Lobed Star Coral at Horseshoe Reef

On July 11th, 2018 I was on a dive to Horseshoe Reef, which is up the coast from Key Largo. We got to see some interesting sea life plus some examples of healthier coral than other places in the marine sanctuary. During the dive it occurred to me that I should slow down a bit and get some video footage of the Lobed Star Coral I was swimming by.

 

One thing to notice is how lots of other species of coral, algae, tunicate, sponges and fish make their home on the coral mound. The Bi-colored Damselfish got a little angry with me when I crossed into its territory. It attacked my camera until I had moved on past. 🙂 Learn more about Lobed Star Coral by visiting the links below.

Resources

NOAA Fisheries Lobed Star Coral

Reefguide.org Lobed Star Coral

 

 

 

A day with the Coral Restoration Foundation

On Friday, July 13th I spent the day as a volunteer for the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, Florida. I had done this once before back on Earth Day in 2011. I really believe that this organization is making a difference (perhaps small in the grand scheme of things) but at least they are taking direct action to change things.

During the morning the volunteers received the training necessary for the afternoon dives. As I would expect, there was a noticeable improvement in the morning training session since 2011.

Coral Nursery

For the first dive of the afternoon we went to the coral nursery off of Tavernier, Florida. For this particular trip the boat and dive guide service was provided by Rainbow Reef Dive Center.

As volunteers, our job was to clean algae, sponges and fire coral that was growing near the young coral fragments. Back in 2011 I also worked in the nursery. Our job then was to clean PVC pipe stands arranged on the ocean bottom on which the coral fragments were growing.

Pipe and Cap system

Since then they have changed most of the nursery to PVC pipe “trees” that are suspended in the water. They hang fragments of live coral from the branches of the trees. They found the fragments grow faster hanging on the trees than placed upright on a PVC pipe base like a plant.

CRF Nursery

However, using “trees” did not change the need to clean around the young coral so it does not get covered in algae, sponges and fire coral. Cleaning now takes a little more skill since you need to have good buoyancy control in order to hover beside the “tree” while gently scraping the thin “branches” of the “tree” clean of stubborn growth.

While we were cleaning the trees the CRF interns were collecting Elkhorn Coral fragments from another part of the nursery to “re-plant” on Pickles Reef.

“Planting” the Coral

The goal of our second tank dive was to “plant” the coral on Pickles Reef off of Key Largo. The process involves using a masonry hammer to scrape an area on the reef bottom free from algae for the new coral to be placed on. This allows the adhesive putty to bond to the reef base. We arrange the coral fragments in a circular group so they eventually grow together like a cluster of bushes. The underwater adhesive I mentioned is like a soft putty at this point. We have to use enough putty to secure the coral fragment enough to pass the wave test. We wave our hands over to coral to move the water enough and ensure the coral will stay firm in the adhesive putty long enough to harden despite any current and water movements that my occur.

I hope I can build on my experience, volunteer for them again and improve my skills.

Earth Day Coral Restoration Dive

In January of 2011 I adopted some coral as a way to support the Coral Restoration Foundation. When I heard they were having a coral restoration dive on Earth Day (April 22) I quickly signed up. The event was made possible by a partnership between Ecokeys, Rainbow Reef and the Coral Restoration Foundation.

We started out the day at the Rainbow Reef Dive Shop with presentation by Kevin from the Coral Restoration Foundation. I learned more detail about their nursery operation and growing techniques.I also learned about the plight of the long-spined sea urchin and impact their near extinction had on the reef. A mass die-off in 1983 wiped out nearly all long-spined sea urchins in the Caribbean and Florida Keys.

They are experimenting with several different types of growing methods. They have both a “cap and pipe” system and line system.

The PVC pipes and pipe caps can be gently twisted off for manual cleaning with a wire or plastic brush.

They have discovered the line allows the coral clippings and nubs to grow the fastest. After watching Ken work the line I realized it took more diving skill to work on a line system.

Staghorn Coral Line

Coral Line close-up

I was impressed with the number of fish that had taken up residence in the coral nursery. There was one Triggerfish that got a little aggressive while we were cleaning the coral.

Triggerfish

I was happy to see the Coral Restoration Foundation experimenting with growing Brain and Star Coral. It takes a lot longer to grow but its good to know it can be done.

Brain and Star Coral growing experient in the coral nursery

The next dive was at the Wellwood Restoration Site on Molasses Reef. I had been there on Wednesday where I had seen the Black Tip Reef shark.

Planting a staghorn coral clipping at the Wellwood Restoration Site

I was amazed how the juvenile Bluehead Wrasse (the small yellow fish) swarmed around the newly planted coral.

Re-planted Staghorn coral clipping

This trip we were just quickly re-planting clippings from other corals in the area. Normally they are placing coral with bases from the nursery onto the reef floor. I noticed several while diving at other sites on Molasses Reef.

New Staghorn Coral transplant from the nursery.

They recently started moving the ID tags off to one side since coral several years old have “bushed” out to cover the base tag.

Replanted Staghorn Coral several years old on the Wellwood Restoration Site.

Before my next volunteer opportunity I would like to work on some different clip systems to attach tools to my BC so that I am more efficient.

A Turtle and Black Tip Reef Shark on Molasses Reef

Wednesday was a fantastic day diving with Rainbow Reef on Molasses Reef. We were lucky enough to have master dive guide Jesus (AKA the fish whisperer) with us for the day. We had so many sighting I barely know where to begin.

Jesus found an small overhang with a Lionfish, Nurse Shark and Stingray underneath. When he captured the Lionfish the Shark took off in one direction and stingray in the other.

Later on during the dive we had a visit from a friendly old turtle. It was not afraid of us at all and swam with us for a while.

During the afternoon dive we visited the Wellwood Coral Restoration site on Molasses Reef. During the dive we saw a few Spotted Eagle Rays and a Black Tip Reef Shark. In addition to the photo I was able to get a few seconds of video.

Coral Restoration Foundation Adopt-A-Coral Program

Thanks to a Facebook post by the good people at Rainbow Reef Dive Center, I learned about the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF). I was happy to learn that Rainbow Reef has taken an active partnership role with the Coral Reef Foundation. I like the concept of coral restoration because it is direct action to address the degrading coral reefs in the Florida Keys.

Below are photographs of the coral colony I have sponsored. Visit the CRF Website to adopt your own coral.

I hope to make another trip to Key Largo and participate in one Foundation’s Community Based Programs to learn more about the program and visit the nursery.

Step it Up 2007 at Dartmouth

Bernie Sanders at Step It Up 2007

The Upper Valley joined the national Step It Up movement scheduled to take place nationwide on April 14, 2007. There were events that ranged from skiing in Wyoming to diving on a coral reef in Florida.
A little after one o’clock a group of walkers along with Senator Bernie Sanders crossed the Ledyard Bridge and walked up the hill to the Dartmouth Green. Several groups has set up display tables including VINS, the Sierra Club, Upper Valley Localvores and Advanced Transit. Senator Sanders was the first of several inspiring speakers for the event. The vegetable oil powered Big Green Bus was there along with another car that was also powered by vegetable oil and diesel.

Green Bags from the Co-op

Co-op Green Bag

I happen to see some some re-useable shopping bags for sale at the Co-op in Lebanon. I remembered Valerie’s Friday Five about recycling and knew I should buy some. I am guilty of throwing away many shopping bags, both paper and plastic, over my life. I thought it would be a good opportunity to do more reducing and reusing. There was an info sheet with the bags that has some interesting facts.

  • Plastic bags can take up to 1000 years to degrade and leave permenant toxins in the soil and water.
  • Paper bags create 70% more air and 50 times more water pollutants than plastic bags.
  • Plastic bags kill millions of sea creatures a year.
  • The US uses 14 million trees and 12 million barrels of oil per year in the manufacture of shopping bags.
  • The US uses approximately 100 billion plastic and 10 billion paper bags each year.
  • Less than 5% of bags are recycled nationally.

This seems to be an easy way to reduce my environemntal impact. I discovered they hold more than plastic bags. The Co-op also give you five cents off your bill per bag.