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"Heads Up" in February....AGAIN with the Coral Chronicles

Coral Community Corner

You might know that "Heads Up" with the Coral Chronicles details the actions of our Education Team. We share stories of what our team does to educate and empower communities to help save coral reefs. We're adding a new segment to "Heads Up" that will look a little different. Instead of just telling you about our educational activities, we are going to explore how the stony corals being restored by CRF™ support the biodiversity of Florida's Coral Reef. Each week we will shine the spotlight on some animals that depend on coral reefs for survival. This week's featured critters are...INVERTEBRATES!

Our Coral Tree™ nurseries host numerous species besides the corals we care for! Often found hiding in crevasses are Elkhorn coral crabs (Domecia acanthophora). Elkhorn coral crabs are found in shallow warm waters in the coral reef ecosystems all along the Gulf of Mexico down to the Northern coast of Brazil. These crabs depend on the Elkhorn coral for shelter. They will find a tiny crevasse and the coral will actually grow around the crab, protecting it from predators and environmental conditions.

Another favorite invertebrate that makes its home in coral crevices is the Caribbean reef octopus (Octopus briareus). The Caribbean reef octopus makes its home in the shallow water coral and rocky waters of the Gulf of Mexico down to the Northern coast of Brazil. Normally green and blue with red and brown spots, this octopus can change colors to avoid predators. These carnivores' prey on invertebrates, including crustaceans, and small fish which also make the coral reefs their home.

Last but not least, we are talking about the legendary long-spined urchin (Diadema antillarum). These invertebrates are found in a wide range of shallow water environments including reefs, seagrass beds, and rocky intertidal zones all along the Gulf of Mexico and down along the northern coast of Brazil. Sea urchins are herbivores and by eating algae they keep the fast-growing underwater plant in check!

When algae overgrows, it can blanket coral, preventing the sun from reaching the zooxanthellae which provide the coral with nutrients thorough photosynthesis. Herbivores, like sea urchins, eat algae and keep our reefs healthy! Unfortunately, in the 1980’s a major disease wiped out ~90% of the long-spined sea urchin population here in the Florida Keys. Without the herbivores there was a boom in algae growth that contributed in part to the decline of coral populations.

Today there are many restoration efforts dedicated to increasing populations of long-spined sea urchins and NOAA's Mission Iconic Reefs, of which CRF™ is a major contributing partner, incorporates herbivore restoration into their goals! Mission Iconic Reefs is a perfect parallel for healthy balanced ecosystems. It is a cooperative mission bringing together experts that have honed their skills for years. CRF™ acts as a coral restoration expert in this capacity, but we know we can't do it all! We need support from our community to metaphorically keep algae populations in check so we can execute our work to its fullest potential!


Reverse The Red

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species list is dedicated to raising awareness on the declining populations of species around the world. The list categorizes the severity of the population decline of each species into 9 different categories. Reverse the Red day is a global movement focused on raising awareness for these species in need. Staghorn and elkhorn corals can both be found on the Red List of Endangered Species listed as critically endangered. This is the closest categorization to extinct.

Coral Restoration Foundation played their part in Reverse the Red day by helping to raise awareness at John Pennekamp State Park. We welcomed visitors at the entrance of the aquarium to teach them how to identify different species of endangered corals. They were also able to see our efforts to help save the corals by taking a virtual reality tour through our Coral Nursery! Visitors got the chance to see the new Coral Restoration Foundation Coral Tree display at the Pennekamp aquarium.

Elkhorn and staghorn corals have been on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species list since 2006. At Coral Restoration Foundation we aim to preserve these species with a focus on returning them back to the reefs.

CRF™ Interns teach the community about ocean acidification through hands on science experiments! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™



Coral Restoration Foundation™ is an active member of the Florida Keys Community and we are always excited to join in for local outreach! You can keep up to date with all of the public outreach events we will be attending in upcoming months by subscribing to our Coral Chronicles email newsletter and checking our website calendar:

If you are hosting an event that you think CRF™ could make a difference at please let us know! We offer educational activities for all ages including an unforgettable virtual reality SCUBA dive through our Coral Tree™ Nursery! If you'd like CRF™ to be at your event please reach out to our Communications and Outreach Coordinator Madalen via email


Heads Up Editorial Intern

Addisen first found her love for scuba diving and marine conservation through her study abroad program aboard an 88-foot schooner in the Caribbean Lesser Antilles. Through that program, she was first truly introduced to the marine environment and all of what it has to offer. Although originally from New Jersey, Addisen recently graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science in Ecosystem’s Science and Policy. During her time at the University of Miami, she was able to work her way up to a PADI Divemaster certification with 5 specialty certifications. All of the diving she has done has cultivated her passion for conserving the ocean and spreading awareness of the issues at hand. She is very eager to be able to work firsthand on coral restoration with CRF this summer and excited to be a part of the solution.

Coral Community Corner Editorial Intern

Julia is from California and went to Oregon State University where she majored in Zoology. She has had an interest in coral conservation ever since she got her Open Water certification in Indonesia. She also enjoys long walks in the intertidal, identifying marine invertebrates. She wants to educate others about coral and conservation efforts.

Sources for the Coral Community Corner article can be found below:

Coral Chronicles Editor

Madalen Howard 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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Mar 05, 2023


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