by Jonathan Dorsey, RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program intern
Biscayne National Park on the southeastern tip of Florida is 95% underwater. The bay consists of many types of coral species that may be in harm’s way. While these delicate reef structures struggle with warming waters, disease, and physical assaults from boaters, divers, and anglers, volunteers at the park are working to preserve them by designing coral nurseries.
The Coral Nursery Club was founded by the park rangers of Biscayne National Park in 1993. This is a non-profit organization that has three goals in mind: 1) To rescue coral fragments resulting from inadvertent vessel groundings in Park waters, 2) To develop and maintain a supply of natural coral colonies with a diversity that reflects natural conditions in the Park, and 3) To provide a platform for community volunteers to participate and learn the intricacies of coral reef management and restoration.
When the rangers hear of a boat grounding that took place in the bay, they take volunteers to go scavenge the reef for scraps for coral that were broken off or damaged. Using special adhesives, the rangers glue these coral fragments onto small spokes and further places into a long row underneath the dock at Adam’s Key. Then to monitor, the rangers take more volunteers out to photographing the collected samples, checking for growth and rejuvenation. By comparing these new pictures to the old ones, researchers are able to calculate the polyp growth rate and they take note of seasonal variances.