Updated: Dec 8, 2020
CONNECTING WITH MENTORS
Virtual education outreach is in full swing for the CRF™ team. We’ve been teaching all ages all over the country, from elementary school children in the Midwest, to high school seniors in the Southeast. Recently we started reaching out to some people closer to home, our own former teachers! While the geographical distance is still significant, there’s something special about reconnecting with our childhood teachers to share our experience and hopefully inspire future scientists!
Educational programs continue via zoom and in person with added safety precautions. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
On Tuesday, November 10th, Gabrielle Rosenbacher, a first round CRF™ intern, presented to her close friend Ms. Carrico’s fifth grade class at Mill Street Elementary in Naperville, IL.
“In a time when teachers are working so hard to keep their students engaged in online classes, it was rewarding to be able to get the kids excited about something new. Their questions melted my heart, and made me realize just how important education is, and in these times especially, how special it is to be able to share my passion with others," said Gabrielle Rosenbacher, a CRF™ intern.
Maggie Knight, another first round intern, gave a different kind of presentation which is often requested by teachers of older students. She used the time she had with the Alabama School of Fine Arts Mathematics and Science department to talk about our restoration initiatives, her undergraduate experience, and the path that led her to interning with CRF™. This wasn’t just an atypical presentation, it was an atypical group of people, including the Math and Science Department Chair and the school’s Executive Director!
Alabama School of Fine Arts Math and Science department joins CRF™ for a presentation on coral reef ecology, and careers in marine science. © Maggie Knight/Coral Restoration Foundation™
“I originally got in touch with my high school with the goal of presenting to the AP Environmental Science class, but I ended up presenting to the entire department, which was over 100 people! All of the students seemed very excited about CRF™ and had really complex questions about our work. They were especially interested in our genetic bank and mitigation nurseries. It was so lovely to get to see faculty and students that I haven’t seen for years and I would love to do it again soon!”
We are so glad that these virtual learning sessions have been a success! We received overwhelmingly positive responses from both students and teachers alike. All of our interns are looking forward to getting in touch with their former schools before the end of the year.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
This month, we ran a new kind of skills workshop for first round interns, developed by our Dive Program intern, Andrew. The workshop covered both dry land and in-water techniques. It took a lot creativity to simulate the underwater environment we are usually working in, but the results were outstanding!
First round CRF™ interns practice securing Coral Trees™ in a mock nursery and attaching replica coral fragments to them. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
The workshop began with knot-tying practice led by our Restoration Program intern Lauren, using the backs and arms of chairs to mimic the coral trees and duckbills. This is a vital skill to have because a poorly-tied knot could result in the loss of a Coral Tree™ or its floats.
Next up was a three-part training exercise, designed to mimic daily restoration tasks, including navigation, fragmenting, and monitoring. This is where Andrew's creativity shone through. He created a mock coral nursery in our parking lot, and blindfolded interns so they could use only their dive compass and step count to navigate. Practicing Coral Tree™ installation was tricky because it typically depends upon the buoyancy. However, Andrew circumvented this issue by stringing up a makeshift pulley system to smoothly raise and lower the trees as if they were floating in the water column. Finally, interns learned to properly document coral growth by targeting mock coral clusters, photographing them, and properly logging their work.
Our newly developed skills workshop gives interns hands-on training in restoration work in a controlled dry-land setting. © Coral Restoration Foundation™
This workshop proved to be helpful, appreciated, and has provided a novel way to train new interns! Offering hands-on practice is a great way to improve their comfort and capability in the water. Because it went over so well, our Education Department plans to repeat and build on it for future intern training!
Many of our interns have gone on to do amazing work in the field of marine science. You can see what some of our CRF™ Alumni are up to here.
"Heads Up" Editorial Interns
Maggie Knight grew up in Birmingham, AL and has been fascinated by the ocean since she was a little kid. She became a certified diver when she turned 15 and has been in love with the underwater world since then. After completing her Divemaster program, Maggie worked for Family Dive Club in Birmingham, AL teaching middle and high schoolers how to dive as well as how to appreciate and conserve the ocean environment. She has been studying marine biology and coastal environmental science at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA for the past three years. She plans on finishing her dual degree at LSU and then heading to veterinary school after the conclusion of her internship.
Tessa Markham is a recent graduate of Skidmore College, with a BA in English and Environmental Studies. She grew up in Wilton, in southwestern Connecticut, but spent her summers growing up either hiking and camping in the woods or swimming and sailing on the water. She has always been passionate about climate change and conservation. Diving for the first time in 2014 while taking a marine conservation course in the Caribbean leeward islands, she quickly amassed dives and got her PADI Instructor certification just three years later. Just after completing her instructor training, she spent nearly a month on the Yucatan Peninsula conducting research on their reefs, looking at the ratio of soft versus stony coral death. She later channeled her distress at the degradation of the reefs to write a short story about coral bleaching, which was published in Volume 5 of the Oakland Arts Review in 2020. Her capstone thesis built on this theme and she wrote a collection of four creative short stories that detail and exemplify climate change-induced environmental damage through a narrative lens. She aims to combine her degrees and experiences to make a career in science communications, making research and conservation accessible to everybody.