WE'RE GOING TO MIAMI!
It felt like a scene straight out of Jurassic Park – two steadfast pillars with the word “Vizcaya” carved vertically in weathered coral stone cascaded the entrance. A manicured canopy of tropical variety reminiscent of a rainforest guides you along the driveway that winds right and then left down an old road, opening to an airy courtyard with fountains, meticulously curated gardens, and stone sculptures. Six shallow but broad sweeping steps lead visitors up to a triplet of arches that stand over 15 feet above you, reflections of the mid-afternoon sunlight coming off the streak-free glass that seals off the museum entrance.
On October 12th, Coral Restoration Foundation™ was invited to host a trivia night at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami to over 100 guests. Our education associate Chandler Wright, along with interns Thomas Ressa and Maddie English packed a truck full of outreach gear and practiced their presentation and jeopardy-style MC skills on the car ride from Key Largo to Miami. Upon arrival, our guests were given a one-of-a-kind experience that included snacks and drinks, all tied together by a sunken stone structure in the form of an old trading boat and a stunning Biscayne Bay sunset. With their favorite marine creature drawn onto paper tablecloths, families and friends engaged in a friendly yet incredibly competitive night of coral reef trivia!
We tested the participant's knowledge of everything from coral biology to the function of microscopic algae - zooxanthellae – which provide food for corals as part of a mutually beneficial relationship that is at the foundation of a healthy coral reef ecosystem. We dove deep into the history of Florida’s Coral Reef, fielding questions about the 1877 builder of the Barnacle House in Coconut Grove – Commodore Ralph Munroe – and his famous quote “No sea-lover could look unmoved on the clear waters of the reef, every delicate shadow of blue and green tinged with all the colors of the spectrum…a sort of liquid light, rather than water.”
We wanted to make the event fun and challenging, and use the opportunity to raise awareness of the threats that present-day coral reefs face. We answered questions about local stressors like plastics that entangle corals to nutrient runoff that feeds macroalgae that outgrow and outcompete corals for space on the reef.
Not everything surrounding coral reefs is doom and gloom – so we took the opportunity to empower the community to make a difference in their daily lives. Whenever we interact with the community, whether it be a trivia night, Artwalk, or K-12 school events, we encourage them to make lifestyle changes that will help coral reefs. There are so many ways people can support healthy oceans. We can purchase clothing made from upcycled materials, buy freshly caught seafood that supports local fishermen, check the labels of reef-safe sunscreens to make sure they are made without any toxic benzones, and support ocean-focused legislation to help in the battle to preserve these precious ecosystems.
CRF™ has been a part of the South Florida community since 2007 and the reefs are such an integral part of our world here that it is vital to connect as many people to it as possible. These short trips up to Miami keep us connected with the community that plays a major part in conserving and restoring the reefs we all love.
Head's Up Editorial Intern
Thomas Ressa is a longtime saltwater aquarium hobbyist turned coral reef conservationist, Thomas completed his Masters of Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity & Conservation from UCSD Scripps Institution of Oceanography after a 10-year career working in tech at both Apple and Amazon. His transformation was fueled by a childhood vacation to the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, where he recalls first falling in love with the abundance of life, colors, and the myriad of life-changing experiences interacting with a coral reef can provide. Thomas hopes that his experience at the Coral Restoration Foundation will not only advance his knowledge of coral reef ecology but support him in becoming a more profound voice for the community and the preservation of nature.
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.