Florida Keys — Communities play a significant role as stewards of the world’s oceans. Environmental enthusiasts interested in aiding in reef restoration in the Florida Keys can join marine scientists with multiple coral restoration organizations to productively give back to the living, dynamic underwater ecosystem.
Volunteers are invited to explore how, as citizen scientists, divers and nondivers can get actively involved with coral fragging parties, coral nursery cleanings, coral outplanting trips and coral reef monitoring trips.
Florida Keys coral restoration entities include:
· Upper, Middle & Lower Keys: Reef Renewal USA
· Key Largo’s Coral Restoration Foundation
· Summerland Key–based Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research and Restoration field station for MOTE Marine Laboratory
· Islamorada’s I.CARE
Each organization is devoted to overcoming the challenges coral reefs face, developing ever-improving methods to propagate and maintain dozens of important coral species while preserving genetic diversity.
Volunteers first learn about environmental impacts on Florida's reefs in fun, casual-yet-educational workshops that explore how experts are restoring endangered staghorn, elkhorn and boulder corals — critical reef-building species that have the best chance to propagate and create new habitats within a year or two.
Hands-on activities include “coral fragging,” fragmenting a brood stock of corals into smaller pieces for widespread propagation — then prepping the fragments to be placed on “coral trees” in offshore nurseries for continued growth and eventual outplanting to natural reef locations.
Scuba divers go on working dives to coral nurseries to clean and prepare corals for planting at a restoration site, enabling them to see firsthand the evolution of corals over time. For many recreational divers, what starts as an interest evolves into a dedicated mission; they get passionately “hooked” on coral restoration, giving back to the oceans that are so essential to life.
Visit any of the organizations’ websites today to learn how to join a coral restoration workshop, or visit fla-keys.com/voluntourism.
There are opportunities for groups, individuals and students to contribute in meaningful ways and witness the powerful impact the community can make through taking action.