WAVES OF SUCCESS: 1000+ CORALS RETURNED TO LOOE KEY REEF
The last week of April was an exhilarating time for Coral Restoration Foundation™, as we accomplished several remarkable feats. We hosted our monthly Coral Call, successfully outplanted over 1000 staghorn and elkhorn corals onto Looe Key Reef, and even had the opportunity to rescue some wild corals!
Fifteen CRF™ staff and interns return over 1000 staghorn and elkhorn corals to Looe Key Reef! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
In late April, Coral Restoration Foundation™ hosted a monthly Coral Call event in Looe Key. These events are staff skill building days in which the ENTIRE CRF™ staff from the accounting department to the communications team and all the restoration divers head out for a day of coral restoration work! It is certainly brand new territory for some of the team members who typically accomplish their work to support the mission on dry land, behind a computer screen, so getting out on the water to experience the job of a restoration diver is a welcome change of pace!
This month's Coral Call was a resounding success, with 15 people returning over 1000 corals to Looe Key reef in just a few hours. These monthly events serve as a reminder of CRF's mission to restore reefs on a massive scale while bringing together a diverse group of employees and interns for a unique team bonding experience.
CRF™ divers returned over 1000 elkhorn and staghorn corals to Looe Key Reef in just one day! ©Shane Gallimore/Coral Restoration Foundation™
On the day of Coral Call, 1000 corals were transported to Looe Key and eagerly outplanted by our team. Through events like Coral Call, CRF™ is not only making a significant environmental impact but also building a sense of community and teamwork among its staff and interns. The harvest and outplanting processes are crucial to CRF's mission of restoring our reefs and would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the CRF team.
In the midst of outplanting 1000 corals to Looe Key Reef, CRF's Restoration team encountered a unique opportunity to further their mission of preserving and restoring our reefs. The team stumbled upon a stressed Brain coral and Great Star coral that had become dislodged from the reef substrate within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Coral scientists and restoration divers refer to such corals as "corals of opportunity". This is because the loose coral is unlikely to survive on its own and thus provides a chance for restoration organizations to preserve and propagate the coral in coral nurseries.
Now don't take this lesson as a free pass to grab any coral you think might need your help! Leave it to the professionals! In order to take corals of opportunity out of the wild and back to nurseries, every organization or individual, including CRF™ must receive special permits from FKNMS. Fortunately, for these two boulder corals, CRF™ has the proper permitting and training! They were brought back to our Tavernier Coral Tree Nursery the same day!
Two boulder corals were found disconnected from the reef by CRF™ divers. These corals of opportunity were collected and conserved in our Tavernier Coral Tree™ Nursery. ©Shane Gallimore/CRF™
BOAT RAMP CORAL RESCUE!
In the past Coral Restoration Foundation™ has worked with the Florida Keys Electric Co-op (FKEC) to rescue corals growing in very shallow water on FKEC structures. Soon after this first project our team was approached by Upper Keys Marine Construction to remove corals from a seawall at Ocean Reef Club in north Key Largo. The corals that were being rescued from these two projects are species that are seldom found in restoration programs. They represent a boost to genetic and species diversity in restoration efforts without impacting undisturbed wild colonies.
In 2020 and 2021 CRF™ completed two coral rescue missions adding new species to our gene bank. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Word quickly spread about the success of these two initial rescue missions, and recently our team was contacted again, this time by the Naval Air Station! The CRF™ crew was tasked with removing corals from a Naval Air Station boat ramp in Key West due to plans for reconstruction, and it was deemed necessary to relocate them. Diving in a boat ramp is definitely not something our crew is used to, but we never miss an opportunity to rescue endangered species. On this day, the team managed to rescue six massive structures of Blushing Star coral from the boat ramp, adding a new species to the CRF™ genetic bank!
Back in our Tavernier Coral Tree nursery, these corals will be carefully fragmented to preserve the healthy tissue, and then placed on plugs to increase production in the nursery. As one of the largest underwater coral tree nurseries in the world, each coral of opportunity rescued by CRF™ helps to preserve genetic diversity in stony corals, which are the foundation of the Florida Reef Tract.
CRF™ Restoration Divers (left to right Nikkie, Robyn, Phanor, and Stefen) rescue blushing star coral from a Naval Air Station boat ramp! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Not only did we successfully outplant over 1000 corals onto Looe Key Reef during our monthly Coral Call event, but we also seized unique opportunities to rescue corals and preserve their genetic diversity. These achievements are a testament to our team's dedication and commitment to our mission. As we continue to overcome obstacles and face new challenges in our work, we remain motivated and committed to protecting and restoring our coral reefs, one coral at a time.
Bringing It Back Editorial Intern
Jessie grew up in Davie, Florida, just a short drive to the beach. After receiving her first SCUBA certification, she spent a lot of time diving in the Florida Keys with her family. Her passion for coral reef ecology and marine conservation strengthened with every visit. Jessie holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Science & Policy from Florida State University as well as AAUS scientific diver accreditation from Florida International University.
Following graduation, she aspired to have a more direct, tangible impact on the restoration of the same reefs that ignited her passions as a kid, leading her to become an intern with Coral Restoration Foundation. As a part of the CRF team, Jessie feels very grateful to contribute to reef restoration on a large-scale.
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.