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"Talking Science" in January 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Sep 7, 2021


Science waits for no one! Throughout 2020 our science department was able to continue furthering our mission through research, collaboration, and analysis. Read along as we remember some of the most exciting moments of scientific discovery in 2020!

January, February, March

At the start of the year our Science Program Manager Amelia Moura was invited to the Story Collider Workshop in Miami, FL to share our work with corals and ocean conservation. She was joined by fellow scientists, educators, academics, and artists all of whom work in some capacity to build healthier reefs.

Left: CRF™ Intern Nik applying medicinal treatment to coral. Right: Science Program Manager Amelia and Science Program Intern Sabine transport corals for restoration. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Science is an ever evolving, communal space. We are always collaborating with scientists to make discoveries and better understand the world of coral! One of the first published articles of the year was written by our 2019 collaborator Barry Hicks. The research relied on studies of corals from our nurseries, and explores new ways of mapping chlorophyll within a coral colony. Click here for the full paper!

April, May, June

Working from home is a field scientist's worst nightmare, but our team admirably adapted to quarantine, hanging up their dive gear (temporarily) and using the time off the water to analyze all of our data. Someone had to crunch those numbers!

Monitoring is an ongoing process of evaluating coral health and growth. Above we see the growth, decline, and recovery of outplanted coral. © Coral Restoration Foundation™

Another collaborator paper was published in April! Lead by Kathyrn Lohr, Science and Heritage Coordinator at NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, this study used genotypes from the CRF™ Tavernier Nursery to investigate disturbance effects and phenotypic plasticity (the ability for one genotype to express more than one phenotype) among restored corals.

We are constantly upgrading our practices based on scientific discovery and advancement. This year we adapted our restoration strategy to target fewer reefs with drastically larger clusters of coral. This style of restoration can be the key to preserving the population of coral in the Keys while larger issues, such as climate change, are mitigated!

We are constantly monitoring our corals both in our nurseries and on the reef! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

July, August, September

To a coral scientist summer means spawning season! Every year, a few days after the first full moon in August, our corals start feeling a little bit romantic. With warm waters and calm seas, stony corals like staghorn and elkhorn coral have an opportunity to reproduce.

This year we conducted a series of observations with some help from our friends over at the South-East Zoo Alliance for Reproduction and Conservation (SEZARC), to determine if corals we have returned to the wild are spawning.

We witnessed 14-month-old staghorn corals, raised and returned to the wild by CRF™, spawning on Florida's Coral Reef! However, we can't let the staghorn take all the spotlight. There was another monumental spawning occurrence in CRF™ outplanted elkhorn coral also spawned on the Florida's Coral Reef! This was the first time ever that elkhorn coral outplanted by CRF™ was observed spawning.

We are so proud of our new coral parents and can't wait to watch their babies grow up!

October, November, December

The past few months have been a whirlwind of studies and experimentation. We've worked with collaborator Joe Henry to monitor the growth of coral recruits (corals born through sexual reproduction and raised in a lab setting before being transferred to our coral nursery). We've also begun working with our pillar corals to discover the best methods for propagation and growth.

We are indescribably proud of our science team for their collaborations and accomplishments in 2020, and we anticipate another year of discovery in 2021!



It’s the start of the Spring 2021 Internship term at CRF™, and we have a new Science Program Intern, Charis Peterson. Charis began working for CRF™ in in May 2020 after graduating with her master’s degree in Biotechnology from University of Houston Clear Lake.

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

“I am excited to use my scientific training in ecology and molecular biology in a nonacademic setting. For the first time I will be working in the Science Department every day, building on my sampling and data management techniques. I am looking forward to propagating pillar corals and continuing to monitor out planted corals” says Charis of her new Program Intern position.

Our science department has gained a dedicated and qualified member in Charis, we look forward to the progress planned for 2021!



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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