Our Aquarium Supervisor & His Mission to Save Coral Reefs – Day 1

Prior to arrival in the Keys, a lot of the details of my trip were worked out by Dive Operations Manager Pamela Hughes.  She was very accommodating and professional.  I can’t begin to express how easy she made this endeavor.

Monday, May 19 2014

7 a.m.

In speaking with Pamela Hughes of Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) yesterday, diving today is not likely.  On land, wind gusts approaching 25 mph make for very poor conditions on the water.  I will be meeting with her at Coral Restoration Foundation’s new Education Center, located at the Pilot House Marina at 10 a.m. to get oriented to the program.  Hopefully, the winds die down soon so we can get in the water.

1-Boats
Photo credit: (Dozier’s Waterway Guide)

12 p.m.

The Education Center was quite nice and well put together, with lots of large graphics and hands-on displays.  They even have a newly set up marine aquarium which will eventually house fragments of corals from the nursery.

Photo (above): Coral Restoration Foundation Education Center Grand Opening Party – Credit: www.coralrestoration.org
Photo (above): Coral Restoration Foundation Education Center Grand Opening Party –
Credit: www.coralrestoration.org

 

Photos above: Examples of educational displays at the Center.
Photos above: Examples of educational displays at the Center.

I had the pleasure of meeting CRF staff members Pamela, Ken, Kayla, and Jessica and they were all optimistic about being able to dive by tomorrow.  Pamela showed me around the Education Center and did some hands-on training for the work we would be doing in the nursery and outplant sites.  We pretended to fragment (break), hang (with monofiliament line and double barreled crimps), bundle, tag  and plant coral fragments using painted skeletons and play-do standing in for epoxy.  She also stressed that it was important to scrape and hammer all living material from the immediate area where the epoxy is to be applied to the reef.  Though I’ve used plenty of epoxy in my career to attach corals to live rock, I can’t say I’ve ever strung them from monofilament line.  It takes a bit of practice, and was sure to be more difficult underwater.  Luckily, the “dry run” is well organized and effective.  It’s not easy to communicate complex thoughts underwater with a regulator in your mouth.  You really need to have a good grasp on what you are expected to do before you get in the water.

Pamela Hughes demonstrates fragmentation and outplanting techniques at the Education Center.
Pamela Hughes demonstrates fragmentation and outplanting techniques at the Education Center.

Pamela explains that there are a number of different experimental rigs at the nursery site. CRF continuously tries to improve their technique, but it seems that coral trees are the most effective way for now.  She suggests that they are abandoning the idea of the line nurseries.  Though they are very effective, strong storms leave the corals hopelessly entangled with one another.  And though there have been no incidents, there is some concern that animals like turtles might become entangled.

5-Nursery
An abandoned experimental rig in the nursery. CRF is always trying to improve their designs.

Since diving was not a possibility for today, they asked me to show up at their lab on Tavernier Key in the morning to make coral tags and transport containers.  Hopefully, the winds will die down and we’ll be able to dive tomorrow afternoon.

I’m free for the rest of the day, so I figure I’ll do some exploring.  I spent the summer of 1996 in the Middle Keys volunteering for the Dolphin Research Center and am anxious to see how things have changed.

6 p.m.

I stopped by the Dolphin Research Center and it has changed a LOT since I volunteered there in 1998.  I also stopped by the Sea Turtle Hospital as well.  Both are great facilities that are worthy of your time if you are ever in the area.  After a quick trip to Seven Mile Bridge, I headed back north where I stumbled upon Windley Key State Geological Park.  Surprisingly, it was the highlight of the day.

Credit: Nathan Wolkenhauer
Credit: Nathan Wolkenhauer

Click here to learn more about my visit at Windley Key State Geological Park!

8 p.m.

I wanted to make sure I caught the sunset, so I headed to Marker 88 Restaurant  to grab a tasty Cuban sandwich for dinner.  The service and the view were top notch.  Restaurants facing bayside are few and far between in the Upper Keys, so I was happy to find this one nearby.  It is tradition in the Keys (and I’m sure in many other island communities) to clap for the Sun when it sets, to make sure it reappears tomorrow.  Spoiler alert:  It did.

Enjoying the sunset at Marker 88 restaurant.
Enjoying the sunset at Marker 88 restaurant.

The winds have died down quite a bit, so I have my fingers crossed that diving will be a possibility tomorrow!

Read dive logs from each day of the trip!

Dive Log – Saving Coral Reefs:

 

 



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Today, we are working with BBVA Compass Stadium to plant a new pollinator garden at the stadium! This beautiful new pollinator garden supports local pollinators like bees, butterflies, and more, and is located at the North entrance to BBVA Compass Stadium. Great partnership for an even greater good. ... See MoreSee Less

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I know you meant to say bees 🤣

Houston Zoo added 2 new photos.
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We have Attwater's prairie chicken eggs! Our bird team candles the eggs under a bright light to check on the developing chicks. The pencil marks on the eggs help us track where the air cell is within the egg. After a brief candling session, it's back into the incubators. ... See MoreSee Less

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We have Attwaters prairie chicken eggs! Our bird team candles the eggs under a bright light to check on the developing chicks. The pencil marks on the eggs help us track where the air cell is within the egg. After a brief candling session, its back into the incubators.Image attachment

 

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Beautiful birds!

Hoping for great success

Kimberly Jackson

Jeff Early