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"Talking Science" in July 2020 with the Coral Chronicles


Summertime at Coral Restoration Foundation™ includes a lot of fieldwork as our Science and Restoration programs like to take advantage of the clear skies and calm seas often found in the Keys. But our teams in the field aren't the only ones who are busy. Our land-based team is also having an exciting summer!

Three of our staff members submitted abstracts for papers that were approved and will be included in the scientific journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

This year, Frontiers in Marine Science announced a special research topic titled “Coral Reef Restoration in a Changing World: Science-based Solutions. Amelia Moura, CRF™ Science Program Manager, Alex Neufeld, CRF™ Special Projects Coordinator, and Dan Burdeno, CRF™ Restoration Program Coordinator, wrote papers that will highlight and detail special projects that they have been working on, all of which were approved on submission. Here's what each of them are focusing on:

Alex Neufeld

Special Projects Coordinator Alex Neufeld is leading the charge in pushing for photomosaics to become a primary tool used by coral restoration practitioners to evaluate not only the health of coral, but also the condition of coral reefs.

In his abstract, Alex details how imaging and computation technologies have rapidly advanced, becoming cheaper and more accessible. As coral restoration outplanting practices move from proof-of-concept to large scale restoration efforts, it is necessary to scale up monitoring

efforts as well.

Photomosaics can monitor reefs at the community level and provide historical documentation of the status of a reef. The paper will outline advantages of photomosaics and describe how to create and utilize them.

Photomosaic of Sombrero Reef. © Alex Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Amelia Moura

Science Program Manager Amelia Moura is developing an online resource that will allow shared access to datasets amongst coral practitioners. Many groups have intricate and detailed datasets that keep track of genotypes, success of genets, and how often each genet is outplanted at a certain location. Issues arise when information isn’t shared and organizations are unable to easily cross reference what kind of work is being done with the same or other genotypes.

The hope for our CRF™ Coral Registry is that it will take the first step in integrating multiple diverse datasets and be used as a resource for all coral restoration practitioners to use to their benefit in the fight to restore local coral reef ecosystems.

Dan Burdeno

The field of coral restoration can be quite expensive. One challenge that many face is maximizing the amount of coral outplants and area restored per dollar spent.

This is where utilizing and incorporating volunteers can help scale up efforts while keeping costs low.

Restoration Program Coordinator Dan Burdeno writes about CRF's volunteer program as a case study in his paper, examining the logistics behind such a program, what works and doesn’t work, and what volunteers can provide.

We’re excited to see these topics expanded upon, so make sure to stay up to date on Talking Science for future updates!

Volunteers from Georgia Aquarium before a day of restoration work in spring 2019. © Alex Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation™



As we transition to outplanting large clusters of about 50 corals, we're also switching our monitoring technique to photomosaics exclusively. In doing so, we can track colonies through time and space, capturing metrics like survival and growth digitally rather than with paper and pencil.

Before these new methods, CRF™ collected monitoring data by measuring individual corals in each cluster. These tagged corals, representing about 20% of all corals outplanted, served as a static subset for targeted monitoring of individual survivorship. Over the years, the data collected in this way consistently showed that corals can and do survive from nursery to one-year-old outplants on reefs throughout the Florida Keys regardless of their nursery of origin!

CRF™ Science Program Manager Amelia monitors a cluster of Staghorn corals using underwater paper and pencil (top) and takes pictures of a section of reef to create a photomosaic (bottom). © Alex Neufeld/Coral Restoration Foundation

Now that we have this baseline understanding that, even with added stressors on the reefs, corals can and do survive, we hope to answer broader questions about ecosystem-level success, not just coral transplant success.

All of our monitoring is captured at two time points post-outplant: once between 1-3 months after outplanting and again between 9-12 months after outplanting. Using this design, we can compare the survivorship and size of month-old outplants to year-old outplants to look for predictors of outplant success and growth.

We have collected these data points at every restoration site we outplanted on in 2019. In August, we will conduct the one-year monitoring for the last site! With this completed dataset, we can begin to answer questions about how genotype, reef site, or date of outplanting impact coral survival and health.

We look forward to crunching the numbers of these data points and sharing what we learn with the broader restoration community to enhance restoration success. Stay tuned!



Did you miss Coralpalooza™ on June 6? Fret not! All of the exciting interviews, videos, and activities will be available through August 25, 2020! Register to access exclusive content from CRF™ and our event partners.

If you participated live and just couldn't get enough, click here to revisit Coralpalooza™ any time until August 25, 2020.


"Talking Science" Editorial Intern

Andrew was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida and spent many hours in the Atlantic Ocean swimming

and snorkeling as a child. He graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and minors in biology and mathematics. In school, he researched marine gastropods and conducted sea turtle tagging surveys. After graduating, Andrew wanted to dive (no pun intended) into the world of marine conservation and do something to make a tangible difference for the ocean. After completing 50 dives in the Upper Keys and witnessing ghastly coral graveyards, struggling ecosystems, and degraded portions of the Florida Barrier Reef, Andrew was inspired to apply to CRF™ to actively help restore our beloved marine ecosystem. He is super excited to join the CRF™ family and learn a variety of skills both above and below the surface. In his spare time, Andrew loves playing any and all sports and watching Marvel movies on repeat.

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