CRF was founded in 2007 by Ken Nedimeyer. It has a grown to become the largest coral restoration effort in the world, growing critically endangered species of corals on around 500 Coral Trees across seven large nurseries throughout the Florida Reef Tract. Since it was founded, Coral Restoration Foundation has outplanted over 66,000 critically endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals back onto the reef on sites ranging from Key Largo down to Key West.
I started working with CRF as a Coral Conservation and Reef Restoration Intern in the Summer of 2017. I had graduated from Florida International University the previous year with dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology. I’m currently a Program Intern working in the Communications and
Development Department where I get to the learn about whole range of work involved in running an ocean conservation non-profit. It has been a great experience working on everything from researching grants to support
our mission, writing up blogs and articles for our Coral Chronicles Newsletter, to managing our social media channels.
Most species of coral have microscopic algae living inside them, called zooxanthellae. Increased temperature, pollution, disease, and sedimentation are all stressors of corals. Stress causes the algae to be expelled from the coral which reveals the stark, white color of the coral's skeleton through its tissues. While this does not necessarily mean that the coral is dead, the coral has lost a significant part of its food supply.
In the past 30 years, we have lost up to 50% of the world’s shallow coral reefs due to climate change, overfishing, and other activities. In the Caribbean as
much as 80% had been lost in recent years. Although these numbers may appear daunting, there is still hope. We still have time to turn things around to protect the reefs that we have left, and restore those that are damaged to a healthy state.
Our Restoration Program manages all aspects of our reef restoration work – from building and maintaining the Coral Trees in our nurseries, to outplanting corals. They are also tasked with developing innovative ways to continue to improve our methods.
The Science Program works on monitoring coral survivorship once corals have been outplanted on the reefs. This program also leads our collaborations with other research institutions, universities and government agencies, to better understand wider questions related to coral reef conservation and restoration.
Our Education Program provides engaging learning packages for students of all ages to enrich their curriculum. They run exciting, hands-on workshops and presentations, including Skype sessions for schools that around the country. The also hold regular dive programs for recreational divers and snorkelers.
Our Volunteer Program is an integral part of our organization, supporting every aspect of our restoration program.
Our Internship Program allows young professionals to gain unique experience with, and contributing to, a thriving
ocean conservation non-profit.
There is a lot going on at Coral restoration Foundation!
Corals have been around for approximately 500 million years. The oldest living coral ever dated was found to be 4,265 years old!
They can reproduce both asexually through fission or fragmentation or through sexual reproduction which occurs yearly during the full moon in August where corals collectively release their gametes. Coral polyps then utilize many methods when choosing a settlement site such as phototaxis, or a sensitivity to light availability. Corals generally need a lot of sunlight to survive so they will try to
find a settlement area where a lot of light is available.
Another way they find settlement spots, is sonotaxis, or sensitivity to sound. Corals have been shown to be sensitive to the difference between the copious background noise of a bustling coral reef and the relative silence of the open ocean, and swim towards the reef where they can settle among other corals.
For such simple looking organisms, corals are remarkably complex, and well adapted to living in healthy oceans!
Coral reefs make up only 0.2% of the entire ocean floor, and yet, they provide a habitat for 25% of all marine species. And just as the reef provides habitat for a quarter or all ocean life, coral reefs also provide massive benefits to us on land.
For example, a healthy coral reef can provide protection on the coasts from erosion and storms. In Florida alone, there are almost 1,200 miles of coastal shoreline. Without the reefs to cut down wave energy, massive hurricanes like Irma have the potential to do far more damage.
A healthy reef also can provide food on a global scale. When a reef is healthy it can support a diverse range of larger fish that local communities can use as a sustainable food source and stock for the fishing and seafood
Anyone local or willing to travel to the South Florida area can volunteer with our organization whether it be on land or in the water, we accept all the help we can get. Our personal daily actions can have some of the biggest impacts on the reefs. Reducing your carbon footprint is one of the best ways you can support the survival of coral reefs, everyday. You can reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling or using electric vehicles, eating and shopping sustainably and locally, and reducing your meat consumption. Pay attention to local and federal policies and always vote to make your opinion be heard!
Use reef-safe sunscreen whenever entering the water, avoid any sunscreen with the ingredient oxybenzone, which is harmful to corals and has been shown to cause coral bleaching.
Every year, over 8 million tons of plastics finds its way into our oceans, threatening our coral reefs. One of our biggest challenges is reducing our use of plastics. You can help in this matter by carrying a reusable water bottle, reusable utensils, and a tote bag. Commit to refusing to use plastic straws, plastic bags and plastic utensils this year.
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As we got closer to the ocean floor, we began to approach a reef; this reef was nothing short of epic. The colours were bright and everything appeared to be healthy with marine life flourishing... that was until the current changed. Within seconds, this heaving reef became surrounded with plastic and rubbish.