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"Bringing it Back" in May 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Sep 7, 2021


This spring, our Restoration team and interns have been working tirelessly both on land and in the water to prepare for the addition of 100 new Coral Trees™ to the Key West nursery. This expansion is no easy feat; our team has been constructing and prepping Coral Trees™ on land, transporting them from our headquarters in Key Largo to our Key West open-ocean nursery, and finally suspending them in the water column.

If that isn’t enough, we also must transport coral fragments from our Tavernier Nursery to fill those trees! By the end of the nursery expansion, we will have 150 Coral Trees in our Key West Nursery housing over 9,000 corals.

Coral Restoration Foundation™ divers fill Coral Trees™ with staghorn coral fragments as part of a massive coral nursery expansion, from 50 to 150 Coral Trees™ ©Jess Levy/ Coral Restoration Foundation™

This expansion is critical. “Mission: Iconic Reefs” is in full swing, with significant funding in place to make a meaningful difference at Eastern Dry Rocks (EDR), one of the seven iconic reef sites targeted for restoration.

Constructing and launching Coral Trees™ is a multistage process spanning a few days! ©(1,3) Sami Miller/(2) Jess Levy/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Over the next three years, Coral Restoration Foundation™ will be working to return nearly 40,000 corals to EDR. Though we already have a coral nursery in Key West that houses 50 Coral Trees™, our commitment to the scale of work at Eastern Dry Rocks calls for this massive expansion of our most southerly nursery.

“Even though it’s hard work, building Coral Trees™ is so rewarding! It gives you a holistic perspective of how much work goes into caring for these corals. Some of my favorite dives so far have been taking Coral Trees™ that I personally built to the Key West nursery and hanging new corals from them!” says Sami Miller, CRF™ Lead Intern.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and NOAA awarded a grant of $5 million through the National Coastal Resilience Fund to the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium and Coral Restoration Foundation™ to restore Eastern Dry Rocks, one of seven iconic reefs located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.



One of our main goals in the Restoration Department at Coral Restoration Foundation™ is preserving the genetic diversity of our corals. Though corals of the same species may look the same, their DNA (much like the DNA of humans) is different from one another.

These differences mean that corals will have different growth patterns and responses to anthropogenic stress, such as warming waters andocean acidification.

As part of our restoration plan, we raise and rehome corals of as many different genotypes as possible in order to allow the population the best chance of survival.

We currently maintain an enormous coral gene bank in our Tavernier Nursery with over 400 genotypes. The gene bank is home to multiple fragments of each of the genotypes we have ever collected.

Operations Coordinator Andrew and Temporary Restoration Associate Sam transport coral clones from our Tavernier nursery gene bank to our new gene bank in Broward county! ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™

To safeguard these genotypes, we have teamed up with Nova Southeastern University to establish a second genetic bank in Broward County. This addition creates redundancy for our corals and safeguards our coral diversity in case of a severe weather or disease event causing a major loss in our original gene bank. We are excited to be taking this extra step alongside Nova Southeastern University to protect our corals.





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 Intern

Bailey grew up on a lake in North Carolina, and has felt connected to the water for as long as she can remember. When she was 10 years old, she got SCUBA certified and started taking annual diving trips to Florida where she saw first-hand the decline of coral reefs in the Keys. Knowing that she wanted to make a career in marine conservation, she joined an Operation Wallacea expedition to Greece where she learned field work skills.

Bailey graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a major in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Marine Science. During her four years there, she worked as a research assistant investigating how the calcium carbonate skeleton of corals are affected by ocean warming and acidification. Most recently, she worked as a summer camp educator at the Discovery Place Nature Museum in North Carolina where she taught students about the natural environment and how to protect it. Bailey is so excited for the opportunity to work with Coral Restoration Foundation™ towards its mission of restoring coral reefs

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