By Esther Farrant
What do Oreos, Blueberries, and Hershey’s Kisses have to do with coral restoration...read on to find out!
Today Alexa and I had an amazing opportunity to get our hands on and involved with the Bay of Islands coral restoration project. We traveled to Turquoise Bay resort to meet with Tripp Funderburk, the project manager, there we were briefed in the classroom on the restoration processes we would be completing. Using the “practice tree” we were shown the correct way to clean the coral trees from the competing algae that forms all over them, and how to attach new coral fragments to the nursery.
On the dive we cleaned the coral trees and harvested two different genotypes of Staghorn coral to plant out on the reef. On the dive at Labyrinth we had the chance to see other genotypes that had been planted out and labelled previously and were developing well already. We positioned our new sections and got to work with scraping back an Oreo sized area in the algae for affixing the epoxy resin. A blueberry sized ball of epoxy is used and molded into a Hershey’s kiss shape to form a sturdy base to anchor the coral section. Each piece gets three anchor points and are clustered in groups so that they might grow together in future to form a large coral structure.
The coral tree cleaning was super satisfying, and even therapeutic! We were visited by several inquisitive squid while we harvested the cuttings. On the second dive we put our buoyancy abilities to the test with all the hands-on work in small areas and not wishing to harm any corals already in place, especially fire corals! The day was successful and we now have two more sites with the genotypes labelled ready to colonise the reef. It was an excellent experience and anyone diving here in Roatan should take the opportunity to do the coral conservation distinctive specialty and give something back to the ocean and her reefs that we love so much.