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"Talking Science" in January 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

MEMORABLE MOMENTS OF 2021

Throughout 2021 our science department has made incredible progress furthering our mission through a variety of collaborations and research. Keep on reading if you’d like to learn more about some of our most exciting moments in 2021!


January, February, March

2021 was the Year of Photomosaics! This was the first year that we monitored our coral restoration sites using solely photomosaics, allowing us to save time and money, and gather a more accurate representation of the entire reef ecosystem as we returned corals to the wild. Our photomosaics are an incredible improvement from our previous monitoring methods, and just two divers are able to monitor an entire reef site in only 30 minutes!

Photomosaics allow us to zoom out and see the entire reef ecosystem and zoom into a single coral colony, all at the click of a mouse! ©Alexander Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™

To get a quick idea about how we gather photomosaics check out this video!


Special attention was also given to Pillar corals this year, with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funding research regarding in-situ and ex-situ fragmentation of these corals in order to develop improved methods of propagation and restoration. Our Science Team has been monitoring and caring for these Pillar corals since October 2020 and are preparing for a second fragmentation of the population in 2022!

CRF™ cares for 20 species of coral in our nurseries one of which is the critically endangered pillar coral! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


April, May, June

Science is a constantly evolving field, and we are always collaborating with various scientists and organizations to facilitate coral research and advancements and to help us adapt and improve our methods here at CRF™.


We are so pleased with our involvement in the largest coordinated experimental outplanting effort in Florida, collaborating with both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to study boulder corals affected by Stony Coral Tissue Loss disease. Here is a link to the full press release detailing this project! https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/coral-outplanting-621/

Researchers and divers from FWC, the Florida DEP, Biscayne National Park, Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southeastern University, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Coral Restoration Foundation™, Reef Renewal USA, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and Keys Marine Laboratory worked together to make this collaborative study possible.


But that’s not it for boulder corals! Our science team has also been developing 3D modeling to capture the full area of boulder coral coverage, as our traditional photomosaic methods were developed for staghorn and elkhorn which grow into large thickets, as opposed to boulder corals which grow in huge dome shapes.

Plus, breaking news as wild grooved brain corals was seen spawning in the wild for the first time in Florida! Our team here at CRF™ collaborated with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, working diligently to capture this incredibly exciting event!

Coral Restoration Foundation™ and University of Miami captured grooved brain coral spawning for the first time ever in Florida! ©Coral Restoration Foundation/University of Miami

July, August, September

Speaking of scientific collaborations, our science team joined Dr. Vollmer, a scientist from Northeastern University, to conduct a disease transmission study with staghorn corals. Our staghorn corals aren’t the only ones getting all the love! CRF™ and NOAA coordinated a regional effort to sequence the genes of elkhorn corals studied by CRF™ and other restoration practices in the keys! This project allows for a full picture of the genetic diversity of elkhorn corals in Florida and the Caribbean, and will provide invaluable information to restoration groups throughout the Caribbean.


All this new genetic information and what to do with it? Our Science Program Manager, Amelia Moura, presented at the Society for Ecological Restoration conference (SER) in July to introduce the Coral Sample Registry! This registry allows users from all different areas of the globe to upload information about corals and will let different restoration practices and organizations share and access information.

Link to coral Sample Registry: https://www.crfcoralregistry.com/#login

These have been a packed few months, but one thing we can’t forget is that summer means spawning season! Unfortunately this year CRF™ was not able to capture spawning in our nurseries or on the reef because of unsafe weather, but many fellow scientists observed spawning of corals in lab settings and on reefs in the Caribbean. We are so excited for all the new coral parents and can’t wait to watch their babies grow up.

Corals spawn in the CRF™ Tavernier Nursery in 2019. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

October, November, December

October brought exciting discoveries from our photomosaic data analysis. Coral Restoration Foundation™ interns and staff monitored some of our one year old staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) outplants from one of our many monitoring sites on Carysfort Reef North and South and the results were thrilling!

In these two restoration sites CRF™ originally restored 8.4 square meters of staghorn coral and in just one year we saw a 170% increase in coral tissue. Those same corals have grown so much they now cover 22.7 square meters of seafloor! In 2020 we documented 48,000 square meters of reef and saw an 143% average increase in coral tissue. Our team was overjoyed to see these hopeful results continue a trend of success in 2021. This story was one of our most popular and awe inspiring of the year, here is the link to read it in full! https://www.coralrestoration.org/post/talking-science-in-october-2021-with-the-coral-chronicles

These photos depict two reefs positively glowing with healthy corals returned by CRF™ divers! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


In November we revisited the launch of the novel Coral Sample Registry. Some of the benefits of the Coral Sample Registry are that it establishes a single, permanent record of standardized data related to coral samples, and is available to all coral restoration groups around the world. For restoration practitioners, the registry offers an easy way to track source colony information as corals are swapped between groups. For academic researchers, the registry offers a source of truth for collection information that may influence individual research questions. Finally, for management agencies, the registry is an essential tool for coordinating restoration and research efforts while protecting natural populations.

Because of these benefits, the Coral Sample Registry encourages collaborative work and research across restoration groups, and we all know many heads are better than one! It is our hope that this resource will lead to advancements within the coral conservation and research community especially as we begin to look toward 2022!

Teams of divers work together in a CRF™ coral nursery! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™


As our year comes to an end, we can look back on all the scientific collaborations CRF™ facilitated and appreciate the beauty of science and the ever evolving information we are able to gain from each new study or experiment. We have fully incorporated photomosaics to our monitoring methods, launched an unprecedented collaborative Coral Sample Registry, expanded our work with pillar corals, and seen significant increased in coral cover on our reefs! By facilitating collaborations with multiple researchers and organizations, CRF™ can continue to assist in furthering the field of coral restoration. We are so proud of our team for all they accomplished in 2021 and can not wait to see what 2022 brings!

 

"Talking Science Memorable Moments of 2021" Editorial Intern

Michele is South African but grew up in the United States and Canada. As a child, she remembers having always been passionate about the ocean and it’s incredible marine life. She fell in love with scuba diving when she went “snuba” diving in Hawaii at the age of 13. After this, she received her open water certification and is now a rescue diver who has been diving since then. Michele’s family bought a marine tank shortly after, as freshwater fish just weren’t cutting it anymore. This is where she truly fell in love with corals, and through the years of diving at various sites throughout the Caribbean and Indonesia, she experienced first hand the degradation to Caribbean reefs, and knew this is not what a healthy, pristine reef should look like. 

Michele has graduated from the University of Guelph with a bachelor of science, and was fortunate enough to lead a research project studying the effects of polyp density on the growth and regeneration rates of Ricordea florida polyps in her fourth year. Her hope is that through her internship with CRF she will be able to aid in repopulating coral reefs so that these ecosystems may recover and more people will be able to experience the beauty she has been privileged to witness for generations to come. 


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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