The seasons work a little differently down here compared to the rest of the country. In summer months the skies are clear, and the seas are calm. It is perfect for diving and reintroducing corals to their beautiful reef homes.
Flat summer seas lead to amazing, clear visibility in the water as shown in both of these aerial photos of our Tavernier Nursery. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
Come autumn, storm season hits the Keys in full force. In 2020 there have been 29 tropical storms and 5 major hurricanes, the most ever recored in a single year! Although no storms have directly impacted our coral restoration sites or nurseries, our teams have been out of the water for nearly a month!
Dangerous diving conditions give us much-needed time for writing end-of-year reports, analyzing our restoration and monitoring data, and planning for future restoration trips . Our new round of interns has practiced and become experts in building boulder coral trees and trays, tying floats and crimping monofilament loops. Performing routine boat maintenance is another necessary task to make sure we keep our boats running smoothly and in good condition. Hurricane season creates time for developing new projects and ideas to implement next year.
“Of course we’d all love to be on the water, but while we are on land, I have been doing everything I can to make lasting impacts for myself and CRF’s mission on a daily basis; making the most of my time down here [and] working with such a wonderful organization like CRF™, no matter the weather, [means] every day is a day in paradise," said CRF™ Intern Jeremy Goodsnyder.
Lindsey Kaye, a first round CRF™ intern, assembles a coral tree as part of our dry land prep work. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
A NEW TYPE OF NURSERY
Most of the corals we return to the reef are grown in our self-sufficient nurseries. Each year we produce enough coral within these nurseries to meet our restoration goals. Occasionally, we participate in projects and partnerships in which we receive or collect wild corals. CRF™ just began one such project with Florida Keys Electric Co-op.
Through this partnership we will be rescuing hundreds of corals, by relocating them from construction zones on electric structures and pilings, into our nurseries. The corals we remove and relocate will be shallow water corals, and they will need specific environmental conditions to survive.
Our newly constructed Shallow Water Nursery temporarily houses rescued wild corals until they are cleared for movement into our Tavernier Nursery, and eventually back to the reef! © Coral Restoration Foundation™
To ensure their safety, we are developing a new shallow-water nursery to act as a transitional home for the rescued corals. We have designed special tables, where the corals will rest as they acclimatize to their new environment. Our dive team will monitor the corals for signs of stress or damage, particularly disease. Disease can easily spread throughout a coral colony, so it is vitally important to make sure each wild coral is healthy before introducing them to the other corals living in our main Tavernier Nursery. Once they are established and healthy, they will be cleared for movement!
Recently we visited our designated site near Tavernier to begin constructing our new Shallow-Water Nursery. We installed the first five tables and collected our first rescued corals. We aim to build several new tables, ensuring plenty of room for future rescues! For more information, you can read the full press release here.
INTRODUCING THE NEWEST RESTORATION PROGRAM INTERN
The CRF™ Restoration Team is happy to have Lauren Zitzman joining the them this fall. Lauren hails from Seattle and was the Key West Intern this past summer. She still assists the Key West Program and has developed a nursery maintenance plan and restoration dive schedule for 2021. Over the past few months, she has trained the new interns in restoration skills and published our end-of-year operations report. In her final months with CRF™, she is most eager to gain more experience boating through the mentorship of the legendary Patti Gross.
Restoration Program Intern Lauren Zitzman swims through our Key West Nursery © Coral Restoration Foundatin™
"Bringing It Back" Editorial Intern
Lauren studied psychology and environmental studies at Seattle University, where she had the life altering experience of studying abroad in the Galapagos Islands. There, she was introduced to marine biology, conservation, and diving. After that, her passion for diving only increased, and she is now a dive instructor and has traveled to explore the marine ecosystems in the Maldives, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, the Caribbean, the Pacific Northwest, and the Florida Keys. An avid learner, Lauren immersed herself in the local environment and started volunteering with Seattle Aquarium as a diver, beach naturalist and salmon naturalist. Lauren is interested in one day conducting deep-sea research, so she earned her certification as a ROV pilot and technician. Most recently, she became a marine educator at Pacific Marine Research Afloat and was taught to inspire change through educating young people to make an everlasting change on the planet. Lauren is excited to still be working in education while making a visible difference on the planet with CRF™.