress of the site, with interns revisiting the areas weekly to track growth.

These restoration efforts benefit the reefs, while also fostering strong community ties. By involving a wide range of participants, including the dedicated Boy Scouts, we not only learn from each other but also help restore the reefs that the Scouts visit each summer. Building such understanding and relationships is integral to inciting the substantial action needed to protect our world's corals.



 

BRINGING IT BACK CONTENT CREATOR


Growing up on a barrier island, Clara Masseau was surrounded by marine ecosystems. She left the tropics for the mountains to pursue Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. During her last semester, Clara attended the School for Field Studies on South Caicos Center for Marine Resource Studies. This exposure to marine ecology, resource management, field research, and scientific diving brought her back to Florida. Clara is excited to continue learning and diving with Coral Restoration Foundation™.

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May 29

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