Are you ready to help support the restoration of endangered staghorn corals? Learn how to support coral nurseries and staghorn restoration with a generous donation to RJD reef research!
Staghorn corals are important coral reef engineers, providing essential habitat for many other reef organisms. Unfortunately, coral populations have drastically declined and are threatened with extinction due to climate change, pollution, disease, overfishing, and habitat destruction.
The University of Miami’s coral restoration project, in collaboration with the R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, focuses on propagating threatened Caribbean staghorn coral in underwater coral nurseries. Nursery-reared corals are then outplanted to local reefs to enhance local staghorn populations and promotes natural recovery.
For more information on the history of coral gardening and our coral restoration techniques, click here!
Become a Citizen Scientist on our Rescue A Reef Expeditions
Join us for a day of coral research and restoration on the beautiful coral reefs of South Florida! Learn about coral reef conservation and work alongside UM researchers as they create a sustainable source of staghorn coral for use in reef restoration activities. Visit the coral nursery to gather fragments and help plant these new corals onto nearby wild reefs. This is your chance to dive into coral restoration at the University of Miami with RJD!
Half-Day Research Expedition (8am – 1pm) departing from Key Biscayne, FL
2 shallow Scuba dives/snorkels with hands-on participation in restoration led by UM Researchers
Coral Reef Expert Q&A
Snacks & Water Included
SKILL REQUIREMENT: All participants must have at least Open Water dive certification, must be able to swim, and strong snorkeling skills are preferred. ALL participants must be at least 18 years old
We offer trips for individuals, private charters, and corporate groups
For more information or to reserve your spot on a Rescue A Reef expedition, please contact Dalton Hesley
What’s Rescue a Reef?
The University of Miami’s coral restoration project focuses on propagating threatened staghorn coral in underwater coral nurseries to create a sustainable source of healthy coral colonies for use in restoration activities. Our methods aim to minimize negative impacts on wild populations while using strong, science-based restoration techniques to enhance staghorn populations on Florida reefs. Your donation will help support the maintenance of our coral nurseries as well as support outplanting activities and important scientific monitoring.
Learn how Rescue A Reef works
The day begins at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science dock at Virginia Key, FL. The coral restoration team is already hard at work, loading the research gear onto the large dive boat. We then complete a short checklist, ensure all paperwork is in order, and then depart into the blue ocean.
Meet the lead scientists at Rescue a Reef – Dr. Diego Lirman (Associate Professor) and Stephanie Schopmeyer (Senior Research Associate II). They are both experts in the coral restoration process, and have published numerous scientific publications on the topic.
Enjoy a relaxing boat ride out to the coral reefs!
The first step in the coral restoration process is to collect small samples (about 5cm branches) from wild coral colonies. It’s similar to propagating a plant in your garden.
The next step is to allow these little corals to grow in our coral nursery, usually doubling in size every two months. We often use these ‘trees’ made from PVC pipes to hang the individual corals, allowing for plenty of water and nutrient flow.
Once the corals have grown enough, we again break off little segments to outplant at a restoration site. Using masonry nails as the support, the corals are put into place and labeled according to their genotype.
Here you can see a freshly outplanted coral with it’s color-coded ziptie.
Within one month, the coral will grow new tissue around the nail and start to skirt onto the surrounding sediment.
Once the coral has established a strong base, it is now a solid structure and part of the reef.
The ultimate goal of this work is to restore the staghorn coral colonies back to a healthy population size. Here is one of our success stories – a restored site four years after outplanting!