DIVING INTO THE HEART OF CRF™
Diveheart is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose purpose is to provide and support educational scuba diving programs that are open to any child, adult, or veteran with a disability, in the hopes of providing both physical and psychological therapeutic value to that person.This organization also offers various experiences for its members, one of which is a visit here with us at Coral Restoration Foundation™.
Only July 31st, we had a group of over 20 individuals with Diveheart make the trek down south to join us for two days filled with coral, education and fun! The group spent their second day with Roxane Boonstra, CRF’s Recreational Dive and Volunteer Coordinator, learning about the struggles coral reefs are currently facing and why the work CRF™ does is so important for both our oceans and ourselves. The group was extremely engaging, asking thorough questions and enthusiastically expressed their passion about these critical ecosystems.
After receiving plenty of information and some valuable hands-on training, these amazing Adaptive Divers chartered a trip with our dive friends at Rainbow Reef to head out to the Tavernier Nursery. After brushing up (pun intended) on their Coral Tree™ cleaning skills and entering the water, they vigorously and determinedly applied their energy and skills to some of the dirtiest nursery trees!
It’s truly inspiring to engage with DiveHeart participants and to be part of new dive experiences like through coral restoration both on land and underwater. We cannot wait for their next visit with us! To learn more about this awesome organization, Diveheart, click here!
TAKING THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Robert Frost once said, “Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” and while we may not work within your typical forest we tend to refer to our nurseries as an underwater rainforest and the work we do certainly makes a difference!
Throughout the month of August, we had two groups from the Road Less Traveled spend four days on the water with us! This organization aims to provide their travelers with a life-changing experience by offering them the opportunity to explore some of the world’s most extraordinary places, make meaningful contributions interacting with native people, break down barriers, and serve the goals of a community that welcomes them.
Key Largo may seem like an unusual location, but Road Less Traveled coordinates these campers to work with multiple environmental nonprofits in the area to encourage conservation experiences - including Coral Restoration Foundation™!
These middle and high school students started off their trip in the Keys by obtaining their PADI Open Water Certifications with Florida Keys Dive Center, located in Tavernier, FL. Upon completion, some of their very first recreational dives as certified SCUBA divers or newly certified Advanced specialty divers, they found themselves sitting in the side staring at the edge of the largest coral forest in the world! They then joined us at our Exploration Center to expand their dive certification collection by studying for their PADI Coral Restoration Distinctive Specialty.
As can happen on hot sultry summer days, both groups visits experienced schedule changes from unexpected storms that impacted safe diving and outplanting.. However, this didn’t prevent the group from staying in high spirits as we completed knowledge reviews or grabbed the CRF underwater buoyancy obstacle course, designed byRaquel Gilliland, our Volunteer Program Intern, to put these divers’ skills to the test. And guess what…? THEY ALL ROCKED IT. This course introduced them to the various buoyancy awareness skills needed for proper positioning and buoyancy during an nursery or outplant dive and helped prepare them for their future diving experiences!.
When they weren’t meticulously working through cleaning the majority of Coral Trees™ in our gene bank, the students were out on Pickles Reef with hammers and epoxy in hand. Due to all of their hard work, we were able to return over 100 staghorn corals to some of our various dive program sites and over 250 elkhorn corals to one of our NOAA transects on Pickles.
The Road Less Traveled sends groups to visit Key Largo and Coral Restoration Foundation™ every year, so if this sounds like something you would like to do, check out their website here!
"Diving In" Editorial Intern
JD graduated from the University of New England with a B.S. in Marine Science and Aquaculture/Aquarium Science. During his time as a student, he partook in a coral biology travel course to Ambergris Caye, Belize where he quickly discovered his passion for reef systems. He soon found himself traveling back down to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef to live at a remote dive base for two months where he studied coral population abundance as well as predation, disease, and bleaching metrics. In order to continue fostering his newfound passion for reefs and diving, he quickly became both a certified PADI Divemaster and the Dive Program Intern with us here at the Coral Restoration Foundation™. He is beyond excited to be sharing his passion with the numerous individuals who partake in these immersive experiences and not only continue to help return corals to the reef but also help create stewards for these vital ecosystems.