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worldwide coral reef conservation through research, education, outreach, and restoration

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Coral Spawning Update: The progress we make, the challenges we face

Summer is spawning season for many coral species and therefore the busiest time of the year for us. It is amazing to see how many of our partners and former trainees are collecting coral spawn on their home reefs, using sexual reproduction techniques to produce millions of genetically unique coral babies and thus, helping reefs to recover.

Unfortunately, this spawning season was again adversely affected by a hurricane. "Dorian" not only forced our partners in the Bahamas, the US Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic to release their collected larvae prematurely (prior to settlement), but the category 5 hurricane also left an unprecedented path of destruction in the Bahamas. Our hearts and thoughts are with our friends and partners on Abaco. Together we need to assess the damage done to the local infrastructure as well as the reefs before we will be able to continue our mission.

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Photo: Pierre Markuse/Twitter

 

Curaçao: Massive Elkhorn Coral Spawning

Our Curaçao field team observed a massive spawning of elkhorn corals on the evening of August 16th and 17th. The team produced hundreds of thousands of coral larvae and filled one larval rearing pool with a quarter of a million coral babies. In addition, many experimental crosses were conducted among and between young and old colonies for the pioneering senescence research project. This research is done in close cooperation with Prof Iliana Baums and her team from the Pennsylvania State University.

Larvae resulting from these crosses settled onto SECORE substrates and were outplanted to the reefs a few days after spawning. All in all the team transferred approximately 900 settlement substrates, each of them carrying between 50 to 60 coral settlers.

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Photos: Zach Ransom / Frost Science

 

Mexico: Teaching the Next Generation of Reef Restoration Practitioners

A group of postgraduate and undergraduate students as well as volunteers, eager to learn the basics of larval propagation, joined marine biologist Dr. Anastazia Banaszak and her team for a summer course and spawning work at UNAM's Reef Systems Academic Unit in Puerto Morelos. Together, they set-up a new tank-based settlement system, collected elkhorn coral spawn during two nights and produced enough coral larvae to fill 20 big tanks, where larvae settled successfully on SECORE designed substrates.

On top of that, the group was able to document that the population of their outplanted Elkhorn corals at Cuevones Reef (born in 2011-12, outplanted in 2014) had mature gametes and without much doubt spawned with the natural population. That is fantastic news! Congratulations, Ania!

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Photos: Gaby Lc/Facebook; Laboratorio De Ecologia Y Biologia Del Desarrollo / Facebook

 

Dominican Republic: First Priority – Keeping All Coral Babies Safe

Our Dominican partner FUNDEMAR collected gametes and successfully reared larvae from staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), elkhorn coral (A. palmata) and pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus). Furthermore, the team observed the spawning of six other coral species.

In the face of hurricane Dorian FUNDEMAR had to dismantle its larval rearing pool, provided by SECORE. All coral settlement substrates from the pool were placed into tanks in the team's wet lab to keep the youngsters safe. Great job, team!

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Photo: FUNDEMAR


Bonaire: Laying The Foundation For Future Larval Propagation Work

Millions of egg-and-sperm were released into the water column when our restoration partner Reef Renewal Foundation Bonaire (RRFB) monitored staghorn corals on three of its local outplanting sites in August. The team was supported by many volunteers and will commence with larval propagation work this spawning season after it has received the official permit to do so.

In 2020 SECORE is going to provide settlement substrates and a larval rearing pool to support RRFB's restoration work. For now, we keep our fingers crossed for many more successful spawning nights in the upcoming weeks!

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Photos: Reef Renewal Bonaire/Garrett Fundakowski 

 

US Virgin Island: Hurricane Terminates Successful Test Run of Coral Kindergarten

This summer, our restoration partner The Nature Conservancy was able, for the first time, to make a successful larval collection of the symmetrical brain coral (Pseudodiploria strigosa) in St Croix. The team, led by biologist Ashlee Lillis and supported by local volunteers, deployed the larvae in a 'practice run' of SECORE's coral larval rearing pool and observed successful larval development over several days. Unfortunately, they also had to de-mobilize the pool prematurely due to the passage of Hurricane Dorian.

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Photo: Paul Selvaggio


Florida: Pool Premiere in Biscayne National Park

Dr. Amanda Bourque from Biscayne National Park and her team collected egg-and-sperm bundles from mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) and released the resulting coral larvae into a SECORE rearing pool at age of 2 days. Again, Hurricane Dorian prevented the full completion of this pool premiere in the National Park.

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Photo: Amanda Bourque


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SECORE's lead partners are:

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
California Academy of Science
The Nature Conservancy

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