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"Talking Science" in July 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

A DISEASE TRANSMISSION STUDY

Our team recently joined forces with Dr. Vollmer, a collaborating scientist from Northeastern University. Dr. Vollmer and his team travelled down to the Florida Keys to conduct a disease transmission study among staghorn corals. To get his experiment up and running, our team was responsible for harvesting 11 individuals from 50 different genotypes, collecting 500 individual corals in just one day!


We also collected corals, of any genotype, that showed symptoms of disease. These corals were used to create homogenates, which were used to transmit disease in this experimental setting.

©Elly Perez/Coral Restoration Foundation™

Apart from harvesting corals, our team got the chance to assist Dr. Vollmer and his team in the lab as well! Kendall Fitzgerald, a first round intern here at CRF, says on the experience “helping Dr. Vollmer and his amazing team was an invaluable learning experience, getting

the chance to see real science happening and learning about the potential implications the study has was a side of coral conservation I had not yet been exposed to!”


Dr. Vollmer plans to use the results from this study to learn more about the resilience of our corals and how different genotypes react when exposed to disease. Learning more about the disease susceptibility of our corals can help us to better manage for disease in the future!

 

MONITORING CORALS TO MAXIMIZE REEF HEALTH

Once corals are returned to the reef our work has just begun! We continue to monitor our transplanted corals' and overall ecosystem health over time.


Join us as we dive deeper into different parameters we keep track of! We've covered algal competition, snail predation, fusion, bleaching, and fish predation! Today we are talking fire worms!

FIRE WORMS

Fire worms are one of the most common and voracious of coral predators. Fireworms can also be reservoirs and vectors of coral disease, making them a serious threat to coral survival and reef health. Fire worms feast on a number of coral species, including endangered staghorn coral. As one of the main species CRF™ works with, our team keeps a vigilant eye out for fireworms both on the reef and in our nurseries!

It is not uncommon for our team to catch fire worms actively eating corals, but more often than not, we see evidence of fire worm predation. While the skeleton itself usually isn’t damaged, fireworms devour coral tissue. The stark white appearance of corals caused by fire worm predation can commonly be mistaken as a number of different coral diseases, such as rapid tissue loss.

Our divers pay close attention to the location of tissue loss to determine the most likely reason for it. When located only on the apical tips of a staghorn coral, you are more than likely looking at fire worm predation. Diseases usually start at the base of a coral colony and is seen in patches around the coral, rather than just at the tips.


©Shane Gallimore/Coral Restoration Foundation™


Monitoring for fireworms in the nursery is something our teams does often. Fire worms like to burrow into the floats that keep our coral trees vertical in the water column. By changing out old floats for new ones, we are removing fire worms from our nursery and keeping our corals safe from fire worm predation!

 

BROADENING ACCESS TO RESTORATION RESOURCES

This past month our Science Program Manager, Amelia Moura, presented at the Society for Ecological Restoration conference (SER). With almost 1400 registrants from 68+ countries, this was one of SER’s largest world conferences EVER! With the conference going virtual this year, access to restoration resources were expanded to reach audiences who would not otherwise have been able to participate.


Speaking to ecologists from all around the world, Amelia introduced the Coral Sample Registry. The Coral Sample Registry allows users around the globe to catalog information about corals! This collaborative tool is designed to make communication about individual coral samples much simpler and streamlined across species and/or entire regions. The registry will work to standardize the way various groups communicate about the same information and will allow for immediate and broad access of information.


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

 

CORALPALOOZA DIGITAL IS STILL OPEN!

You can still explore all of the incredible content we've curated for you from an original coral reef rap song, to discussions on the future of coral restoration! It's all right HERE!!!

 

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.


"Talking Science" Intern

Elly Perez

Despite growing up in the landlocked state of Indiana, Elly always seemed to find her way back to the ocean. With yearly trips to Vieques, an island municipality of Puerto Rico, she fell in love with the reefs and most of all, took notice of their continuous degradation year by year. This instilled in her a passion for ocean conservation that still continues todays. A recent graduate from Indiana University, she received her B.S. in Environmental Science and a certificate in Underwater Resource Management. Her involvement with and support from the Center for Underwater Science at Indiana University further established her passion for marine conservation and underwater science. Throughout her undergraduate she spent time diving abroad in the Dominican Republic, working as a research assistant, and in Indonesia, where she completed her divemaster while studying shark conservation. After graduating in 2019, she took a job working with the nesting loggerhead sea turtles along the Georgia Coast. While she thoroughly enjoyed this work, her heart was longing to return to the ocean! Elly is extremely excited to join the CRF team and do her part in the conservation of our reefs.


"Coral Chronicles" Editoral Intern

Tessa Markham is a recent graduate of Skidmore College, with a BA in English and

Environmental Studies. She grew up in Wilton, in southwestern Connecticut, but spent her summers growing up either hiking and camping in the woods or swimming and sailing on the water. She has always been passionate about climate change and conservation. Diving for the first time in 2014 while taking a marine conservation course in the Caribbean leeward islands, she quickly amassed dives and got her PADI Instructor certification just three years later. Just after completing her instructor training, she spent nearly a month on the Yucatan Peninsula conducting research on their reefs, looking at the ratio of soft versus stony coral death. She later channeled her distress at the degradation of the reefs to write a short story about coral bleaching, which was published in Volume 5 of the Oakland Arts Review in 2020. Her capstone thesis built on this theme and she wrote a collection of four creative short stories that detail and exemplify climate change-induced environmental damage through a narrative lens. She aims to combine her degrees and experiences to make a career in science communications, making research and conservation accessible to everybody.




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