Posted on October 29, 2018 in Blog
Attorneys Jeff Bast and Jeremy Korch are avid SCUBA divers. So, when presented with the opportunity to fill the role of “citizen scientists” with the University of Miami’s Rescue A Reef program, they leapt (into the water) at the chance to help rebuild local coral reef populations.
Besides providing homes to innumerable species of sea life, coral reefs also serve as one of the first lines of defense in protecting our shorelines from storm surges. Coral reefs can reduce the effects of wave energy by up to 95%. Unfortunately, local populations of staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) are endangered as a result of rising sea temperatures, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and careless recreational diving and boating. This has resulted in massive coral die-offs throughout South Florida, damaging the habitat for local marine wildlife, our defenses to storm surges, and a major tourist attraction.
Rescue A Reef is the University of Miami’s coral restoration project. It pairs citizen scientists with UM Researchers to restore local populations of endangered staghorn coral, and rebuild and strengthen our local reefs. One night in July, Jeff and Jeremy went on a coral planting expedition with Rescue A Reef.
After an introduction to the process, Jeff, Jeremy, and about 20 other citizen scientists strapped on their tanks and took the plunge into the murky depths. Despite poor underwater visibility and strong currents, they strung fragments of staghorn coral on specially-designed coral nursery trees off the coast of Miami Beach. Within six months, the corals strung on these trees will have doubled in size, and will be ripe for pruning and replanting.
On their second dive, the citizen scientists worked by flashlight in the darkening waters, to attach coral fragments pruned from other nurseries to nails embedded on the seafloor. These new staghorn coral fragments will grow over their foundational nails and form a new reef, which will create new habitats for local wildlife and protect our environment both under and above the water. After everyone made it safely back on the boat, the UM researcher leading the expedition declared that this expedition had been one of the most efficient and successful plantings, despite the poor underwater conditions, and the surprise “night dive.”
For more information on Rescue A Reef’s program, please see this article by the Miami Herald. If you are SCUBA certified, and interested in joining a Rescue A Reef expedition, more information on upcoming coral planting expeditions can be found here.
Perhaps you will join the Bast Amron team on their next dive with the program!