BECOMING A PART OF OUR CORAL COMMUNITY
What does it mean to volunteer?
Not unlike many other nonprofit organizations, Coral Restoration Foundation™ functions with support from many avenues. But what exactly does that mean? In order to further our restoration and conservation efforts, and lend aid to our planet when it is critically important, we look to our local community as much as we do our own members of CRF™!
This—among many other reasons—is why our volunteers are crucial to our success.
Volunteer divers from Rainbow Reef Dive Center Join CRF™ in one of our coral nurseries for hard work mixed with a some fun and games. ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Volunteers play a unique role within Coral Restoration Foundation™: by dedicating their own time to restoration efforts, our volunteers act as external proponents of coral conservation within our local community. In this way, they necessarily span the gap between the CRF™ team and our local community. Our appreciation for our volunteers cannot be overstated—some of our volunteers have been around since Coral Restoration Foundation’s inception in 2007! In 2022 we worked with 207 unique volunteers, but we’re always looking for more!
So how can you be a volunteer? Keep reading!
Volunteers gather around our Dive Training Administrator Roxane awaiting instruction on their first training dive. ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Pathways to Volunteering
CRF™ volunteers have the option of either working on land or in the water.
Land volunteer candidates must fill out a waiver and be 16 years or older before they can go through training. Once finished with training they can expect to help our restoration department by creating monofilament tethers, cutting float lines, building coral trees, presenting educational lessons and tours, and all around supporting our coral nursery infrastructure and education program!
Land volunteers help our team in a variety of ways from construction to education! Left: ©Jennifer Adler for Vox News Center and Right: ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Our workboat (water) volunteers are given extensive, free training bringing them to a level of skill and expertise close to that of our restoration divers. To be a water volunteer you must be open water certified with a minimum of 30 dives, be over the age of 18, have up-to-date CPR, First Aid, and O2 Administration certifications, provide their own gear with proof of servicing within one year, and have active SCUBA diving insurance.
Diving volunteers are required to pass our NOAA Scientific Diving Standardized pool session, as well as four boat training modules before being able to volunteer regularly with CRF™! Each training module is designed to help each of our volunteers become familiar with what we do at sea.
CRF™ workboat volunteers are trained by our staff to reach a skill level close to that of our own restoration divers! ©Joe Ducker/Coral Restoration Foundation™
The first module teaches our volunteers fundamental nursery maintenance procedures, including how to navigate our coral nurseries, how to attach and identify coral genotypes using identification tags, how to hang corals from our Coral Trees™ using monofilament, and how to clean and maintain Coral Trees™! The second module instructs candidates on how to install new Coral Trees™attaching them to duckbill anchors within our nurseries tying floats to them so they can remain buoyant. The third module is focused on returning endangered corals to the wild! This is where volunteer candidates learn how to help cultivate corals within our nurseries for propagation, and how to outplant corals on to Florida’s reefs. The fourth and last module teaches volunteers to learn how to operate our small vessels, and respond to situations on board! After completing all four training modules, workboat volunteers are placed on our scheduling list and find ample opportunities to dive and restore corals alongside our team!
Our workboat volunteer training might sound intensive, and it is! It’s absolutely necessary for us to train anyone working with endangered corals in the open ocean to ensure their safety, the safety of our team, and the health of the corals we are all working to conserve. Once a volunteer has completed their training they can join our team indefinitely, dive for free and return endangered species to the wild!
We understand our volunteers are all unique and come to CRF™ from different backgrounds with respectively different experience. We want you to be the best version of you when you’re working with us at CRF™ so let us know how we can help accentuate your strengths! Though we have two very clear pathways for service we are always excited when people want to contribute to our work. So tell us, are you a captain? Do you have any special certifications? Are you a writer? Bilingual? The more we know the better we can work together!
CRF™ volunteers bring a diverse set of skills and knowledge to our Coral Crew and we love them for it! ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™
The Foundation of Coral Restoration Foundation™
Climate change, with all of its cascading consequences, is a complex, large-scale issue that threatens not only the existence of our corals, but our planet as well. An issue as enormous as climate change requires intricate solutions on all levels. If CRF™ is a machine designed to restore coral reefs then each part is essential to its product: our volunteers are no exception to its vitality and the success we have seen both in our nurseries and out on our Florida reefs!
Volunteers, snorkelers and divers fill the CRF™ Carysfort Coral Nursery. ©Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Restoring our reefs takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and passion; all of which are imbued by the many community members, volunteers, interns, and staff members that carry out our mission every day! In 2022 we’ve massively increased our coral outplanting goals, and in June alone we returned over 11,000 corals to the wild! This is an unprecedented achievement in coral restoration, and such a feat is only possible thanks to our supportive community!
Suffice to say that none of this could have been accomplished without YOU, so thank you for playing your part!
"Diving In" Editorial Intern
Jason Mirstopolous (he/him) grew up in Westchester, NY, but he would much rather consider
the ocean his home. Jason lead most of his life wanting to be near the sea where he could explore Earth’s oceans and learn about marine life. After graduating from Stony Brook University with a degree in marine sciences, Jason decided to delve into the field of coral reef ecology so as to contribute to global conservation efforts and aid in the preservation of our planet. When he’s not in the water, Jason spends most of his time bouldering, snowboarding, making music, and writing. Beyond anything else, Jason finds purpose in making our planet a better, safer, and more enjoyable place for all of its constituents.
Coral Chronicles Editor
Madalen Howard (she/her) 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. .