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"Bringing it Back" in September 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

CRF™ TO THE RESCUE: CORALS IN DISTRESS!

We are celebrating the completion of our coral rescue contract with the Florida Keys Electric Co-op! Over the course of 20 working days, we visited 138 utility poles that needed repair and saved over 700 corals!


Collecting these corals was not easy, all the utility poles were located in shallow water areas and subject to drastic tides and ripping currents that could wash our divers and corals out to sea. Our teams could only go out during slack tides, suited up (water temperatures fell lower than 60ºF) and still managed to salvage an incredible 754 different genotypes of corals!

CRF™ Restoration Program Coordinator Nikkie Cox and Restoration Associate Sami Miller carefully measure and remove corals from electric pylons and seawalls at Ocean Reef Club. ©Nikkie Cox/Sami Miller/Coral Restoration Foundation™


After each of our dive days, our teams monitored the salvaged corals in aerated tubs overnight so we could run the corals the next day to our shallow water nursery near Pickles Reef! Below is a shot of some corals happy to be rescued.

CRF™ Restoration Program Coordinator Nikkie Cox monitors rescued corals in our shallow water nursery! ©Sami Miller/Coral Restoration Foundation™


Because the depth of this nursery is less than half that of our Coral Tree™ Nurseries we designed an entirely new type of coral table made of PVC that was anchored to the sediment and allowed the rescued corals to remain in a shallow water environment.

Halfway through the coral rescue we ran out of room at our Pickles nursery so we had to move the corals to our Tavernier Nursery!


Our team was nervous about this move. We didn’t know if the transition from shallow to deep water environments would negatively impact the rescued corals. When we finally made the transition we were overjoyed with the success! All of the corals survived the initial transfer, unfortunately we did lose some species shortly after transfer. We began this project having collected approximately 754 putative genotypes and just under 740 have stayed strong and are now living in our Pickles or Tavernier Nurseries.


We attached small rescued corals to cards by using epoxy before zip-tying them on our boulder trays and trees. For large corals we drilled holes in the colonies and zip-tied the colonies straight to the boulder trays. While drilling a hole through a coral may seem like a great way to kill them, the automatic drills only touch a small portion of coral tissue and we have seen the healthy coral tissue grow over the zip ties threaded through these holes!

CRF™ Restoration Associate Sami salvages and relocates a coral to its new home! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Thanks to our team’s arduous work we have doubled the number of coral species in our nursery, bringing our total up to 22 distinct species! We salvaged multiples species of finger, brain, cactus, and star corals! We aim to find out the best methods for propagating these corals and increasing our stock with the end goal of out planting them in the latter stage of NOAA’s Mission Iconic Reefs plan!


 

UPDATING OUR GENE BANK TO PRESERVE CRITICALLY ENDANGERED ELKHORN CORALS

Our restoration team had their hands full over the last couple of weeks organizing the elkhorn coral section of our Coral Gene Bank! They painstakingly replaced old genotype naming tags with new ones and reordered dozens of genetically different colonies on our coral trees.

A CRF™ Volunteer cleans an elkhorn coral tree. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


Our Gene Bank is essential to our coral restoration efforts. By preserving as many genotypes as we can, we are giving Florida’s reefs a better chance of adapting to changing environmental conditions. While increasing water temperatures is one of the hallmarks of climate change, it is by no means the only threat that marine ecosystems are facing. Corals that are adapted to heat may not be adapted to disease or strong storm surges.


Conserving genetic diversity in our nurseries and through restoration gives reef ecosystems their best chance to survive the myriad of threats they are facing. While organizations work to curb carbon emissions, it is essential that we work to maintain viable wild coral populations that will have a chance to recover once we mitigate the effects of climate change.


New genotype tagging system implemented

in the elkhorn section of our coral gene bank.

©Tom Condon/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Three unique species including two critically endangered corals currently living in our coral nursery. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


At this moment our coral nursery is home to just over 1,000 putative genotypes across 22 species of corals, making our Tavernier nursery a bastion of coral diversity in the Keys reef tract.

Upon completing our organization of the elkhorn section of our gene bank, two out of the three sections are updated and organized! Our team’s next project is organizing the staghorn corals! Plus, in the midst of all this physical organizing, our science team is sequencing the genotypes of all our staghorn, elkhorn, and boulder corals to get the most accurate representation of populations we are conserving.

 

OUR RESTORATION TEAM IS GROWING!

CRF™ has recently grown and we want to give a warm welcome to our new restoration staff! After careful consideration we hired 2 temporary restoration staff and 2 permanent positions! Here are their smiling faces!

They’re as stoked to be here as we are to have them! Ellen perfectly encapsulated our sentiments in a brief interview.

I’m most excited to be able to continue working with this team. As an intern, I worked closely with the Restoration Department as the Restoration Program Intern during summer 2020 and had such an amazing time. Even now as a staff member I am constantly learning from my coworkers, and we have a great time together. Being surrounded by a team that shares the same passion is really special, and I’ve made a lot of lasting friendships here. It great to be able to come into work every day and have a good day no matter who I’m working with. I’m also excited to be able to continue working toward CRF’s mission. Having a hands-on role in restoring and conserving the Florida Reef Tract is really meaningful.

We are looking forward to continue to restore Florida’s coral reefs with our fantastic new team!


Pictured from Top to Bottom, left to right: Sami Miller Temporary Restoration Associate, Lindsey Smith Temporary Restoration Associate, Sam Burrell Senior Restoration Associate, Ellen Hudson Restoration Associate ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

 

"Bringing It Back" Editorial Interns


"Bringing it Back" Editorial Intern

Tom grew up in Palm Springs, CA and knew he wanted to be an environmentalist from an early age. His interest in the natural world was fueled by frequent trips to the beaches, deserts, and forests of the West Coast. Tom recently graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in Marine Biology and a minor in Conservation Biology. He entered the marine realm after taking his first conservation class and learning about how vulnerable coral reefs are to climate change. He started diving in the Channel Islands and became a scientific diver to research algae while on a quarter abroad in Mo’orea, French Polynesia. While abroad, he experienced the degradation of coral reefs firsthand. Tom is very excited to work with CRF™ to make a positive impact on coral reefs and inspire people to take action to tackle the upcoming climate crisis.


Editor

Madalen Howard is CRF's Marketing Associate. 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.

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