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"Diving In" to March with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

CRF™ unites with the College of the Florida Keys!

We are excited to announce our collaboration with The College of the Florida Keys! Alongside Dr. Abigail Clark’s Field Application of Marine Science: Restoration of Coral Reefs course, CRF™ is teaching students how to restore a coral reef! Our course collaboration kicked off with an educational presentations and hands-on training. The following week the class helped make two dozen bundles of monofilament loops used to hang corals onto our trees. This was a tremendous help to our Key West restoration team which is just three people! They are tasked with operating our Key West branch entirely with support from our main headquarters in Key Largo. Finally on Saturday March 11th the weather was in our favor, and the Coral Crew and CFK students used the college’s scientific vessel to get into the field!

Students at the College of the Florida Keys accompany CRF™ divers on a day of field restoration work! ©Captain Karen Angle


We headed out to the Key West nursery, enjoying perfect conditions and even spotted a few dolphins on the way out! The water was a decadent sky blue, and the waves were minimal. We pulled up to our nursery, geared up, and hopped in! A little shocked from how cold the water was, the students were somewhat rudely awakened to the reality of field work! 76 F° may not sound cold, but it shocks the system when you first jump in.


We eased into the dive with a tour of our Key West Coral Nursery. We were greeted by a giant cloud of fish, and the group swam right through it. Our participants described the experience as nothing less than magical. After the tour the Coral Crew assigned the students Coral Trees™ to clean. The Key West nursery is unique because the biofoul the trees accumulate is typically more fluffy algae rather than fire coral and encrusting organisms. This makes cleaning very messy. The team went crazy with it, and attacked that algae with chisel and brush.

A biofouled Coral Tree™ in our Key West nursery got a major scrubbing! ©Dr. Abigail Clark


After a surface interval the team went back in the water and cleaned for the entire second dive. Each buddy team cleaned between 2-4 Coral Trees™, an impressive achievement, especially this being their first time working in our nursery. Our team could tell that these students were competent scientific divers with fine-tuned skills that they harnessed to complete their tree cleaning work in an efficient and timely manner. While cleaning, our Key West Lead Intern Stephen, spotted a loggerhead seaturtle! The turtle swam casually on the outskirts of the nursery as if to say thank you for our work!


Once back on the boat the team buzzed with joy and excitement from the fun and fulfillment of the work they had done together. Our Coral Trees™ are ecosystems of their own, and they are home to many different organisms such as crabs, common copopods, worms, urchins, and sometimes even octopus take shelter inside the PVC pipe. So after all that hard work everyone jumped into the water together to clean themselves of the common copepods that tend to attach to the divers as they clean the trees. We headed back to the dock and debriefed about their wonderful day. We have two more restoration dives planned with the College of the Florida Keys and are aiming to outplant with them in April!

A school of fish greets our team as they dive down to clean our Key West Nursery with students from the College of the Florida Keys. ©Andrew Wex


Incorporating the community into our mission is one of our core values. Dive Programs are an intense process, which requires extensive planning, training, and the days are long. We put this effort into our programs because it is essential to our cause that we mobilize the masses and inspire and teach the public about how to restore a reef. Since our organization is focused on large scale massive action it truly takes a village. We provide the means, methodology, and corals to do mass scale restoration, but we need all of you to get this enormous job done.


Those of you who read the Coral Chronicles, follow us on social media, participate in our dive programs, and volunteer, you make our mission possible. Partnering with The College of Florida Keys is an important step for us because we are hope to inspire the next generation of ocean stewards to get involved in reef restoration. Their bright minds will pave the way for future restoration, and by learning about how restoration works they can begin thinking about the big questions and solutions for the future of reef restoration. More importantly we want them to know that there is hope for the future, and they can be a part of it.


Working in Marine Biology often feels like an uphill battle. At times it can feel like efforts are futile, but we are here to show everyone that there is hope. Our Dive Programs are a beautiful illustration of this message. During dive programs we take participants through our coral nurseries, and they get to see the scale of our operation. They can see for themselves the origin of our corals that begin as small fragments in our nursery and grow into large colonies. On the second dive they get to visit one of our restoration reef sites. Through this experience participants get to see firsthand the fruits of our labor. They then get to see the result of outplanting by swimming over large thickets and clusters. They can see the cowtags that mark our presence and indicate that the living corals on that reef are there thanks to CRF™.


Our team is proud to lead these dives and showcase our work. If you are interested in joining a dive program visit our website! Under ‘Get Involved’ you can find ‘Dive Programs’. Click on that tab and it will take you to our calendar where you can sign up through our participating dive shops. We would love to have you in the water with us!

Interns Stephen, Julia, and Hayley pose for a photo after a good day under the waves with students from the College of the Florida Keys. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


 

"Diving In" Editorial Intern

Haley was born and raised in the Bay area in California, educated at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and is now embarking on her next adventure in the Florida Keys. An Environmental Studies major with a Biology minor, Haley loves being face-to-face with the natural world. Animals being her biggest passion, she loves having up close experiences with the underwater world. Haley obtained her Divemaster training in Belize where she got to experience beautiful diving, but also heard stories about pristine reefs bustling with life, which have vanished. She has made it her mission to work for an organization that shares the goal of restoring and protecting the ocean. Working with CRF and incorporating diving, connecting with the community, and environmental restoration has been the adventure of a lifetime for Haley.


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. .

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