MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF 2021
As 2021 comes to a close we are taking time over the next month to look back at the achievements of our team and community! One of the greatest aspects of our Dive Programs are amazing groups of people we get to meet and teach, and who often continue to support CRF™ long after they've rinsed their gear. Let's come together one more time to read about some of our most memorable dives of 2021.
January, February, March
To start off the year, our very first dive program participants were our spring interns! Like most people joining our dive programs, many of the interns had never previously worked in coral restoration, and dive programs were the perfect way to introduce them to the work they would be doing in the coming months!
Along with the new interns, our lead interns also spent some time brushing up on their skills and practiced giving a detailed and engaging coral ecology presentation to a variety of different audiences. Seeing as dive programs spend a large chunk of their time in the nursery, it is also important for the interns to master coral nursery navigation in order to safely take our dive program participants through our nurseries!
Coral Restoration Foundation™ welcomes the first interns of 2021 and they get right into training in the water! ©Madalen Howard/Coral Restoration Foundation™
When boat trips get cancelled due to weather, we still offer dive program participants the chance to attend the dry land coral restoration education and training session, which is half of a typical dive program day. It’s always so encouraging to see people still show up to attend the education session, even when dives get blown out.
The hands-on learning portion of our Dive Programs teach the public all about coral restoration on dry land, before getting in the water! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
April, May, June
Dive programs aren’t just for SCUBA divers! We work with a variety of skill levels, including snorkelers. Even though our snorkelers cannot directly return corals to the reef or clean trees, they still get the chance to witness our coral nursery and get a firsthand view of our restoration techniques and the science behind coral restoration. In April, the Ransom Everglades High School grabbed their masks, fins and snorkels and joined us for a dive program to see our nursery from a birds eye view! Then in May, Lett’s Dive, a dive shop from St. Petersburg, FL came all the way down to the Keys and joined us for a dive program with their local community!
Ransom Everglades High School joins CRF™ for a snorkeling program in April 2021! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
June brought us Coralpalooza, the biggest coral reef restoration event on the planet! The weather made it unsafe to outplanting corals, but that didn’t stop our participants from exploring our nurseries, cleaning and maintaining our coral trees, and checking on previous outplants. Plus Coralpalooza Digital was in full swing! We had scientists, artists, and coral enthusiasts from around the world provide entertaining and educational content for hours of virtual interaction. All in all Coralpalooza Digital hosted over 1400 registrants from 34 different countries!
Coralpalooza 2021 was a major success functioning as both a virtual and in-person event! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
July, August, September
July was one of our busiest months for dive programs! Along with our typical one-day dive programs, we also worked with a few special private groups. First up, Diving With a Purpose has been joining us on dive programs for over 5 years, and returned again this year! we are so happy to continue working with such an amazing organization.
Next up, Dive Georgia joined us, but instead of a typical one day program their training took place over two days. Day one consisted of a classroom session, and on day two our participants were greeted bright and early by our coral crew for a day of diving! Speaking of multi day dive programs, we had one of our longest programs yet with Living Plant Aquarium, who joined us for an entire week! They were a huge help both on land and in water towards reaching our restoration goals and assisted in returning over 340 staghorn corals to the reef over 7 dives!
There is never a shortage for things to do on Dive Programs. You can help out in our coral nurseries, return corals to the wild, and even check on past outplants to see how they've grown! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Luckily, in August our volunteers were finally able to join us again! Though still running at limited capacity, we are happy to have divers joining us in the water twice a month and look forward to bringing more volunteers back as quickly and safely as we can! In September our volunteers were able to go out on a charter in honor of PADI Aware Week! These divers were able to spend time learning about the conservation work we do here at CRF™ and spent time in the water familiarizing themselves with our Tavernier Nursery.
The CRF™ Coral Crew always looks forward to our Volunteer charter boats! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
October, November, December
In October, CRF™ worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to host a wonderful girl named Olivia, who wanted to help save coral reefs. She had the opportunity to participate in two of our Edutainment Workshops and was able to learn about coral anatomy and how corals hunt and feed, as well as the role of a corals mucous and its many roles. We are so happy that Olivia was able to join us and learn more about our amazing reefs!
Make-A-Wish brought Olivia to our Exploration Center to learn about her favorite habitat, coral reefs!
Our dive programs continue to grow and expand, with many different members and groups joining us to learn how they can make a positive impact on our coral reefs. We can not wait to see what 2022 holds for dive programs and hope to see you there!
"Diving In Memorable Moments of 2021" Editorial Intern
Michele (she/her) is South African but grew up in the United States and Canada. As a child, she remembers having always been passionate about the ocean and it’s incredible marine life. She fell in love with scuba diving when she went “snuba” diving in Hawaii at the age of 13. After this, she received her open water certification and is now a rescue diver who has been diving since then. Michele’s family bought a marine tank shortly after, as freshwater fish just weren’t cutting it anymore. This is where she truly fell in love with corals, and through the years of diving at various sites throughout the Caribbean and Indonesia, she experienced first hand the degradation to Caribbean reefs, and knew this is not what a healthy, pristine reef should look like.
Michele has graduated from the University of Guelph with a bachelor of science, and was fortunate enough to lead a research project studying the effects of polyp density on the growth and regeneration rates of Ricordea florida polyps in her fourth year. Her hope is that through her internship with CRF she will be able to aid in repopulating coral reefs so that these ecosystems may recover and more people will be able to experience the beauty she has been privileged to witness for generations to come.
Madalen Howard (she/her) 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.