Updated: May 6, 2022
CRF™ BOULDER CORAL RESTORATION
Our Restoration Team kicked it into high gear with some 3 tank dive days these past few weeks. It is easy to forget that working in the field is strenuous, though it can appear exactly the opposite. Donning full SCUBA equipment, complete with BCD, weights, and tank can weigh upwards of 50 pounds. Add coral restoration tools like hammers, buckets of apoxy, and coral fragments, and you’ve got an 8 hour workout ahead of you!
A CRF™ boat is filled with all the equipment needed for a day of coral restoration. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
All that info makes it that much more impressive when our team reports major outplanting success stories like the one we saw last week. In just a single day 5 CRF™ staff divers returned 565 boulder coral fragments, about the size of a quarter, to Looe Key Reef and Newfound Harbor Reef in the lower Florida Keys.
Our boulder coral restoration goals encompass 10% of our total annual outplanting. This year that means we aim to return around 5,000 boulder corals to the wild, and so far, we’ve completed 2,552! Just over 50% of our annual goal.
Two CRF™ interns return boulder corals to the wild using a two part marine epoxy and quarter sized coral fragments. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
When comparing these numbers to that of our Acroporid coral stock they can seem underwhelming, but it is important to keep the biology of these coral species in mind. Boulder corals are foundational, stabilizing, species on the reef. They are massive, solid structures which can take hundreds, sometimes thousands of years to form. Acroporid corals are pioneer species which act like grasses in the plains, covering large swaths of area quickly. In the world of coral restoration Acroporid corals can grow from the size of a finger to the size of a basketball in just 6 months. Boulder corals will grow just a few inches in the span of 9 to 12 months.
Boulder corals grow more slowly than branching acroporid species. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
To propagate boulder coral brood stock, we must first allow the boulder corals to grow to about 3 inches in diameter, that initial process takes about one full year. From there we will fragment the boulder corals into outplanting stock where they need another 9 to 12 months to be ‘reef-ready’.
Now that our operations are well established our teams are able to rotate through brood stock and outplanting stock in an efficient fashion so that we don’t need to wait 2 years every time we outplant boulder corals but knowing the groundwork it took to set up the system of propagation gives a greater appreciation for the efforts of our boulder coral restoration team!
SAFE BOATING AT CRF™
CRF™ operates 4 coast-guard inspected vessels which are vital to completing our work. Our staff are in charge of the maintenance and operation of all 4 boats!
This past April all our full time restoration staff became certified by the National Safe Boating Council as instructors. This means on top of their practical experience driving our vessels for field work and regular training from our COO and Dive Safety Officer they are certified to train incoming staff and interns in proper boat safety procedures.
CRF™ restoration staff get certified as safe boating instructors! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Operating boats is a vital skill to learn as a field marine scientist and knowing that our team is able to combine their practical experience with tactical knowledge ensures we are doing all we can to set our team up for success on the water.
WELCOME NEW SUMMER RESTORATION STAFF
CRF™ is excited to welcome 3 new temporary coral restoration associates to the team. As our efforts ramp up in the summer we are really going to rely on them!
TEMPORARY REEF RESTORATION ASSOCIATE
After diving in Grand Cayman and swimming among whale sharks in Mexico, Chandler’s heart was set on exploring and understanding the mysteries of the sea. Originally from Dallas, Texas - Chandler graduated Summa Cum Laude from Florida State University with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Environmental Science. Her passion for coral soared when she successfully defended her Honors Thesis investigating morphological variations of soft coral on the Florida Coast. She loves research, diving, and community outreach. Chandler eagerly assisted several university faculty projects including examining community dynamics of marine invertebrates in sponges and tagging sharks to survey populations in the Gulf of Mexico. She also enjoys connecting with people around the world serving as a tutor for refugees from countries of conflict like Syria and elsewhere. She received her first Scuba certification at age 15, and now has obtained additional Scientific, Cavern, Rescue, and Underwater Crime Scene Investigation certifications. Chandler is thrilled to dive into a deeper understanding of corals at CRF and be on the front lines to help restore them. She looks forward to sharing her love of marine science with others and informing the community about the importance of protecting our reefs.
TEMPORARY REEF RESTORATION ASSOCIATE
Growing up surrounded by the Great Lakes in Michigan, Robyn was inspired to migrate to clearer, warmer waters. During her time at Michigan State University, she monitored green sea turtle behavior and assisted with innovative coral restoration techniques while abroad at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas. Following an exciting start in marine science, she investigated corals seeking refuge in mangrove forests and the anthropogenic effects on these ecosystems at STRI-Bocas del Toro, Panama. After earning her degree in Fisheries and Wildlife, Robyn spent two seasons in St. Croix, USVI working for the National Park Service. There, she researched nesting sea turtles while also assisting several coral projects such as growth rates, genetics, and disease treatments. Robyn’s passion for corals has grown exponentially with every job throughout the Caribbean. She is ecstatic to join Coral Restoration Foundation in their mission to continue to protect and restore such a valuable ecosystem.
TEMPORARY REEF RESTORATION ASSOCIATE
Max has been an avid scuba diver and enthusiast for all creatures and ecosystems since he was a child. From an early age, and growing up next to the ocean, Max fell in love with sea creatures and ocean life. After his first experience diving in a coral reef he knew he never wanted to leave and vowed to enter a career helping protect and research them in the hopes of lessening the effects of coral bleaching. When Max attended college at the University of Santa Cruz, he quickly got into the marine biology scene, finding the one Ph.D. candidate grad student working on coral bleaching and participating with his work. Here Max learned a lot about the biology, physiology, and chemistry that surrounds a coral animal. From the correct parameters of the environment that is necessary for a coral to thrive to the ins and outs of the symbiosis coral have with zooxanthellae. Now Max is taking his next step and working at the Coral Restoration Foundation to further develop his skills in the work needed to go into restoration and everything behind the scenes needed to make an organization like this run smoothly.
Coral Chronicles Editor
Madalen Howard is CRF's Communications and Outreach Coordinator. 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.