Since 2002, SECORE and partners have accomplished key research in the fields of aquaculture, coral reproduction biology, population genetics and restoration. We have developed the basic technology to apply sexual coral reproduction for sustainable management of coral populations in public aquaria. Following these successes, we extended our work to implement the techniques for field restoration. A pilot research project for the restoration of endangered Caribbean corals, specifically for the elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata), was established in Curacao (Project Curacao) in 2010. As part of the project, sexually raised recruits were successfully out-planted on local reefs. In 2015, those recruits spawned together with the natural population (laboratory bred corals reproduce in the wild). In the same year, we started a pilot project for larger-scale sexual coral restoration in Mexico (Project Mexico, Interview with science lead on-site, Anastazia Banaszak).
So far, professionals from over 60 institutions have attended SECORE field workshops (our work). We share our knowledge on sexual coral reproduction, breeding (larval settlement), and coral restoration techniques with the participants. From 2005 on, SECORE hosted workshops in Curacao, Mexico, Guam, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Belize, Singapore and the Philippines as well as aquarium workshops in Europe and USA. Our field workshops are held during annual mass spawning events at each location.
We establish new methods for coral restoration ('sexual coral restoration') together with scientists on-site. SECORE and partners cooperate with local stakeholders, authorities and NGO's to integrate our projects into national conservation policies and to obtain acceptance by local communities. After completing the implementation phase, the programs will be step-wise handed over to local partners. In Mexico, for instance, we collaborate with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, the Xcaret Eco Park Mexico, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium as well as the Shedd Aquarium as international partners. Similar approaches are undertaken at all field locations.
The outreach and education programs of SECORE’s public aquarium and zoo partners annually reach millions of people around the world. The Shedd Aquarium (Chicago, USA) and the Steinhart Aquarium (California Academy of Science, San Fransico) for example, feature permanent exhibits on coral breeding and their work with SECORE. Public evenings for local communities and tourists are an integral part of SECORE workshops. Everybody can witness the wonderful annual coral spawning events in our social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) and read the latest news about SECORE's work in our newsroom.