LEADING INNOVATIONS FOR IN-SITU CORAL RESTORATION
Coral restoration practitioners deploy various methods to achieve their goals. These methods can evolve over time allowing for adaptation to numerous environmental factors and geographic locations. At Coral Restoration Foundation™, we now have over a decade of research and development under our belts. This experience enables us to operate at the massive scale that defines our practices. Even our founding is rooted in the invention of the Coral Tree™ which massively changed the landscape for coral restoration globally. Since this innovation in 2007 CRF™ has continued to evolve and test our field restoration methods, incorporating knowledge from fellow restoration practitioners, scientists, management agencies, and our own expertise.
CRF™ is constantly improving our methods. In the past we have trialed inventions like a Coral Tree™ made of bamboo, rope outplanting techniques, and a custom tool designed by a local student to clean Trees™!
Lucan, a local Florida Keys student, won this challenge by inventing a new tool that can clean Coral Trees™. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Some of these trials have been successful, the custom Tree™ cleaning tool works incredibly well, and we have used it for Dive Programs. Other trials do not produce great results even if we hope they will. Unfortunately, bamboo and ocean currents simply do not mix, and the bamboo Coral Tree™ never matched the capacity of our longstanding PVC design. Regardless of success our restoration team is always excited to try ideas that are new to us.As recently as this month we started to test out a new kind of Coral Tree™ float made of rubber and a new outplanting method using a “coral clip” taught to us during a knowledge exchange by an Australian restoration team, the Coral Nurture Program!
The Coral Nurture Program visited CRF™ all the way from Australia for the Reef Futures 2023 conference.
Not every innovation is born of necessity but when our team identifies challenges within our current operations we seek solutions. Our Restoration Team frequently has to purchase and replace the Styrofoam floats that suspend our Coral Trees™ in the water column. That means hundreds of hours of work and thousands of dollars just spent on maintenance. After some research and consultation with restoration groups around the globe our Restoration Team decided to try out floats made of rubber which we think will be more resistant to biofouling and last longer in-situ, saving our team time and money!
The styrofoam floats in this Coral Tree™ are heavily biofouled and will need to be replaced soon. CRF™ is now trialling a different version of floats to see if they reduce biofoul, last longer, and save money! ©Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™
The Coral Clip© was presented to our team by a collaborating restoration organization from Australia, the Coral Nurture Program! Their team came to visit CRF™ headquarters for a learning exchange as an alternative, and faster, outplanting option. CRF™ has hosted a few global knowledge exchanges in the past year. We have worked with coral restoration teams from Hawaii, Guam, Australia, the Phillipines, and many other countries. During these exchanges we share our methods including our photomosaic monitoring techniques, in-situ nursery maintenance and propagation methods, and outplanting strategies. These exchanges aim to foster a collaborative coral restoration community in which we can share our resources and learn from each other. Today, thanks to our learning exchanges, we have a few experimental restoration sites in which we are utilizing The Coral Clip© instead of our apoxy method. Our team will continue to monitor these sites and evaluate the effectiveness of the new tech!
Photos of our experimental coral clips inspired by a knowledge exchange with the Coral Nurture Program. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Our 15+ years of experience in the field has allowed our team to develop tried and true practices, and now with the addition of knowledge exchanges we are able to both share our own methods to avoid reinventing the wheel but also incorporate the expertise of others as CRF™ continues to scale up and require innovative solutions to restoration challenges.
Bringing It Back Editorial Intern
Jason was born and raised in Boca Raton, Florida. With the ocean just 15 minutes away, Jason was on the water every weekend fishing, scuba diving, or just boating for fun throughout his childhood. He received his boater’s license at 10 years old, and got open water certified a year later. Sporadically diving throughout middle and high school, Jason’s love for the ocean grew immensely. It was in a senior high school class that his passion for the ocean solidified, which caused him to make a career choice once he started college. He studied marine biology at the University of Central Florida and conducted a research project looking at vertebrate impacts on mangroves on a newly restored shoreline within Canaveral National Seashore, Florida. With CRF, Jason is extremely excited to learn and conduct the cutting-edge restoration and conservation practices taught here.
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.