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"Heads Up" in August 2020 with the Coral Chronicles


This past month, Lead Intern Maria McCausland and Intern Charis Peterson had the opportunity to speak with NASA employees at the Kennedy Space Center, participating in their TOSC Environmental Speaker series. Each week, they invite environmentally-centered individuals to speak virtually to employees and share their work on various environmental topics. Maria and Charis were the first speakers to be invited from an outside organization, which is incredibly exciting!

Screenshot from the CRF™ virtual presentation for NASA employees.

Over 100 employees called in to the virtual presentation, which is an amazing turnout we were told! The NASA team was so engaged in Maria's presentation and asked great questions about coral reefs and CRF's restoration work. Topics included the history of Florida's Coral Reef, as well as the degradation of stony coral populations both locally in Florida and globally. Following that, Maria went over the work that CRF™ is conducting with various restoration methods to restore these populations.

“Being able to talk to such an intelligent and amazing group of scientists about something that I am extremely passionate about was one of the greatest honors that I've had during my time at CRF™. It was a great experience. and it seems like we might have some NASA employees come down to our facilities and assist in our outplanting efforts in the future!" said CRF™ Lead Intern Maria McCausland.

CRF™ Lead Intern Maria McCausland on the water. © Maria McCausland

Charis closed the presentation by describing ways that the audience could be eco-conscious and contribute to a healthier marine ecosystem in their everyday lives. Charis agreed with Maria and said it was amazing to have the opportunity to talk about coral reefs and CRF’s mission to so many well respected professionals and scientists.

“There were individuals that attended the presentation that are looking forward to coming to CRF™ to participate in dive programs and volunteering, which is so exciting!” said CRF™ Intern Charis Peterson.

CRF™ Intern Charis Peterson.

The presentation lasted about an hour, with several questions from NASA employees about CRF’s methods as well as the various impacts that issues such as climate change have on our work. The virtual talk was a success, and a great opportunity to continue spreading awareness of vital coral reef ecosystems with such respected individuals at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.



On July 23rd, Education Program Intern, Nik Varley, Lead Intern Maria McCausland, and Intern Katelin Hall traveled to Ocean Reef Club® in Key Largo, Florida to host a full day of coral workshops with their Nature Camp kids, which was roughly 16 individuals! All interns presented different portions of the CRF™ General Presentation.

CRF™ Education Program Intern Nik Varley presents about CRF™ and our local coral reef ecosystems.

The day began with Maria giving an overview of what corals are, and why they’re important not only for us humans but also the environment. After the introductory portion of the presentation, the kids got their hands dirty with a workshop – they created yummy coral polyps out of sweets and food!

“The kids are so smart and curious and they had so much fun! They really enjoyed learning about something so complex and many of them were understanding topics that are years above their grade levels!” said CRF™ Lead Intern Maria McCausland.

Aerial shot over Ocean Reef Club®. © Ocean Reef Club

Following the initial workshop, Nik taught the kids about ocean chemistry and how corals created their calcium carbonate skeletons. Nik utilized some science techniques to represent the calcium carbonate skeleton and had the kids perform their own experiments.

Finally, Katie ended the workshop by making some slime with the kids and talked about what CRF™ is doing to protect and restore our reefs. This group of students knows so much about coral reefs, specifically our reefs located in the Florida Keys. The CRF™ interns loved seeing the kids' faces light up during the hands-on workshops as they continuously asked questions and engaged in the material.

“I was really impressed with how quickly the students picked up on the material. I didn’t have a solid understanding of acid-base chemistry until I was much older, but the kids were understanding what was occurring in the calcium carbonate experiment as we were going through it," said CRF™ Education Program Intern Nik Varley.

The entire event was so much fun and everyone kept each other safe by wearing their masks and keeping ample distance while learning about coral reefs!



Two of our interns, Jim and Bailey, had the opportunity to visit the Ocean Reef Club® again to present to a group of young residents in the community and talk about Coral Restoration Foundation™, as well as lead the kids in some fun and exciting workshops!

Jim and Bailey talked about coral with the kids, as well as the importance of reef restoration and what CRF™ does to support the reef and surrounding community. After the presentation, they dove into some interactive workshops that let the kids get hands-on with the “coral” and really connect with different aspects of coral’s anatomy and function.

CRF™ Intern Bailey Thomasson (left) and CRF™ Lead Intern Jim Brittsan (right).

First, the kids made their very own coral polyps out of marshmallows, Twizzlers, and sprinkles! This allowed them to really break down the coral polyp anatomy in a fun way that was easy to visualize. Then they took part in the Calcium Carbonate Workshop where they put different materials in beakers of vinegar to see if they could detect calcium carbonate.

This experiment creates a great visual to see how common items like chalk, or the abundant limestone which is the foundation element of coral, contain calcium carbonate. If a material does have calcium carbonate and has vinegar poured over top, it will react by bubbling! The kids saw this firsthand with an experiment that they can try at home with other household materials.

CRF™ Lead Intern Andrew Ibarra prepares for the Coral Polyp workshop during a past virtual presentation.

Last but not least, they participated in a crowd favorite – coral slime! Corals produce mucus when they’re stressed to help remove sedimentation and push bacteria out. The kids in the workshop were able to make their very own slime mixing glue, water and starch to mimic the mucus produced by coral!

Workshops like these are an excellent way to connect with younger audiences, and teach complicated scientific topics in an exciting and easy to understand manner. As an organization, CRF™ strives to connect to all age group to help spread the importance of coral and coral restoration. A big thank you to Ocean Reef Club® for inviting members of the CRF™ team to teach about corals and coral reefs!



Did you miss Coralpalooza™ on June 6? Fret not! All of the exciting interviews, videos, and activities will be available through August 25, 2020! Register to access exclusive content from CRF™ and our event partners.

If you participated live and just couldn't get enough, click here to revisit Coralpalooza™ any time until August 25, 2020.


"Heads Up" Editorial Interns

Alec is from Long Island, New York, and is a recent graduate of Roger Williams University. There, he received his B.S. in Marine Biology and specialization in Spanish. From his earliest memory, he was completely fascinated with sharks, and developed a growing interest in science throughout his years while kayaking and volunteering on the South Bay of Long Island. He took to the water naturally with snorkeling, free diving and 11 years of swim team. Throughout his young journey, he has had the fortunate opportunity to be able to immerse himself within the tropical waters of the Cayman Islands, Florida and Bermuda. In 2017, Alec became an Open Water certified scuba diver, and from there, his interest in marine biology and scuba diving grew exponentially. He became NAUI Advanced Open Water certified in 2019, and upon entering his senior year of college, he studied abroad in Bermuda for four months at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS). Having completed his studies abroad in Bermuda, he wishes to continue his passion for learning new skills within the marine biology field, and looks forward to expanding his scientific knowledge and experience throughout his internship with Coral Restoration Foundation™!

Chris 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.

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