Scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory invite the public to help with a coral restoration project at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West during June and July.
The collaborative project between Mote, Florida State Parks, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the Monroe County Tourist Development Council will work to restore corals at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park while educating people about reefs and asking volunteer “citizen scientists” to help. All work is being conducted under permits from NOAA and Florida State Parks.
Coral reef restoration is a priority of Mote’s world-class research focused on the conservation and sustainable use of our ocean’s natural resources, according to a press release.
Mote’s cutting-edge, reef-building technique called “reskinning” is based on observations that small fragments of brain, boulder and star coral from Mote’s Summerland Key nursery will often rapidly fuse back together in the lab. In natural settings these small fragments may form new coral heads over the dead skeletons of depleted reefs.
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Through this ground-breaking research, Mote scientists are working to restoring large areas of these major reef-building corals in just one to three years — instead of the hundreds of years it might take for natural recovery, according to the release.
Uniquely, this project it uses corals rescued by NOAA from the same general area where restoration will occur. The corals have since been propagated by Mote scientists at their land-based coral nursery in Summerland Key for the purpose of out-planting back into the natural environment at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
“This project highlights Mote’s coral reef restoration efforts and the many partners is takes to accomplish our goal of restoring Florida’s coral reefs,” said David Vaughan, executive director of Mote’s lab in the Florida Keys, in the press release. “Coral reefs are rapidly declining because of a variety of human impacts, and we can’t let these impacts completely destroy a once beautiful and thriving ecosystem that has given so much to us.”
Economically, coral reefs support many species that are important for recreational and commercial interests and they provide recreational activities including diving and snorkeling. In southeast Florida alone, coral reefs are estimated to value $8.5 billion and generate over 70,000 jobs.
How you can help
Volunteers will assist researchers via snorkel, while also enjoying the replanted coral habitat. Volunteers will be asked to help Mote scientists with nontechnical help such as handing and supplying materials needed to outplant corals while snorkeling, assist with additional photo-monitoring via snorkel and from the beach, and educating the public about the project.
Pre-registered volunteers receive free access to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park on the day they are volunteering. All others who have not pre-registered must pay the park’s regular admission price, which can be found on floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Taylor.
Dates volunteers are needed: June 8-10, June 13-14.
Up to five volunteers each day can assist. All volunteers must have their own snorkeling equipment and are responsible for their own safety in the water.
Coral planting will begin at 9 a.m. and end around 2 p.m., but can shift depending upon the tides.
Herald staff report