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Background

Corals worldwide are under threat from multiple stressors. The one I feel most passionate and compelled to investigate is the effect temperature and environment has on coral survival, and how to restore and conserve damaged populations. In the last 30 years, increasing water temperatures have led to mass bleaching events globally, specifically, within the Florida reef tract which has lost over 80% of total coral cover.
After this loss coral restoration efforts began in the early 2000’s with multiple non-profits ( including my collaborators the Coral Restoration Foundation) and institutions growing corals in laboratories and in-shore nurseries, eventually returning them to the reef, providing reef structure and reproductive adults.
Conservation efforts in Florida primarily focus on the two most threatened species, the Acropora corals. But in order to save such a dynamic ecosystem, restoration and research must extend across multiple species. That is why my aim is to better understand how other species of corals perform during restoration, and how we can optimize these projects by backing it with science and genetics.

Mission

I am asking for help in my mission to help save our coral reefs.
The funds I am requesting will supplement a grant I received from The PADI Foundation to research successful restoration techniques of the reef-building coral Orbicella annularis (Boulder Star Coral).
The funds provided by the PADI grant, however, can not cover all the expenses for this one-year project. Therefore, I am asking for support from the community and people who share an interest in ocean conservation, coral restoration, science,  and those who want to play a role in protecting our most sacred resource, coral reefs. Giving a donation to this cause will help me pay for travel to Florida from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I am currently a second-year graduate student in the Biology department, receiving my PhD in coral ecology.
These funds will go directly to the following items:
Item Unit Cost (USD) Quantity Total Cost (USD)
Accommodations 
Dorm at KML (2 people five visits February 2019- February 2020 $50 60- days total $3,000
Travel to Key Largo $800 6- round trips over one-year $4,800
Field Equipment
Boat and Captain full day rental $250/day 26- full days of diving over one-year $6,500
Tanks- 58 dives with two people $7 58- total dives over one-year $406
Keys Marine Laboratory fees 20 days of laboratory and saltwater use $10 20- days utilizing laboratory $200
TOTAL COST

 

Total Project Cost $14,906

Experiment details

This experiment will monitor fitness in Orbicella annularis corals (Boulder Star Coral) over a one-year period. My collaborators at the Coral Restoration Foundation has graciously offered to use 64 individuals grown in their in-shore coral nurseries.
I will transplant the 64 corals (16 individuals from 4 different Orbicella genetic types) across four reef sites along the Florida Reef Tract at designated Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary research sites: Eastern Sambo, Looe Key, Tennessee Reef, and Conch Reef.
I will return to the reef 4 additional times throughout the year to measure their fitness (respiration, photosynthetic and growth rates) with SCUBA. To get an accurate picture of how these corals are performing on the reefs, I will measure their fitness underwater with SCUBA and use a non-destructive diving device called the CISME (pronounced Kiss me). This device reduces the damage that usually accompanies coral fitness experiments. Usually, coral fragments are taken off the reef and measured in a lab with large respirometer equipment pictured here:
However, with this device, I can dive onto the reef and take a reading of each coral without moving or harming them. This is important for understanding how these corals respond in nature and not in a laboratory environment.
CISME device:
At the end of this experiment, I will have a better understanding of  Orbicella annularis’ performance and survival following restoration and apply this knowledge to future restoration and management actions in  corals.  The faster we get restoration of multiple coral species occurring the more the reef and its inhabitants will benefit.
Finally, after I measure their fitness for one-year, I will permanently transplant them onto the reef providing reef structure for fish and other marine animals.

Many Thanks

I wanted to take a moment to speak about who I am and how much your donation means to me before I go into the details of my research.

I grew up in Colorado, and all I ever dreamt about was the ocean. The sound of the waves, visions of sharks with their prehistoric black eyes, whales larger than buses, and tiny crabs scavenging on the sea floor. But what really took my heart was, in my opinion, our most precious gift, coral reefs, teeming with life and beauty.

Before I got to experience this beauty for myself I was inclined to prepare myself. So I took my first SCUBA lesson in 2013 where my first dive was in a 20-foot deep “lake” (retention pond) on the side of a busy highway in Denver. But it was all I needed to push me out of Colorado and into the Bering Sea where I continued to gain experiences on the water working on a commercial fishing boat, testing my ability to cope with seasickness 24-7.

When I returned in 2016, I saved enough money to visit Honduras and FINALLY dive into the ocean and witness a real coral reef.

The more I have learned and experienced coral reefs, however, the more worried I am about their survival. This fundraiser is more than just sponsoring a research project for my PhD, it is helping me achieve my life goal, and that goal is simple, I want to make this world a better place. We all do, but we all have to find our niche, our calling, what gets us up out of bed to feel like we have accomplished something of importance. My importance lies is marine conservation work. I can’t think of anything more troubling than seeing our reefs disappear, our oceans degraded, and our plastic pollution choking the lifeline of our planet. Please help me achieve my goal. I want to put my skills into action the best way I know how, diving, doing science, and talking about corals all day, every day.

Thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart and know that this gift you are contributing is immensely appreciated and I will put all my effort into this cause. Thank you again!