As a coral conservation organization operating in the face of climate change, ocean acidification, and many other anthropogenic threats around the world people often ask us if our work is all in vain?
The short answer is no! We already see progress on the reefs as a result of the corals we have returned to the wild. Physical restoration has tangible positive impacts for the reef which we share in our annual reports, on our social media, and in our accompanying Coral Chronicles articles “Talking Science” and “Bringing it Back”, but education is the basis of a cultural mindset shift that will lead to longevity for coral reefs and all ocean ecosystems.
A cluster of elkhorn corals returned to the reef by CRF™ restoration divers. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
The same cluster of elkhorn corals after one year of growth, captured in a photomosaic, shows significant growth over time. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Education is a central pillar of our work because we understand that saving coral reefs requires action on multiple fronts. Our Education Program works to open pathways for
people to get involved in ocean conservation and support the efforts of our local
local conservation community. It is this effort that lead to 9 of our team joining Biscayne Bay National Park this past month for one of their debris cleanups!
On a cool January weekend, our team boarded the Biscayne Bay National Park boats and drove to Elliot Key, a known loggerhead turtle nesting habitat, to assist in debris removal. Upon first seeing the island many people become disheartened, as often happens when we take divers to our coral restoration sites. We see piles of trash or decimated reef and wonder, will we make any difference?
The question is always asked, and answered. After just a few hours of cleaning the difference was tangible. Our team of 9 removed 1,070 pounds of trash and left the beach looking much more welcoming to future loggerheads.
Before and after a debris clean-up, Elliot Key looks completely changed! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
The Coral Crew felt that familiar feeling after returning hundreds of corals to a previously barren reef site, hope. Though it is likely trash will continue to accumulate in this area and people will have to return to remove it again, the impact of today’s cleanup, today's restoration, today’s education will create ripples that lead to an island free of trash and a reef filled with life.
Coral Restoration Foundation™ staff and interns volunteer with Biscayne Bay National Park to clean up Elliot Key, a loggerhead nesting site. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
ALL FOR ONE OCEAN
It’s going to take everyone working together to save coral reefs. Connecting with individuals and fellow conservation organizations is one of the best ways we can create a future that supports healthy coral reefs. There are always amazing events going on that bring people together for the community, and if you are far away we offer free resources that connect you with our team.
Every month CRF™ sets up a table at the Morada Way Art Walk in Islamorada to share our mission and offer sustainable steel pint cups for sale as an alternative to plastic cups! Patrons can stop by and learn to outplant corals on our papier mache reef, experiment with ocean acidification, or even take a digital dive using our virtual goggles and 360° video! If you decide to purchase a reusable pint cup, proceeds from the sales benefit both Morada Way Arts and Cultural District as well as CRF™.
For our out-of-town coral champions, we bring the ocean to you with Skype sessions, downloadable activity packs, and pre-made videos for K-8 and 9-12 learners! We strive to make ocean literacy accessible across the globe and encourage everyone to take advantage of these free resources!
We cannot wait to continue meeting all you ocean heroes out there whether it is through our local outreach booths or our online programs. You can take the first step today and head to our website coralrestoration.org/education to find our free resources and ways to connect! We hope to see you soon!
When people think of the Florida Keys a beach paradise often comes to mind, but you might be shocked to learn that most of the Florida Keys do not have natural beaches! Instead, our coastlines are rocky limestone often covered by mangrove habitat. The mangroves themselves act as an incredible storm buffer, reducing wave and wind energy with their intertwining branches and roots. Unfortunately, their roots also become a trap for marine debris which becomes entangled and pollutes the surrounding area.
A common form of marine debris, rope, often becomes entangled in mangrove roots and branches. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Mangrove habitats are heavily linked to the health of Florida’s Coral Reef so ensuring that this coastal ecosystem remains clean and healthy is important for the health of coral reefs as well. This past weekend CRF™ joined The Lagoon on Grassy Key and Coastlove for a mangrove debris cleanup!
CRF™ intern Alex speaks with Florida Keys locals about saving our reefs! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
We set up a booth offering our edutainment activities as a resource for volunteers to learn how their work to clean up mangrove habitats was also helping reefs! One of the most interesting links between mangroves and reefs is how the mangroves function as nurseries for reef fish. Even lemon sharks, an apex predator, use mangroves as a safe place to give birth and allow their young to grow!
Just like any ecosystem, the conservation community is stronger together. Thank you to Coastlove and The Lagoon at Grassy Key for hosting, we are looking forward to many more collaborative events!
Thanks to Biscayne Bay National Park, The Lagoon at Grassy Key, and Coastlove for all your hard work! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
CRF™ IS GIVING A TED TALK!
And you can watch it live! Join Roxane Boonstra our Dive Training Administrator as she presents in Santa Barbara, California next Wednesday February 2nd.
Written and Edited by:
Madalen Howard is CRF's Marketing Associate. Madalen 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, and communications.
Madalen spent the last 4 years as a Field Instructor and Social Media Strategist for MarineLab Environmental Education Center. Here she was able to study and teach marine ecology, while snorkeling through mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs every day. While at MarineLab she combined her education and research background, entered the world of communications, and developed MarineLab’s social media department from the ground up.
Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature. With CRF™, she is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration, creating inclusive pathways to scientific discovery.