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"Talking Science" in November 2021 with the Coral Chronicles

Updated: Nov 16, 2021


One of the most challenging aspects of working in a scientific field is communication. Whether it be communicating our findings, research, and progress to the public, or communicating amongst fellow scientists and researchers to share information, the sheer magnitude of data to sift through can become confusing. This is true for us coral scientists as well, but a new collaborative project is helping coral groups find common ground.

CRF™ divers working together in our open ocean Coral Tree™ nursery. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Back in 2018, at the Reef Futures Symposium put on by the Coral Restoration Consortium, the idea for a database that could hold information for all coral fragments was born. Over the next few years, coral practitioners, academics, and managers from across south Florida came together to brainstorm what this database might look like. This collaborative process has resulted in a centralized, easy-to-use database that holds collection information for all coral samples used in restoration practice, the Coral Sample Registry.

For coral scientists one of the most important pieces of data is the origin of each fragment used in their work. Different corals perform differently in nursery settings compared to after they are returned to the reef. Tying that data back to the location from where they were collected (their source information) can tell us about the habitat that certain genetic strains of coral thrive in. In the absence of genetic sequencing, which is costly, time consuming, and highly technical, this source information also provides a baseline understanding of how related different coral fragments may be. This is because collection location can be used as a proxy for sequenced genotypes. Scientists can reasonably assume that corals collected from farther apart on a reef are more distantly related than corals found near one another because of the mechanism for coral sexual reproduction, spawning. As the saying goes the coral larvae doesn’t swim far from the colony! Thus, tracking source information through time across all groups in an area is incredibly important.

Many of the coral genotypes in a CRF™ coral nursery have been determined based on their source information. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

Before now, there was no standard way to categorize and track the origins of coral fragments across all the groups working with corals. This reality resulted in a complete lack of access to vital source information data and the degradation of data over time as it passed from group to group. As a first step in addressing this problem, CRF™, NOAA, FWC, and SECORE International developed the Coral Sample Registry! Get the entire published paper here and scroll down for the highlights of this tremendous collaboration!

The Coral Sample Registry is a free database designed to be used by everyone working with samples of coral. It holds all the collection information for a specific coral sample including where it was collected, when, and by whom. When a coral sample is input to the database it is assigned a unique ID. Using this standardized ID system, with one ID tied to each coral sample, all interested parties can easily access the information they need without the risk of overlap or duplicative data.

A peak inside the Coral Sample Registry where source information for corals across all groups can be stored and shared. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™

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.

The Coral Sample Registry is newly launched and practitioners throughout Florida are in the process of uploading collection data! This incredible group effort will lead to one of the most comprehensive datasets for coral colonies to date. As we look to the future of coral restoration, we need to be able to adapt our practices based on the most up to date, comprehensive information. The Coral Sample Registry aims to give easy, efficient, centralized access to the broadest collection of data possible; helping all restoration management agencies work at peak performance!

To read more about the Coral Sample Registry details, see the publication in Frontiers in Marine Science here.





"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.


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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