LETTS DIVE IN!
On August 15, 12 divers from Letts Dive in St. Petersburg joined Coral Restoration Foundation™ for one of our signature dive programs!
Several months ago, Women’s Hall of Fame member and long-time CRF™ volunteer, Patti Gross, spoke with a group of female divers from Letts Dive to teach them about our coral restoration work and how they can get involved.
Inspired to take action from this talk, Letts Dive organized a dive program with CRF™ that filled up within an hour of them opening up spots!
Letts Dive group at the CRF™ Exploration Center before their dives. © Coral Restoration Foundation
The Letts Dive group joined us at the CRF™ Exploration Center in Key Largo for a morning of hands-on training while learning even more about coral restoration. After lunch, our Coral Crew met the participants at Silent World Dive Center to begin our dives!
After we made the 45-minute boat ride out to our Carysfort Nursery, everyone jumped in the water for a tour of the nursery, which features more than 100 Coral Trees. Buddy pairs were then assigned a tree to clean together using brushes and chisels. This helps ensure that the corals on the tree have little competition from algae and lots of room to grow.
“The presenters were so passionate for the mission. I love that we were able to practice on the models before we ventured into open water! On our first dive, I was worried about bumping and breaking the fragile coral, but I was surprised at how easy (and therapeutic) the brushing and scraping really was. I looked around and saw my whole group completely engrossed in their tasks and it warmed my heart,” said Brenda Letts of Letts Dive.
The Letts Dive group with the CRF™ Coral Crew before they ventured out to Carysfort Nursery. © Darcy Justin/Coral Restoration Foundation™
After our first dive in the nursery, the group hopped on the boat to head over to Carysfort Reef, one of CRF’s most iconic restoration sites. Here, the group returned over 50 staghorn corals back to the reef. Brenda Letts continues with this:
“We had a bit of surge to contend with, which made outplanting challenging at times. Our group unanimously agreed – the task looked much easier on land in the classroom! By the last few pieces we really got into a rhythm , and it became much easier. This was an incredible experience and we cannot wait to do it again!”
The CRF™ Coral Crew had an incredible time with this group from Letts Dive. We thank each diver for their time and passion on these restoration dives. We couldn't do what we do without volunteers like these.
CRF™ Dive Programs involve partnering with various dive charter companies throughout the Florida Keys. On a dive program with Key Dives Charters this past month, the crew spotted a lethargic sea turtle, which the charter boat had been monitoring for multiple days.
With special permission, Key Dives was given the green light to bring the sea turtle to a turtle hospital located in Marathon, Florida. This inspiring mission happened on an active CRF™ Dive Program! The dive program volunteers on this trip were eager to assist in getting the sea turtle to the hospital in addition to helping us restore the reef!
The lethargic sea turtle on the reef. © Darcy Justin/Coral Restoration Foundation™
It was suspected the sea turtle may have swallowed plastic debris, which caused the sea turtle to act abnormally, signifying to divers that the turtle was not well. It is estimated there is roughly 150 million metric tons of plastic currently in our oceans. Equivalent to 8 million metric tons of plastic goes into our oceans yearly, which affect all marine life, from coral reefs to sea turtles to sharks.
The CRF™ Team gently getting the injured turtle on the dive boat. © Darcy Justin/Coral Restoration Foundation™
We're happy to say that this strong sea turtle made it safely to the hospital! While CRF™ is focused on the active restoration of Florida's Coral Reef, our work goes beyond that in situations like these. Coral reefs are home to 25% of marine species, and we love seeing our sea turtle visitors throughout our nurseries and reef restoration sites. They are an integral species when it comes to the health of our reefs.
One way that the general public can help mitigate this issue is to join the fight against plastic in our oceans by using reusable straws, bottles, and bags. Our coral reefs appreciate your commitment to keeping our oceans clean!
AND(rew), WE'RE DIVING IN
While the summer comes to an end, so does our Summer 2020 internship term. Darcy Justin has held the position of Dive Program Intern, and we loved having her on the team! Darcy recently earned her Divemaster certification and will be continuing her marine conservation career by pursuing her master's degree in Miami. Best fishes Darcy!
Darcy diving with CRF™. © Darcy Justin
With that bittersweet farewell, we would like to introduce our Fall 2020 Dive Program Intern, Andrew Ibarra. Andrew attended Florida State University and earned his Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science with minors in biology and mathematics.
Raised in West Palm Beach, Florida his passion for the water began at a young age, snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean. When Andrew is not enthralled in the world of marine conservation, he is playing sports and enjoying Marvel movies. Welcome to the Dive Program Team, Andrew!
Andrew tenting staghorn coral during the spawning 2020 season. © Alex Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™
We asked Andrew a couple of questions about his experiences with CRF™ so far, and what he is eager about in the upcoming months in his new position:
What are you looking forward to most about being the Fall Dive Program Intern?
I’m excited to continue my diving experience and share my knowledge with future dive program volunteers! Of course, while also spreading the CRF™ mission and inspiring future ocean conservationists.
What’s been the most memorable part about being an intern at CRF™, so far?
It’s always been on my bucket list to experience coral spawning. And this past August, I was able to cross it off my list! Being able to observe and collect coral gametes was truly surreal. I'm excited to see what this upcoming semester brings.
We can't wait to see all of Andrew's work with our Dive Program Team this fall! We know he's going to accomplish great things.
"Diving In" Editorial Interns
Katie graduated from Towson University in 2019 where she earned a B.S. in Psychology and Animal Behavior. Her love for the water and wildlife began at an early age boating in the waters of her home city, Baltimore, Maryland. During her college career, Katie shared her passion for conservation by volunteering at the National Aquarium and Maryland Zoo. Katie has had the amazing opportunity to travel abroad to sixteen different countries. Discovering the challenges facing reefs ignited her curiosity for coral conservation. She became scuba certified through an Operation Wallacea expedition to South Africa in 2017 and is now PADI Rescue certified. Katie is excited to gain hands-on experience in coral restoration and to make a positive impact on the ecosystem which is home to 25% of marine life.
Growing up on a lake in North Carolina, Bailey has felt connected to the water for as long as she can remember. She got SCUBA certified when she was ten years old and started taking annual diving trips to Florida where she saw first-hand the decline of coral reefs in the Keys. Knowing that she wanted to make a career in marine conservation, she joined an Operation Wallacea expedition to Greece where she learned her first field work skills. Bailey graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 with a major in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Marine Science. During her four years there, she worked as a research assistant investigating how the calcium carbonate skeleton of corals are affected by ocean warming and acidification. She worked as a summer camp educator at the Discovery Place Nature Museum in North Carolina, teaching students about the natural environment and how to protect it. Bailey is so excited for the opportunity to work with Coral Restoration Foundation™ contributing to its mission of restoring coral reefs.