A CORONAVIRUS UPDATE
In light of the spread of COVID-19, and out of consideration for the safety of our team and local community, CRF™ will be cancelling all public programs and closing the Exploration Center for the next two weeks.
We will continue to work on restoring our reefs during this time, with staff working remotely when possible. We will keep our community informed as the situation evolves, and we thank you for your ongoing support.
FROM ILLINOIS TO KEY LARGO
This past week, a group of 14 snorkelers joined us to see our outplanted reef sites at Carysfort. These eager environmental students from Aurora University in Illinois not only experienced our beautiful Florida weather, but they also witnessed the magic of restoring and rebuilding a coral reef.
Aurora University students at the CRF™ Exploration Center.
© Christopher Wells (Ed.D, Chair and Associate Professor of Parks and Recreation Leadership, School of Education and Human Performance)
Some of the students had never even been on a boat before, and the joy and sheer amazement in their eyes after snorkeling the reef made it clear that the underwater world can have an awe-inspiring effect on everyone. The students saw nurse sharks, lots of jellyfish, barracuda, large schools of surgeonfish, and even managed to spot a goliath grouper hiding in a cave.
“It was amazing. There's definitely so much more coral that CRF™ has returned to the reef than I expected," said Wyatt Schuerman, a student dive program participant.
Aurora University students helping build a Coral Tree™ (top). © Christopher Wells (Ed.D, Chair and Associate Professor of Parks and Recreation Leadership, School of Education and Human Performance)
Aurora University student snorkeling at a reef restoration site (bottom). © Kuba Naum/CRF™
Before embarking on the snorkeling trip, the students got a chance to help us build our coral trees and learn more about our mission and goals. Wyatt Schuerman, one of the students aboard the boat, thought building the trees and actually getting to see the outplanted corals out on the reef was a really fulfilling and unique experience.
LUCKY NUMBER 13
On Friday the 13th, a group of 12 participated in an extra special dive program with Rainbow Reef Dive Center! People travelled all the way from local college dive clubs in Wisconsin to partake in a morning of informative presentations as well as hands on nursery maintenance and outplanting training. Many students showed commitment to the CRF™ mission by completing a Project AWARE Coral Conservation specialty course!
CRF™ Interns Sabine, Andrew, Krista, and Maddy with dive program participants after their two dives. © Krista Laforest/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Unfortunately, the weather proved unfavorable for outplanting, but this gave the group an opportunity to explore the nursery and a restoration site that many people do not get to see! The group got to swim through the entirety of the nursery, visiting the elkhorn, staghorn, boulder coral, and gene bank sections!
CRF™ Intern Maddy shows dive program participants how to clean our Coral Tree™.
© Krista Laforest/Coral Restoration Foundation™
“Swimming through over 500 trees holding different species of corals really speaks to the volume of corals being returned by CRF™, as well as the diversity that they are trying to preserve," said one student diver. "CRF™ is an incredible organization that allowed me to help coral hands-on and save what I love as a diver!"
Dive program participants help maintain our Coral Nursery.
© Krista Laforest/Coral Restoration Foundation™
The group was able to help with some spring cleaning in the nursery, removing algae and bivalves from Coral Trees. Some were even visited by a curious southern stingray!
On the second dive, the group toured Snappers Ledge, a previous CRF™ restoration site. While the site was teeming with creatures great and small, many noted the substrate was dominated by algae. While there were bleak images of corals formerly thriving at heights as tall as 15 feet, we were able to end the dive on a high note, looking back at elkhorn outplants from a few years prior! Seeing these corals thriving inspired many to realize that the work they did during the dive program truly does make a difference.
"Diving In" Editorial Interns
As a kid, the only thing on Kuba’s mind was that he had to snorkel with a turtle. Being an 8-year-old living in a small Swedish town, the chances of that were rather slim. It wasn't until several years later, on his family vacation to Villamendhoo, that his fantasy became a reality. To this day he still remembers how serene and graceful that turtle was. How it effortlessly glided through the water column, colorful wrasses dancing and darting in all sorts of directions around it. It was an image that stayed with him, one that sparked a love for the ocean. Since then he has become a rescue diver and has worked with Saba marine park rangers on their coral farms. He turned from being a recreational diver to someone who actively strives for change. By seeing both the destruction and beauty of our underwater ecosystems he realized that if anything was worth fighting for, it was our reefs. So he couldn’t be more happy to be an Intern here at CRF™ and he’s thrilled to be a part of their mission.
Krista is from Quincy, Massachusetts and is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington with degrees in Marine Biology and Psychology as well as a minor in Neuroscience. She grew up on the ocean and first got the conservation bug when she watched as horseshoe crabs and seagrass beds near her home began to disappear. Throughout her undergraduate career, she took an interest in animal behavior and neurobiology and most recently conducted research in lifespan changes in the brains of sharks. She has worked closely with the New England Aquarium as an aquarist intern and conservation volunteer, as well as the National Estuarine Research Reserve in Homer, Alaska studying the foraging ecology of sea otters. In terms of diving, she got certified in high school but attributes her passion for the sport to her internship with the Boston Sea Rovers. Most recently, she obtained her PADI Divemaster certification as well as AAUS scientific diver and was proud to serve as the President of her university’s SCUBA Club. Krista is overjoyed to finally combine her passions of marine conservation, diving, and outreach to make lasting impacts on the local reef systems through her internship with the Coral Restoration Foundation™!