The nonprofit foundation’s focus is on re-establishing coral colonies like the endangered staghorn and elkhorn corals to the Florida Keys.
In an effort to make their program goals more public, in 2007 Ken Nedimyer, president of the Foundation, started the volunteer arm of the Coral Restoration Foundation. With the volunteer program, participants learn about environmental issues the Keys face as well as take hands-on dives to help restore coral species like the staghorn and elkhorn corals:
Volunteers go on working dives to the coral nursery to clean and prepare corals for planting, and an orientation dive at one of the restoration sites to see firsthand the evolution of corals over time.
At the nursery, corals are started from a clipping about the length of a knuckle and grow to 30 or 40 centimeters. After a year on the reef, the corals grow several inches tall with multiple branches. In five years, they are strong, independent structures serving as habitat for a variety of tropical fish. …
“This is something the average person can get their hands on and do,” Nedimyer said. “We have a lot of people who have volunteered, and they ‘own’ this project. They can take (the experience) back to their home communities — it is a grass-roots way of giving people ownership.”
A three day dive trip with the Foundation will cost $456.50 per person and covers lodging, tanks, weights, classroom sessions, dive trips to transplant coral and tend the coral nursery.
More information can be found at the Coral Restoration Foundation’s website: www.coralrestoration.org