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"Heads Up" in September 2022 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Sep 7, 2022


Lucan, a soon-to-be senior in high school participated in our Battling Biofoul Student Challenge in 2021 in which he designed and manufactured a tool that we can use to efficiently clean the Coral Trees™ in our open water nurseries. Recently, he and his parents stopped by our central office in Tavernier to drop off hundreds of 3D printed prototypes of his winning Coral Tree™ cleaning tool!

Cleaning our Coral Trees™ is a never-ending task that keeps the corals healthy and the Trees™ floating in the water column. We have over 750 Coral Trees™ in our ocean-based nurseries. Our Coral Trees™ help us raise more than 45,000 reef-ready corals every year. But, in the open ocean, these Coral Trees™ are also a great habitat for other types of marine life including algae, fire coral, and hydroids. These other organisms weigh the trees down, compete with our corals for space and nutrients, and create less-than-ideal conditions for our corals to thrive. This accumulation of organisms is called” biofouling.”

Lucan's tool in action being used on one of our Coral Trees™

Biofouling is a big concern for our corals, so much so that our teams go out every day that weather permits to scrape and scrub our Coral Trees™. Each tree takes between 45 minutes to an hour to clean with our current process. The less time we can spend removing biofouling, the more time we can spend putting corals back onto the reef. The aim of our Battling Biofoul challenge was to find ways to either reduce biofouling of our Coral Trees – by using new materials, paints, etc. – or by developing a new process that would remove biofouling more efficiently.

Lucan’s winning tool was specifically designed with our Coral Trees™ in mind. Lucan has joined our team in the water during a public dive program to experience our work first hand. His tool reflects this in-depth knowledge. It has grooves for the 3/8” inch fiberglass rods that form the middle “branches” of our Coral Trees™, the ½” inch larger fiberglass rods at the bottom of the tree, and at the base of Lucan’s tool is a large semicircle designed for specifically cleaning the tree trunk! Not to mention there are special grooves for the monofilament lines that the corals hang from, something we at CRF™ consider the most important part to keep clean because it physically encounters the coral and is typically the first place where we see biofoul begin to encroach on the corals.

Lead intern and Heads Up writer, Thomas, decided to do some personal research on Lucan’s tool. He brought it with him for 6 dives into the nursery and has this to say about its effectiveness.

“I have cleaned more trees than I ever have in the same period. The efficiency in which this tool cleans the branches, most notably, is astounding. It removes fire sponge with ease, shaves off macroalgae in a moment, and even gives that perfect haircut to those fire corals we all love to take out any extra anger we might be holding onto that day.” -Thomas Ressa, CRF™ Intern

Safe to say that this tool is proof that there are so many innovative ideas out in the world, but the execution on this piece was fantastic.

Lucan, this one is for you. Thank you for all your hard work, and all the time spent drawing, testing, designing, and eventually manufacturing this tool. We hope that you and others read this and are inspired to continue to pursue your passions without self-doubt or fear of failure. The first step to getting ahead is always getting started.

Lucan and his teachers are interviewed by our Education Program Manager Derek for our annual Coralpalooza™ celebration!


Written by:

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. 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.

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Great program!

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