REEF FUTURES UNITES RESTORATION SCIENTISTS AROUND THE GLOBE!
During the final week of September over 600 reef restoration specialists from 50 countries gathered in Key Largo Florida for Reef Futures, the premier global symposium focused solely on the interventions and actions necessary to allow coral reefs to thrive into the next century, hosted by NOAA. Reef Futures is a conference of hope, action, opportunity, and diversity. Whether you are new to the field, or an experienced professional, this symposium was the place to be if you are passionate about the field of coral reef restoration.
Reef restoration specialists from around the globe gathered for Reef Futures 2022 in Key Largo, FL ©Granger Eltringham/Coral Restoration Consortium
CRF™ acted as the local host of Reef Futures which encompassed a variety of duties including assisting with the planning and coordination of the entire week! Our team also submitted abstracts for consideration, and 5 of our staff members gave presentations or presented posters during the conference.
However, some of the most exciting Reef Futures events preceded the week-long conference. We had the opportunity to participate in 3 in-field knowledge exchanges with restoration experts from around the globe!
The first knowledge exchange was organized by CRF™ and the Coral Nurture Program in Australia and included participants from MARRS and KAUST. The second was organized by NOAA and CRF™ in cooperation with NOAA's Pacific Island partners including Kuleana Coral in Hawaii, and The Nature Conservancy accompanied by multiple restoration organizations from Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The third exchange was organized by CRF™ and the Guam National Park Service and included park service staff!
NOAA, Kuleana Coral, Coral Nurture Program, MARRS, KAUST, The Nature Conservancy, CRF™, and the Guam NPS teamed up for knowledge exchanges as part of Reef Futures 2022! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
These global coral restoration experts shared their own knowledge with us, helping our team see new ways to potentially solve some of the problems we encounter with large scale restoration. For the Pacific Islands Partners knowledge exchange there was a major focus on boulder coral techniques. They worked with our team to propagate over 400 boulder corals in our open ocean nursery and then returned over 300 of those new fragments to the wild!
The Kuleana Coral Team returned over 300 boulder corals to Florida's Coral Reef in September 2022 ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
With the Guam NPS team we discussed the differences in challenges facing these areas in comparison to Florida's Coral Reef. Our team shared our nursery building, outplanting, and photomosaic monitoring techniques with the goal of shaving off years of research and development in their own restoration projects.
Our friends from the Coral Nurture Program in Australia taught us their coral clip outplanting method which significantly increased our speed underwater. We secured over 300 corals to the reef in one dive! Now our team is investigating if the clip holds the corals as well as our epoxy method. We're hopeful this will improve our methods and speed up our field days!
CRF™ and Coral Nurture Program of Australia teach one another new restoration methods! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
These three knowledge exchanges resulted in strong relationships built on support and collaboration. At CRF™ we see the power of sharing knowledge, because it is always a win for the reef!
CRF™ LOOE KEY NURSERY IS THE NEW HOME TO TWO BOULDER CORAL SPECIES
In the 2nd and 3rd week of October our team made some major improvements to our Looe Key nursery. Our goal is to expand the nursery to 100 trees by the end of 2022, and now we are 9 trees closer to that goal! On top of adding new Coral Trees™, our Key West Restoration Coordinator, Bailey, Senior Restoration Diver, Sam, and Key West Program Intern, Sol, worked together to transfer 5 unique genotypes of boulder coral from our Tavernier Nursery to our Looe Key Nursery.
Brood stock boulder corals are large and serve as the "parents" in our Coral Nurseries. ©Sol Yoder/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Sam chose 2-4 healthy brood stock colonies of boulder coral housed in our Tavernier Nursery. Brood stock corals are the “parents” of our coral stock. Our team lets them grow large so they can eventually be propagated into smaller fragments. We harvested 3 colonies of mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata), and 2 colonies of star coral (Orbicella annularis). Aside from boulder coral, the team also harvested enough elkhorn corals to fill 4 new trees of 4 unique genotypes!
Once at the Looe Key Nursery, our divers brought all the new Coral Trees™ underwater along with the elkhorn and boulder corals. They installed 4 trees in the elkhorn section while fragmenting enough corals to fill all trees. During their second dive they installed 5 boulder trees.
Sol, Shane, Bailey, and Will a few of our CRF™ restoration team members smile for a photo after a succesful day on the water! ©Will Stange/Coral Restoration Foundation™
This is the first time ever transferring boulder corals to the lower keys in CRF history! The brood stock boulder corals must stay and acclimate to their new home for at least a week. Our team will be monitoring them for any type of stress responses. Are you curious to find out how they did?
After a week of acclimation to the new Looe Key Nursery the brood stock boulder corals were fragmented into 70 smaller pieces! ©Sol Yoder/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Luckily, we have updates already! Our team watched closely for any signs of stress after the first week, the brood stock boulder corals were healthy and stable. They appeared to be loving their new home, and happy that Florida water temperatures dropped to a comfortable 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Now it was time to fragment them into smaller pieces to increase our production of boulder coral in our Looe Key nursery. Our divers took the large colonies of brood stock from the original harvest and fragmented them into 70 small 3-centimeter-wide plugs. If growth is successful, we will have all 70 plugs from each brood stock colony to outplant next year! And just like that, our lower keys team is 9 trees closer to their goal, 57 Coral Trees™ down 43 to go!
INTERN INGENUITY INCREASES OUR BOULDER CORAL CARRYING CAPACITY!
Our Restoration Program Intern Will has been working on a modification for our boulder Coral Trees™ and has some updates to share!
“Phanor Montoya, our new Restoration Program Manager, had asked me if I could find a way to double the number of trays on each boulder tree. The gears began turning in my head and I got to work.”
Some of the project limitations included that the existing Trees™ need to remain in the water during the installation process as removing an entire Coral Tree™ is a time consuming and difficult task. We quickly ruled out using the underwater NEMO drill as it was too difficult to use with the degree of precision we needed to install hardware to hold up the additional shelves. Instead Will decided to design a device that clamps onto the existing Coral Tree™ so that it could be easily installed by a single diver.
Coming soon to a nursery near you, ladies and gentlemen, Will presents his “mega-boulder Coral Tree™”!
Thanks to his ingenuity and support from our full-time staff, Will designed an attachable structure that adds trays to our existing boulder Coral Trees™ increasing our carrying capacity!
We can now attach 4 additional trays to every existing boulder tree at a cost of about $10 per addition. That’s 320 extra boulder corals ripening on each tree all without building entirely new Trees™ that need to be installed. This saves our team hours of labor while increasing our ability to raise more boulder corals!
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.