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"Heads Up" in May 2020 with the Coral Chronicles


Like we announced last week, Coralpalooza™ 2020 is going digital!

Even though we can't get together in person, we are staying true to the spirit of Coralpalooza™ with an action-packed day of celebrating coral reefs - online! And registration is officially open. Register here.

In addition to digital booths, exclusive video content, presentations, and never-before-seen interviews, we're including a CRF™ Kid's Zone hosted by Captain Coral himself! Kids and adults alike can also participate in a digital treasure hunt to win CRF™ some swag.

Today is also the last day to submit your 10-second video telling us about your #CoralPassion. It could be chosen to broadcast on our social media channels or to all the Corapalooza™ Digital 2020 attendees! 

Upload your #CoralPassion video on our website by Wednesday, May 20th.

You're not going to want to miss our first online celebration of coral reefs! We'll see you on World Oceans Day, June 6, 2020.



We're giving a big welcome to Nik Varley, our new Education Program Intern! Nik has been an intern with CRF™ for two sessions. He started with the organization in the fall of 2019 and hasn't looked back. As an Education Program Intern, Nik is working closely with our Education Program Manager, Derek Hagen, to focus exclusively on our education and outreach which is a crucial pillar of our mission at CRF™.

Nik Varley in a CRF™ Coral Nursery (top and left) and at our headquarters (right).

© Coral Restoration Foundation™

Nik is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where he studied English and environmental science. He grew up in Virginia, and first learned to dive on a family trip to the US Virgin Islands in 2011. During college, he travelled to Bocas Del Toro, Panama to study ocean acidification with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Nik is excited to be continuing with CRF™, and hopes to make a positive impact on the Keys’ marine communities both on land and in the water. And we're even more excited to welcome him to our Education Program. We know he's going to do great work!



We welcomed seven new summer interns in early May, and COVID-19 hasn't stopped us from onboarding our new team members, virtually of course! They hit the ground running with a virtual orientation featuring Zoom calls with all of our program managers. Our Education Team has adapted our in-person orientation to a digital one to ensure our interns get the information they need to be successful and safe at CRF™.

CRF™ Virtual Intern Orientation. © Coral Restoration Foundation

When it's safe to do so, this group of interns will be outplanting corals with our restoration team and assisting staff in other areas of the organization. You can get a glimpse of our interns in action on our social media pages. But for now, keep scrolling to get to know these smiling faces!

Sydney Gallagher

Sydney recently graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Marine

Science and a minor in International Studies. Growing up in Key West, Sydney was fortunate

enough to call the Florida Keys Barrier Reef her backyard which instilled a passion for the

marine environment and protecting her home.

During her time at college, she got the incredible experience of studying abroad in the Galapagos Islands where she developed techniques of monitoring marine ecosystems. This experience drove her to obtain Rescue and Science Diver certifications and chase a lifestyle of ocean exploration. After graduating, she was eager to dive right into restoration and conservation work. Sydney is stoked to contribute to growing the reef with the crew at CRF™ and give back to the coral reef that gives livelihood to her community.

Alec Leitman

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 Cayman Island, 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).

In Bermuda, he took courses in Coral Reef Ecology, Marine Invertebrate Zoology, Research Diving Methods and Marine Biology and Oceanographic Research. Because of his experience at BIOS, he was further enthralled by the exposure to the diversification of marine ecosystems and the vitally imperative existence of corals, which inspired him to further his scuba diving skills by conducting underwater surveys and transects, data collection about coral conditions at multiple reef sites, and obtained both his PADI Rescue Diver and AAUS Scientific Diver certifications. He also had the opportunity to conduct research on the effect of decreasing temperatures on the acclimatization of Siderastrea radians. 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™!

Katie Hall

Katie graduated in 2019 from Towson University 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. Throughout her college career, Katie volunteered at the National Aquarium and Maryland Zoo in Baltimore sharing her passion for conservation. She also maintained a critically endangered colony of cotton-top tamarins, which solidified her dream to make a difference.

Katie has had the amazing opportunity to travel abroad to 16 different countries where she discovered the current conditions our reefs are facing which ignited her curiosity. She became scuba certified through an Operation Wallacea expedition to South Africa in 2017, and she is now PADI Rescue certified. Her time participating in the Disney College Program led her to sunny Florida. 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.

Charis Peterson

Charis grew up in Michigan where her curiosity for the underwater world started in the local rivers and lakes. She always had a passion for marine biology. While she was in high school, her family unexpectedly had to relocate to coastal Georgia. Moving across the country allowed her to pursue her passion. After learning about the threats and harm humans have caused to coral reefs, she decided she did not want to just study coral reefs, but she wanted to be a part of the solution.

Charis is a recent graduate from the University of Houston-Clear Lake with a M.S. in Biotechnology and a concentration in Molecular Biotechnology. She received her B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Coastal Ecology from the College of Coastal Georgia in 2017. She is a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and has enjoyed working as a dive professional in the British Virgin Islands and the Florida Keys. Charris is excited to intern with CRF™ because she is passionate about educating the public on how to protect our oceans.

Chris Reynolds

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.

Aliah Banchik

Aliah is a rising senior at Tulane University in New Orleans, majoring in Psychology with minors in Marine Biology and Spanish. She is originally from the Upper West Side of Manhattan but is constantly hopping around the globe. As an artist, Aliah originally planned to pursue a career as a fashion designer. After a summer interning at a fashion wholesale company in London, however, she very quickly discovered she had little interest in the industry. She then experimented with pursuing writing and illustrating with her first children’s book “My Best Friend Lexi”; an educational tool designed to educate and inspire young students with dyslexia.

After taking her first Marine Biology class as a senior in high school, she then began to connect more with the marine world. From there, she gained a deep appreciation for the ocean and an interest in sharks and corals specifically. Since then, she has let her love and passion for the ocean lead her travels around the world to places like Belize, Indonesia, Lombok, and Australia to participate both in reef conservation as well as underwater exploration. Aliah sees the ocean as her wonderland, and with each dive grows “curiouser and curiouser”. She is constantly on the move and loves to experience new cultures, people, and places and is looking forward to learning as much as she can while at CRF™!

Bailey Thomasson

Bailey grew up on a lake in North Carolina, and has felt connected to the water for as long as she can remember. When she was 10 years old, she got SCUBA certified 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 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. Most recently, she worked as a summer camp educator at the Discovery Place Nature Museum in North Carolina where she taught students about the natural environment and how to protect it. Bailey is so excited for the opportunity to work with Coral Restoration Foundation™ towards its mission of restoring coral reefs.


"Heads Up" Editorial Intern

Andrew was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and spent many hours in the Atlantic Ocean swimming and snorkeling as a child. He graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and minors in biology and mathematics. In school, he researched marine gastropods and conducted sea turtle tagging surveys. After graduating, Andrew wanted to dive (no pun intended) into the world of marine conservation and do something to make a tangible difference for the ocean. After completing 50 dives in the Upper Keys and witnessing ghastly coral graveyards, struggling ecosystems, and degraded portions of the Florida Barrier Reef, Andrew was inspired to apply to CRF™ to actively help restore our beloved marine ecosystem. He is super excited to join the CRF™ family and learn a variety of skills both above and below the surface. In his spare time, Andrew loves playing any and all sports and watching Marvel movies on repeat.

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