A vital and expanding partnership: Frost Science & SECORE
Along with the University of Miami, SECORE’s activities in Florida are vitally supported by multiple dimensions of in-kind collaboration with Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science (Frost Science). Despite this season of forced COVID-19 related closure, Frost Science is expanding their support to help us continue our development of tools and technologies to sustainably restore coral reefs on a meaningful scale. This includes testing adjustments made to our Coral Rearing In-Situ Basins (CRIB, a floating coral kindergarten), refining our protocols and methods for rearing coral larvae, and continuing field operation with our partners locally.
Photos top row, left &mid: stress test for the CRIBs―Coral Rearing In-Situ Basins, aka floating coral kindergarten; right: CRIB in large tank at Frost Science’s Bachelor Environmental Center; bottom row: SECORE engineer Miles McGonigle and Frost Science technician setting up larvae of Diploria labyrinthiformis in their lab (all photos SECORE).
At SECORE, we have had to adjust our working plan and goals for 2020, as restrictions on foreign travel will prevent the many trainees, scientific collaborators and other participants from taking part in spawning events at our various field locations. As a consequence, much of our engineering development and testing will be limited to the new Florida field site where both our Project Engineer Miles McGonigle and Science Director Margaret Miller are based and materials are generally more accessible. These activities include more rigorous stress testing of new CRIBs prior to their deployment to field locations, and testing new methods for stocking the settlement substrates within the CRIB to enhance their total numbers and equal settlement distribution of coral larvae. Both of these tests are greatly facilitated by access to the large, land-based tanks at Frost Science’s animal quarantine facility.
In preparation for this inaugural Florida spawning work this coming August, we were fortunate to receive larvae of the grooved brain coral, Diplora labyrinthiformis, spawned in the ex situ system of the Florida Aquarium Center for Conservation. This species has become particularly rare in Florida, due to its disease susceptibility. Using the lab space and seawater at Frost Science, we were able to settle several hundred of these baby corals. Frost Science Curator of Animal Husbandry, Zach Ransom, will be lending his skills and care to see if these babies can be grown up to a bit larger size prior to outplanting back offshore, to a nearby reef.
Thank you, Frost Science, for your invaluable Florida partnership!!
Photos from the field, taken during last year's coral spawning season on Curaçao. Top row, left: placing a net over a coral to collect its spawn; mid: CRIBs (aka coral kindergarten) deployed in the ocean; right: scoring coral settlement tiles within the CRIB; bottom: shallow reef site exposed to waves (all photos Zach Ransom, Frost Science).