EDUCATED DIVERS ARE A REEF'S BEST FRIEND
We are always excited to host our Restoration Dive Programs. So much progress can be made in reef restoration when the dive community becomes aware of the problems coral reefs are facing, and takes action to help them become healthier. Giving divers a chance to get into the field with us creates an understanding of our work and incentive to help restore coral reefs! This month one group joined us for a Dive Program on November 16th with Silent World Dive Center.
Divers on a CRF™ Dive Program explore the reef ecosystem, participate in restoration, and learn what they can do in their own lives to help coral reefs. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Each of our Dive Programs aims to build upon and enhance the connection divers have to coral reefs. After all, diving wouldn’t be the same if there were no corals left to see! As with all our Dive Programs, we began the day with our ecology presentation which covers topics from coral anatomy to economic impact of reef degradation. Our Dive Program Intern, Andrew Ibarra, led the discussion. Andrew has been with CRF™ for almost a year and is incredibly passionate about connecting divers with the environment and science. This typically leads to very interesting conversations in the classroom and on the boats.
"I love taking divers out on programs because everyone has such a different life and path to conservation. They each individually and personally have concluded that they want to help coral reefs. Seeing people react in awe after diving in the CRF™ Nursery hits me every time. On the boat ride back I often end up finding myself in deep conversations about what more we can do as people to help fight this ecosystem level devastation. The best part of Dive Programs, for me, is knowing that these divers leave us and spread the message of coral restoration and conservation." -Andrew Ibarra, CRF™ Dive Program Intern
THE LITTLE CORALS THAT COULD
After the dry-land discussion, we loaded the boats with our gear and restoration supplies and set course for our Carysfort Nursery. This would be our first time seeing the nursery since Tropical Storm Eta had hit Key Largo. Anticipation for the possible damage was looming but quickly disappeared when we saw the nursery under the waves. There was almost no damage aside from a few lost floats which were easily replaced. Anxiety gone; it was time to get to work cleaning and filling trees with corals!
Divers with the November 16 Dive Program assist in Coral Tree™ maintenance and cleaning, upkeep which is vital to fight back algal growth and support healthy corals. ©Andrew Ibarra/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Next stop was Carysfort Reef, where we visited some of our previously restored corals. We were looking for a specific patch of restored reef with 4 year old corals. When we place corals fragments, they are arranged so they will fuse together when they come into contact, creating one giant coral colony. When we found these 4 year old corals they no longer looked like individuals but rather a field of healthy elkhorn corals! Seeing the growth from a small fragment to a tremendous colony is so rewarding, and the divers were amazed they could see such progress right before their eyes.
Left: 1 year old elkhorn corals growing on Carysfort Reef Right: Those same elkhorn corals after 4 years of growth ©Alex Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™
Our team is constantly impressed with the level of interest and knowledge most divers bring to our Dive Programs. This group was eager to discuss the science behind our restoration initiatives, and what it is like to work as a conservation diver. One diver, who was joining us for a second time, expressed their excitement to be able to get in the water, see our nursery full of Coral Trees™ and help make a difference. The entire group agreed that the appeal of our Restoration Dive Programs is the sense of accomplishment and community they feel after participating.
"Diving In" Editorial Intern
Andrew was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and spent many hours in the Atlantic Ocean swimming and snorkeling as a child. He graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and minors in biology and mathematics. In school, he researched marine gastropods and conducted sea turtle tagging surveys. After graduating, Andrew wanted to dive (no pun intended) into the world of marine conservation and do something to make a tangible difference for the ocean. After completing 50 dives in the Upper Keys and witnessing ghastly coral graveyards, struggling ecosystems, and degraded portions of the Florida Barrier Reef, Andrew was inspired to apply to CRF™ to actively help restore our beloved marine ecosystem. He is super excited to join the CRF™ family and learn a variety of skills both above and below the surface. In his spare time, Andrew loves playing any and all sports and watching Marvel movies on repeat.
Gabrielle Rosenbacher grew up in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, she has been passionate about wildlife conservation since she can remember. She became PADI certified at 10 years old in the Koh Pi Pi Islands in Thailand. Gabrielle received a BA in Environmental Studies - Ecology & Conservation from the University of Vermont. A semester of her studies was spent in the Turks & Caicos Islands at the School for Field Studies - Center for Marine Resource Studies, further growing her passion for marine conservation and diving. Following university, Gabrielle lived in the Canary Islands, where she received her Divemaster and PADI Instructor qualifications, as well as numerous specialty certifications. Since then, she led a non-profit marine conservation organization in Caye Caulker, Belize, as the project coordinator. Gabrielle would like to continue devoting her life to marine conservation and working with non-profit organizations.