CRF™ CORAL TREES WITHSTAND HURRICANE NICOLE!
In the past few issues of “Bringing It Back” we’ve been sharing the progress of a project spearheaded by one of our Restoration Program Interns Will. He has been working on building a portable addition to our Boulder Coral Trees™ to increase the number of corals each Tree can hold. He has affectionately named this device he developed "the mega-limb" which when added to a Coral Tree, creates a “mega-tree”. A few “mega-trees” have now found a home in our Tavernier Nursery, and just a week after they were installed they endured their first storm… Hurricane Nicole! Did they make it? Read on...
Restoration Program Intern Will shows off the "mega-tree" design which increases the amount of boulder corals each tree can hold! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
The first four mega-limbs installed to the boulder trees in our Tavernier Nursery were attached with zip ties as tightly as Will could manage to get them by hand, while SCUBA diving. (Just one of the many examples of field work throwing unpredictable situations your way.)
Will says, “In my opinion the only potential failure point during a storm would be the four zip ties which clamp the mega-limb to the boulder coral tree.”
After doing his research Will discovered there are more durable alternatives to zip ties, but they are much more expensive and since our plan is to make every boulder coral tree a mega-tree the zip-ties are the best option for widespread use. Now with Hurricane Nicole on the horizon his choice would be put to the test!
Another concern the restoration team had was how the additional weight from the mega-limbs would affect the original boulder coral trees. A normal boulder Coral Tree will float well with four floats. When installing a mega-tree Will had to add a total of six floats to ensure the tree remained buoyant before even filling the tree with corals. When fully loaded with corals the trees remained buoyant, just barely. When Will tugged on the tether it was obvious that the weight of the mega-tree would quickly overcome the floats as it accumulated biofoul. He decided to install eight floats total to ensure the mega-tree was well supported in the water!
When Will set up the mega-trees for the first time in our Tavernier Nursery, a CRF volunteer was his dive buddy. Will showed him on the boat the design for the mega-limb additions and after a few questions he understood the plan and both divers headed down! The first step was to take every tray off the tree, then orient the mega-limb, and finally zip-tie it in place.
“The setup took us about 30 minutes of the first dive, but I think once we get the process down we can do maybe four or five mega-tree upgrades per diver per dive. The next step will be to work on spacing them and preventing possible slipping along the trunks. We cannot allow one tray of corals to sit in the shade of another."
Now with the mega-limbs installed and the final mega-trees floating securely in the CRF Tavernier Nursery, warnings of a Hurricane had will biting his nails. Would the zip-ties hold? Would eight floats be enough to keep the trees off the sand?
Turns out, Will’s design withstood the storm!
Restoration Program Intern Will poses next to a "mega-tree" that withstood Hurricane Nicole! ©Coral Restoration Foundation
“As you can see in the photo above the trays moved a bit during the storm and some of the lower trays aren’t quite the way we like them. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled by this successful first trial!”
Bringing it Back Editorial Interns
Will Stange grew up in Princeton, NJ and is a graduate of Cornell University. As an
undergraduate he competed on the Varsity swim team and in the U.S. 2016 Olympic trials. A reverence for nature and the spark he felt when submerged in the brine during summertime open water ocean races motivated Will to aspire to a career in ocean conservation. After earning his BS in marine ecology Will moved to Key Largo where he found work at local restaurants at night so he could earn his dive certifications by day. Will feels grateful for the past two years spent working as a divemaster on Key Largo where he has been able to witness firsthand what he had previously only seen in books or documentaries. As part of the CRF team Will is excited to give everything he can towards restoring our nations iconic barrier reefs.
Sol Yoder has always had an appreciation for the natural world. As a young teenager, she
lived on the coast of Ecuador and visited the Galapagos Islands for the first time. This experience not only enhanced her interest and love for the ocean and wildlife, but put her on the path to pursue a career in marine biology. She became SCUBA certified at 18, and achieved her PADI Instructor rating by 21. She has worked as a PADI professional while also graduating with her B.S in Biological Sciences from Florida Atlantic University. Since graduating from FAU, Sol has assisted in various wildlife studies that focus on the conservation of species, such as sea turtles, manta rays, and now corals. She couldn’t be more excited to be part of CRF and help restore Florida’s coral reef!
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.