Updated: Sep 7, 2021
RESCUE MISSION: SEA WALL
Over the past few months CRF™ staff and interns have been working under a Florida Keys Electric Co-Op grant to remove corals from electric pylons before they undergo construction, and house them in our nurseries until they are ready to be returned to the wild!
On June 3rd, our restoration team adventured to a new location to rescue corals! Upper Keys Marine Construction reached out to us to remove corals from a seawall at Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo before they begin work on it. Two of our restoration staff members ditched their tanks and jumped in the water with snorkels to save 5 smooth star corals, Solenastrea bournoni!
Divers measure smooth star coral colonies growing on a seawall before carefully removing them to a safe location. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
To remove the corals from the seawall, our divers slid a paint scraper between the edge of the coral and the seawall. A hammer was then used against the scraper to gently ply the coral from the wall. Each coral was about 980 square centimeters and the whole removal took about 45 minutes.
A hammer and paint scraper are used to gently detach a coral from a seawall, to be rehomed in safer waters. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Solenastrea Bournoni is a brand-new species in our nursery and we are excited to begin learning more about it. This type of coral has a mounding growth form so hanging them from monofilament on our classic Coral Tree™ is not the best way to support their growth. Instead, these corals will be placed on our boulder tree design. We will continue to monitor their health and growth in our Nursery where they are safe from construction!
TEMPERATURE MITIGATION IN OUR NURSERIES
As summer hits its stride, our divers and corals have taken notice! With warmer air and water temperatures, it is important to help protect our corals from the sun and rising temperatures. It is time to lower our floating Coral Trees™!
During winter months, our Coral Trees™ sit higher in the ‘cold’ low-mid 70-degree water, typically resting 15 to 20 feet above the ocean floor. The process of lowering our coral trees is crucial to the overall health of our corals because, as water temperatures continue to rise the more stressed and prone to disease corals become. Depending on species of corals and water temperatures, in summer we will lower the Coral Trees™ to just 10 feet above the ocean floor.
A CRF™ Diver lowers a Coral Tree to protect the corals from high temperatures and sun exposure. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
The process of lowering our trees can be difficult because our divers are wrestling with buoyancy and currents while tying knots underwater! Each tree is secured to the ocean floor with a rope. To lower them, divers tie a taut line hitch knot (say that 5 times fast) multiple times. This knot can also be shifted to raise or lower the trees to a desired depth, although it sometimes requires that the knots be undone and then retied for extra security.
Coral Trees™ rest at different heights in the water column. CRF™ Divers lowered all 750 of our trees in just two weeks. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
The “moving of the trees” happens twice a year (once in the winter to raise and once in the summer to lower), and it is a vital process that helps to protect the thousands of corals in our Coral Nurseries. it may seem daunting to lower over 750 Coral Trees™, but our incredible Restoration Team most recently managed this impressive feat in the span of two weeks! It is a task we are happy to do for the health of all our corals! See you again in a few months tree lines!
LOCAL DIVE SHOPS SUPPORT CORAL RESTORATION
We send multiple CRF™ work boats to our open ocean nurseries and reef sites every week! All these different boats have varying restoration and scientific goals to achieve each day, but there is one main thing that connects our efforts. We are all working underwater!
Without our scuba gear, specifically the air tanks, we would not be able to accomplish any of our goals. Recently, after a full day of diving, the air compressor we use to fill our SCUBA tanks broke down! Fortunately for us, and the corals of Florida’s reefs, we are supported by an incredible community of dive shops and people who care about our mission!
We put out a call for help and were answered immediately by local dive shops. Conch Republic Divers, the Florida Keys Dive Center, and Horizon Divers all allowed us to use their air compressors to fill our team’s tanks, and while it may seem like a small act of kindness this support is priceless to our hardworking team. A special 'tank' you to all who have ever offered a helping hand to a coral scientist in need!
RESOURCES FOR YOU
Our Coralpalooza™ Digital 2021 platform is still open! Check out all of our exclusive content before it's gone!
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.
"Bringing It Back" Editorial Interns
Jeremy Jeremy is from Chicago, Illinois and is excited to continue to give back to the coral reefs here on the Florida Reef Tract! He is looking forward to continuing to expand his restoration skills and share what he has learned through educational trainings with all the new interns for what should be an incredibly busy and productive summer of outplanting and coral restoration. He is also planning on spearheading a Boulder Coral Gene Bank project in our Tavernier Nursery along with another intern with the support of the Restoration Staff. He is also looking forward to leading dive trips this summer and taking charge of the restoration efforts on land as well as underwater.
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.