WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE BOULDER CORAL SECTION?
Land-based training gives our divers confidence under the waves. We practice the fundamentals of nursery maintenance and active coral restoration in a controlled environment so when unforeseen challenges arise, like windy days and low visibility, our team knows exactly what to do!
Our team practices restoration skills on land to prepare for field work. ©Christopher Reynolds/Coral Restoration Foundation™
One of the most difficult skills to master is coral nursery navigation. We maintain 7 coral nurseries throughout the Florida Keys, the largest of which is our Tavernier Nursery. It is the biggest open ocean coral nursery in the world, holding over 500 coral trees and covering almost two acres! It can be very challenging to navigate even in the best water conditions, so familiarizing our divers with the layout of our Tavernier Nursery and perfecting their underwater navigation skills is a top priority.
Left: Elkhorn Coral Trees in their own section of our Tavernier Nursery. Right: A general map of our Tavernier Coral Nursery assists our divers in underwater navigation. ©Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™
During our Midterm Review, we set up a dry-land obstacle course and had buddy teams navigate through it. We amped up the challenge with a competition to draw the Tavernier Nursery map from memory! All these practice sessions equip our team with the confidence they need to overcome challenges in the field without becoming overwhelmed, which increases their safety in the water.
THE MAKING OF A CORAL NURSERY
Ever wonder how our coral nurseries come to be? Our divers manually construct, place, secure, and fill each tree!
We are constantly expanding our nurseries and replacing biofouled trees with new ones which have been cleaned and upcycled. Being able to properly tie down a new Coral Tree™ and attach the floats which suspend them in the water column is vital.
Securing our Coral Trees™ can be a dangerous task if done improperly. There is potential to be snagged by the tree, entangled in the ropes, or pulled to the surface by the floats if the installer isn’t careful and following specific procedures.
During our midterm skills review our team practiced the Coral Tree™ installation procedure using a pulley system to mimic the buoyancy of water!
They also had a chance to use power tools, demonstrating the proper safety protocols when operating saws and drills used to build new trees! Sharpening these skills allows us to work more efficiently and quickly, meaning more coral can be returned to the reef!
They say never work with children or animals. We’d like to add mother nature to that list! Our SCUBA diving operations are dependent on safe weather conditions, if winds are high or storms are in the area our team must decide if it is safe to send boats out on the water.
These safety calls also affect our educational Dive Programs. However, our team has noticed an encouraging trend exemplified by our most recent boat trip cancellation. SCUBA or not, people always want to learn!
Left: Lead Intern Tessa teaches proper coral restoration techniques. Right: Intern Sierra gives our Coral Ecology and Restoration presentation to Rainbow Reef Dive Center staff. ©Christopher Reynolds/Coral Restoration Foundation™
This past Friday, March 12th, boat trips up and down the Keys were cancelled. The shop we were working with for our Dive Program, Rainbow Reef Dive Center, asked their staff if they would stay for our dry land coral restoration education and training session, which is one half of our typical Dive Program. The response was overwhelmingly positive. It was so encouraging to know that despite cancelling the in-water restoration portion of our program, so many people we eager to learn about our work!
RESOURCES FOR YOU
VIRTUAL AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM
NATIONAL BATTLING BIOFOUL STUDENT CHALLENGE
This year, for our national student challenge, we are tackling a new problem – biofouling!
Read the full press release and register here!
"Diving In" Editorial Intern
Chris Reynolds is from Wilmington, North Carolina and is currently pursuing a B.A. in International Studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He began SCUBA diving while stationed in Georgia for the United States Marine Corps, and was immediately hooked on seeking new adventures under the surface and exploring the unique watery landscapes and ecosystems that the ocean has to offer.
Chris has always been passionate about giving back to nature and the community, so when he heard about Coral Restoration Foundation's internship, he knew that this was his opportunity to dive with a purpose and give back to the incredible coral reefs that he has come to love and admire. Chris hopes to gain new perspectives and hands-on experience in underwater conservation that he can carry with him beyond CRF™ and continue to make a positive impact on the oceans and coral reefs around the world.