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"Talking Science" in December 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS OF 2021

As the end of the year approaches, we are taking a look back on all of the groundbreaking research collaborations Coral Restoration Foundation™ has supported since January 2021. Our massive brood stock of corals, cared for in our Coral Nurseries, provide a unique and unparalleled sample size of corals to study. Researchers can reach out to our Science Team to apply to work with CRF™ on various relevant projects. Approved projects always have a goal of expanding our knowledge of the field of coral restoration regarding coral disease and bleaching, outplanting methods, genetic resilience, coral ecology, or coral nurseries.

CRF™ and Shedd Aquarium divers gather data from Coral Trees™ in a CRF™ nursery. ©Shedd Aquarium/Coral Restoration Foundation™


By collaborating with other organizations on a wide range of projects, CRF™ contributes to furthering restoration techniques relating to coral conservation. Below you can explore each of these exciting collaborative opportunities!

Disease & Bleaching

In nurseries and on restoration reef sites, coral fragments face a number of threats including those from coral diseases and bleaching. In 2021, CRF™ supported several research studies aimed at furthering our knowledge about mitigating and planning for those stressors.


Ms. Kennedy, from Nova Southeastern University, is studying the presence of UV-filters in ambient seawater and tissue of staghorn corals, and the potential impacts that those filters have on coral fertility. This is the first time tests for UV-filters on coral reefs are being completed in mainland USA, and the first time ever UV-filters will be compared to staghorn coral fertility.

Dr. Vollmer, from Northeastern University, is studying how CRF’s staghorn genotypes react when exposed to disease. You can read all the details in our past Talking Science article!

This work, combined with past sequencing work conducted by Dr. Vollmer on these same genotypes, is helping to increase our understanding of the stress faced by different coral genotypes when presented with the same disease.

Amelia Moura, CRF's Science Program Manager, assists Dr. Vollmer in collection and transportation of staghorn corals for his coral disease study. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


Coral Monitoring

Mr. Parnami, at University of North Carolina-Charlotte, is leading a group of students in a computer vision course to develop techniques in image processing methods and machine learning. Using a subset of mosaic imagery from CRF’s restoration sites, students are gaining hands-on experience applying the techniques they’re learning to real-world coral restoration datasets.

Mr. Parnami (left) and Ms. Gill (right) are collaborating with CRF™ on research projects in 2021.


Ms. Gill, at University of Miami, is investigating how coral fragments survive and grow across various nursery programs following a large-scale coral swap between five restoration practitioners in Florida. Growth data is being assessed for differences in growth and performance of “local” and “foreign” genotypes in each nursery program to better understand how corals adjust when moved between nursery locations.


Outplanting Methods

When planning restoration efforts, great care is taken to ensure that corals have the highest probability of success when planted on new reef sites. Especially when considering new species, investment in researching new successful outplant methods is critical.

Divers of multiple agencies outplant boulder corals for this research study. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

A multi-agency collaborative outplanting study, led by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), is studying restoration feasibility in response to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD). This project, developed collaboratively by many partners, involves outplanting three species of SCTLD-susceptible species across the Florida Reef Tract to determine the incidence rates of disease and assess how restoration activities impact neighboring wild communities of SCTLD-susceptible species.

Coral Restoration Foundation™ collaborates with FWC providing coral samples and assisting in outplanting! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Genetic Resilience

Genotype diversity is key to restoring corals to self-sustaining populations on our reefs. Understanding how different genotypes respond to various stressors is one key part in ensuring the long-term success of the ecosystem.

Ms. Johnson-Sapp, from University of Miami, is investigating the differences in thermal tolerance across genotypes, in particular how thermal tolerance changes for genotypes transferred between restoration practitioners. These data will be used to further understand if and how genotype thermal tolerance changes across genotypes that are moved from one nursery to another.


Dr. Cunning, from Shedd Aquarium, is building on preexisting research that was conducted with CRF in 2020 by re-testing genotypes across multiple restoration program nurseries for thermal tolerance. The rapid assessment has shown that genotypes do display a wide range of tolerance to rapid and acute heat stress (publications), and this new sampling event provides context and new microbiome analysis relating to how corals respond to heat stress through time.

Dr. Cunning works in a CRF™ Coral Nursery ©Shedd Aquarium/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Coral Restoration Foundation™ is always excited to lend support to so many amazing projects that are trying to further our understanding of coral restoration and conservation. There is still so much that we do not yet understand about the complex relationships and factors that influence successful coral restoration. However, by sharing and supporting other organizations through scientific collaboration, CRF is able to assist in making leaps and bounds in the field of coral restoration.

 

RESOURCES FOR YOU

REEF FUTURES WILL BE VIRTUAL ON DECEMBER 14 & 16


In the absence of an in-person meeting in 2021, the Coral Restoration Consortium will host a FREE two-part virtual gathering Part 1 will launch on December 14 and Part 2 will launch on December 16, 2021.


Each day will feature approximately 3 hours of new, relevant, and exciting content that the CRC has identified as critical to get out to the Reef Futures community. The content for the virtual gathering will be pulled from existing abstracts and keynote speakers. Register for FREE today!

 

"Talking Science" Editorial Intern

Dana spent most of her childhood living on a sailboat with her family traversing the Pacific coast of Central and South America. She received her first scuba certification at age 10 in Costa Rica and has been an avid diver since. Living in such close proximity to the ocean fueled her passion for ocean conservation. She has since attended college at California State University, Long Beach graduating with a degree in Environmental Science and Policy.

Dana has had the amazing opportunity to visit so many countries and see some amazing ecosystems and cultures. It was through witnessing the ocean in all of these places, that she was able to see how much it was in need of protection. She believes that the only way to make people care about conservation is through education and outreach. Her hope is that through her work with CRF™, she can combine fieldwork and public education to fulfill this goal.


Editor

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.


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