CRF™ SCIENCE PROGRAM 101
Coral Restoration Foundation™ is a science-centered organization, at the forefront of the world’s coral restoration community. Research and innovation are at the heart of all we do, with data driving the evolution of our restoration techniques. Three of our major areas of focus within the CRF™ Science Program are photomosaic monitoring, our genetic bank and coral sample registry, and our research collaborations.
Recent advances in imaging and image processing technology are now being applied to underwater data collection. Using specialized computer software and basic underwater cameras, we are beginning to map reef sites throughout the Florida Keys into “photomosaics”.
Photomosaic of North Dry Rocks Reef ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
These mosaics encompass several thousand square meters of reef area and can be used to compare the growth and health of outplanted corals over time, while also documenting changes to the reefscape. Photomosaics can reduce the number of man-hours needed on-site, collect the same monitoring metrics collected by previous monitoring methods, and offer the potential for the collection of new information previously unobtainable underwater. These improvements translate to demonstrable increases in the efficiency of CRF's™ data collection and breadth of scientific knowledge. Plus the create stunning images that can be used to propel science communication!
CRF™ divers take photomosaics in the field. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
GENETIC BANK AND CORAL SAMPLE REGISTRY
Healthy reefs rely on a diversity of species as well as genetic diversity within each species. Diversity creates resilience and reduces inbreeding and mutations. Our nurseries have become a vital repository of genetic diversity for corals whose populations are in a spiral of decline.
We are currently working with 1,305 putative coral genotypes across 20 species. In order for restoration efforts to be successful in the long-term, it is essential that the corals we outplant are genetically diverse. Some of these genotypes have now been lost in the wild and can only be found in our nurseries. We have exhaustive information on all of our coral species including genotypes, collection location, phenotypic observations from within our nurseries, locations within nurseries, and genetic sequencing data.
CRF™ cares for over 1,000 coral genotypes across 20 species! ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
In 2021, we teamed up with Nova Southeastern University (NSU) to establish a second in-situ genetic bank in Broward County. This nursery constitutes a second genetic ark for staghorn and elkhorn coral, a vital redundancy in an area prone to hurricanes.
In the coming years, it is our goal to sequence every coral and make this information publicly accessible through a genetic database that will be used as the focal point for all genetically-conscious coral restoration. We have begun the first steps to accomplishing that goal by launching the Global Coral Sample Registry in November 2021. 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.
CRF™ launched the Global Coral Sample Registry in fall 2021. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
We work with leading researchers, universities, scientists, and other organizations to help answer the questions that will advance our coral restoration goals. We are also in a unique position to provide investigators with corals from our nurseries—as well as limited field support—for experimental work that aligns itself with our research priorities.
In 2021 our expertise and infrastructure supported 8 scientific collaborations, and 6 studies published in peer-reviewed journals. Three of these published studies were co-authored by members of our team; our CEO, Scott Winters, Director of Restoration Strategy, Jess Levy, and Science Program Manager, Amelia Moura. The studies covered topics including the impacts of disease and bleaching, genetic resilience, coral nurseries, coral ecology, and outplanting methods.
CRF™ diver takes notes while capturing photomosaics in the field ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Our goals at Coral Restoration Foundation™ include empowering the wider community in the mission to restore coral reefs and our scientific collaborations are one of the many ways we accomplish that goal. Over the last few years as our programs evolved, the most rewarding aspect of our growth has been the way in which our organization is increasingly able to support a much wider community of scientists, divers, restoration practitioners, and managers. We are providing tools, resources, and solutions for our global community.
Coral Chronicles Editor
Madalen Howard is CRF's Communications and Outreach Coordinator. 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, marketing and digital communications.
With CRF™ Madalen creates inclusive pathways to scientific discovery through content creation and by building and fostering relationships with press, digital media creators, and local community members. Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature, and is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration.