Engineering is becoming an integral part of coral reef restoration
SECORE is a pioneer in developing restoration tools that increase cost-efficiency. Examples are the coral seeding units that are simply seeded on the reef and hence reduce the outplanting effort by an order of magnitude or the floating coral kindergartens, devices that can host thousands of coral babies in an ocean setting obviating the need for cost-intensive land-based facilities.
“There are quite a few promising ideas out there besides those that were spearheaded by SECORE which have the potential to address scalability and to involve important resilience aspects in coral reef restoration”, says Dr. Dirk Petersen, SECORE Founder and Executive Director. “Our new project engineer will help getting these ideas to maturity and adding them to the toolbox for restoration so that practitioners around the world can implement the most efficient technologies as soon as possible.”
SECORE's floating coral kindergarten filled with different designs of coral seeding units (Paul Selvaggio).
This bridges to the Coral Reef Consortium (CRC), an international group of renowned scientists, managers, practitioners, and educators that work in the field of coral restoration, where the new SECORE Engineer Miles McGonigle will play an active part.
“In order to move coral reef restoration to the next level we need to focus on invention and innovation, that means moving beyond having coral biologists trying to solve problems with duct tape and PVC pipe and towards engineers developing purpose-built solutions,” says Tom Moore, Co-Chair of CRC’s Steering Committee. "The new SECORE engineer will help lead an Engineering and Innovation working group for the CRC that will work with restoration practitioners to solve both simple and complex problems with an eye towards increasing the scale and efficiency of restoration."
SECORE Operations Manager Aric Bickel is looking forward to meet the upcoming challenges: “together with Miles, we will take what we have learned during the last couple of years of testing prototypes, and translate this knowledge into designs that incorporate all lessons learned—both, from the manufacturing and from the biological site—so that we’ll be able to marry the concept of price and production with functionality. So far, our approaches are working on experimental scales, but we need to become more efficient and expand them. As an example: outplanting tens of thousands of baby corals by hand is not an efficient or cost-effective strategy. We will be looking at support technologies that continue making all steps in the process easier.”
The technology development will be conducted in close collaboration with our research partners at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). “Our partners at AIMS have spent a lot of time on the engineering feasibility assessments and designing solutions for large-scale application. With Miles’ help we will work to tighten the ties between our organizations and better communicate the lessons learned in each of our regions to address the challenge of scaling the impact of restoration,” says Aric Bickel.
And SECORE's new engineer himself? After working for a big company, designing and constructing water and wastewater treatment plants for some years, he is ready for a new job: “I can’t contain my excitement. I have always known that I want to work toward making the world a better place, I’m excited that I have found the opportunity to be a part of that cause,” says Miles McGonigle.
Project Engineer Miles McGonigle (private archive).