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"Bringing It Back" in May 2020 with the Coral Chronicles


Meet Jonathan Bergeron, CRF's new Dive Safety Officer (DSO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO). Jonathan joins CRF™ with over 26 years of diving experience. A retired US Army Officer, he's experienced diving all over the world which has fueled his passion for the ocean and conservation. He's a Master Trainer SCUBA Instructor, Adaptive Diving Instructor Trainer, Handicapped SCUBA Instructor, Diver Alert Network Instructor, and SCUBA Equipment Technician.

Jonathan on the water. © Jonathan Bergeron

Before coming to CRF™, Jonathan served as the Manager of Dive Operations and Safety at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, working with dolphins, whales, manatees, sea turtles, sharks, and more. There, he conducted operations in underwater facilities maintenance, husbandry, veterinarian health support, research, and was a member of the marine animal Rescue Team.

Jonathan on active duty (left) and working at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (right).

© Jonathan Bergeron

He received his bachelor’s degree in engineering and marketing from the Florida Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in administration from the Central Michigan University. As Dive Safety Officer and Chief Operating Officer, Jonathan sits on our executive management team and overlooks all CRF™ facilities, strategic assets, and safety programs.

We're so excited and fortunate to have Jonathan as our new DSO and COO. We recently asked him a few questions about his connection to the ocean and the experiences that led him to the CRF™ team. Keep reading to learn more about Jonathan!

What is your earliest memory of the ocean?

When I was about 10, my family and I were on vacation to Rimini, Italy. We were stationed in Germany, and we wanted to spend some time at the beach. I had gotten a sunburn the day prior and was wearing a shirt and floating on my “new” raft boat (had to have) just outside the swim line. I dipped in the water to cool off, and just as I looked down, a thin torpedo object with a pronounced tail swam right under me. It was a blue shark. It happened so fast that I was more amazed than scared.

What past experience, professional or personal, led you to CRF™?

When I retired from the Army, and looked at returning to the work force, I really wanted to work with something as meaningful as serving our country. To me. giving back to the ocean where I derived a lot of my enjoyment from just made since. I started working with rescue animals and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. I was drawn there because of their mission to rescue, rehab, and release. From there, the transition to CRF™ was easy. Like CMA, CRF™ employees, interns, and volunteers are giving the reefs a helping hand and, in some cases, are helping them survive altogether.

Why do you, personally, care about coral reefs?

Coral reefs are the foundation to which all other creatures thrive in the ocean. Without the reefs, the oceans withers.

What do you like most about being a part of the CRF™ team?

At CRF™ everyone has a voice, and everyone pitches in. I am amazed at the science and drive that propels this mission.

What is your favorite marine creature?

Hammerhead sharks…the bigger the better. They just simply amaze me.

What’s your favorite part about your position?

Working with diving professionals from all over. Having said that, also training younger divers to take part in this awesome industry.

What advise can you give to someone who’d like to work in a role like yours?

Take your time. It seems that there is a trend now to get to the top of the diving industry quickly. It takes time to develop into a great instructor. Far too many times I see young people in a race to get there. Spend some time as a divemaster. Learn what it takes to lead and take care of people. Learn what governs diving in the US and why.

Why should the average person care about coral reefs?

To have a thriving planet, we need a thriving ocean. Everyone, no matter who you are, is connected to the planet. If you want to make something better, start at the foundation.

What do you think are some of the easiest ways that the average person can join the mission to save coral reefs from extinction?

Get involved, learn, join a group like project aware. With the internet at your fingertips, anyone can make a difference.



While our interns and volunteers have been working remotely over the past month, our restoration team here at CRF™ has been hard at work taking care of our corals! With reliable methods already in place for maintaining our staghorn and elkhorn corals, we’ve turned our attention to perfecting boulder coral methods in the hopes of incorporating them into more outplanting trips. In fact, a large area of the Tavernier nursery is already dedicated to boulder species such as Orbicella annularis (boulder star coral) and O. faveolata (mountainous star coral)!

Original boulder Coral Tree design in CRF's Tavernier Nursery.

© Ellen Hudson/Coral Restoration Foundation

Boulder corals grow in a different manner than our branching corals, A. cervicornis and A. palmata. Instead of growing outward in branches, boulder corals grow flat and spread outwards on whatever surface they have attached to until they eventually start to grow upwards in a “mounding” shape. For our restoration team, this means that they cannot be hung on trees with monofilament, and require a different type of tree to support their growth in our nursery.

Rather than having fiberglass branches for hanging corals, our original boulder coral tree design had PVC branches with upward facing mesh trays that the boulder corals sit on top of. However, this created a problem for us this past winter. The PVC branches holding these corals are much heavier, and an increase in wave energy caused many of them to become unattached and sent our boulder corals trays down to the sand.

“This winter, the wave pressure was consistently rough and heavy, which was causing the old designs to fail. Because boulder tree branches are larger, they were putting too much weight on the plugs and required a new design,” said Dan Burdeno, CRF™ Restoration Program Coordinator.

CRF™ Intern Jim builds new boulder Coral Trees (left), and final Coral Tree trays made by CRF™ Interns Jim and Lauren (right). © Jim Brittsan/Coral Restoration Foundation

With some design help from interns, the restoration team put together a new, sturdier design for our boulder corals! Instead of a singular PVC trunk with branches, our new trees resemble a “ladder” and are reinforced with 1200lb. monofilament and stainless steel bolts. Each tree now has 4 “stories” with upward facing trays on each side, for a total of 8 spots for trays. Some of the new trees have already been installed at the Tavernier nursery, and we are excited to track their progress throughout the summer!

New boulder Coral Tree in CRF's Tavernier Nursery. © Shane Gallimore/Coral Restoration Foundation



In addition to restoring coral reefs, educating others on the importance of our oceans, and using science to further coral research and monitoring techniques, Coral Restoration Foundation™ aims to foster partnerships and collaborations to drive restoration success. And not just in the Florida Keys. One such collaboration that CRF™ participated in was a study highlighting organizations practicing long-term coral restoration across the globe.

Photograph taken in early March, 2020. CRF™ Restoration Associates Nikkie Cox (left) and Rebecca Creighton (right) transport corals from a CRF™ nursery to a reef site. ©Coral Restoration Foundation

This study, published on April 17, 2020, presents practices amongst four restoration groups and discusses coral response and success to restoration management. Each organization offers methodologies that are unique to their environments. The study discusses how these different approaches impact the resilience of restored coral reefs while comparing and contrasting in relation to six coral-based ecological indicators: coral cover, structural complexity, coral diversity, coral juveniles, and coral health.

CRF™ team member outplanting fragmented coral onto the Florida Reef Tract.

© Alex Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™

All four restoration locations prove different findings, but the common conclusion is that hard coral cover and structural complexity is greater amongst restored sites compared to unrestored sites, showing that coral restoration is working across the globe. Here in the Florida Keys, CRF™ is providing more coral cover, greater genetic diversity, and an overall healthier reef due to our restoration methods when compared to other sites in the Florida Keys. It was a great pleasure to work with lead author Margaux Hein, and we’re excited to share these results with our followers.

Read this publication here.


"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.

Rebecca hails from Cobb Island situated on the Potomac River in beautiful southern Maryland where she grew up raising livestock on her family's small hobby farm. Her love for the water stems from a long lineage of hard-working watermen. A proud alumnus of University of Maryland, she earned her bachelor's degree in agricultural science and technology in 2015. After pursuing a career in agriculture communications, she left her desk job to join the Peace Corps as an agriculture extension agent in Madagascar where she discovered an amazing culture and coral restoration. After returning from service, she pursued positions in the marine science field working as an educator at a science center and as an endangered species observer on dredge ships until she decided to follow her dream of working with corals. She moved to Roatan, Honduras to earn her divemaster certification and work with Bay Islands Reef Restoration as a coral restoration intern. She now takes advantage of every opportunity to dive and is happy she can combine her love for agriculture and the underwater world to be a restoration associate with CRF™.

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