"Talking Science" in December 2019 with the Coral Chronicles


THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: CRF™ AND FLAQ OUTPLANT SPAWNING RECRUITS


In the summer of 2018, the staghorn colonies in our nursery spawned, creating over six thousand fertile embryos. For the past fifteen months, we’ve worked with the Florida Aquarium to raise these embryos into healthy, viable colonies, and we’re so excited to finally outplant them onto their native reefs last month!


“Getting to outplant these FLAQ (Florida Aquarium) babies was really special,”said Olivia Smith, one of the divers on the outplanting boat. “We’ve been watching them grow in our nursery for months, and it was super exciting to see them all make it onto the reef. We will keep monitoring them and are hoping for the best!”

Carysfort Reef. © Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™


When our staghorn colonies spawned last year, divers from CRF™ and the Florida Aquarium collected thousands of sperm and egg samples from over 15 different parent genotypes in our nursery. These gametes combine to form new genotypes that have never existed before, either in our nursery or in the wild. Each individual coral is unique, and has great potential for future genetic resilience.


We’ve outplanted the young corals at Carysfort Reef, one of our flagship restoration sites. Some are attached directly the reef surface, others are elevated on bamboo rigs, away from algae and predators. As we monitor these corals over the next few months, we’ll get a better sense of which outplanting methods are most effective, and how we can fine tune our procedure for the next generation of staghorn recruits.


Staghorn coral on Carysfort Reef. © Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™


This data will be especially valuable as rearing corals from larvae becomes more common. Successfully introducing spawning recruits into the wild is a powerful proof of concept for this method, which is poised to become much more widespread. With time, propagating artificially fertilized corals could become one of our strongest methods of restoration, and has the potential to shape the future of Florida’s reefs.


Staghorn coral on Carysfort Reef. © Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Each embryo was originally settled, cared for, and placed on an individual tile by staff at the Florida Aquarium. After eight months, the larvae developed into tiny staghorn colonies, and were moved from the aquarium to our in-water nursery. Mortality rates were quite low; almost all of the corals survived the transition, and spent an additional seven months on our coral trees before they were ready to outplant.


“It felt pretty momentous,” said Haley Hurst, a reef restoration intern. “Getting these corals onto the reef took so much effort by so many people, and it was great to see it all pay off. I know our work is going to make a big impact.”

Now, it’s all in the hands (read: the polyps) of our young corals at Carysfort. Over the next few months, we’re looking forward to seeing them grow, fuse, change, and adapt as they make their new home on the Florida Reef Tract. We know they’ll make us proud!


JOIN US TONIGHT


Sips & Science is a free monthly talk series hosted by Coral Restoration Foundation™. This month, we're welcoming Ana Zangroniz, Florida Sea Grant Program Extension Agent working in Miami-Dade County.

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) has been ongoing in the Florida Reef Tract for over 5 years, further degrading our reefs. Florida Sea Grant is just one of over 60 partners involved in the disease response effort! Join us to hear Ana discuss the current status and findings of SCTLD in the Florida Keys, as well as ways that SCUBA divers and local community members can get involved to make a difference!

As part of our commitment to reducing single-use plastics, we will fill any reusable cups with a complimentary glass of wine or water! If you are unable to attend, we will also be live-streaming the event from our Facebook page.


"Talking Science" Editorial Intern

Nik is a recent 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 very happy to be contributing to the Coral Restoration Foundation™’s important work, and hopes to make a positive impact on the Keys’ marine communities both on land and in the water.

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