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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Atlantic Ocean, Islamorada, Florida, United States of America

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Atlantic Ocean, Islamorada, Florida, United States of America
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Registered: December 2015
City/Town/Province: Islamorada
Posts: 1
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At the conclusion of ninth grade, our family relocated to rural Lower Matecumbe in the Florida Keys where our nearest grocery store is a hefty forty minute drive away and we could go a month before encountering any people on our street. The laidback lifestyle and isolation of my new home taught me to slow down, take a breath, and see things in a different way. It didn’t take very long living in the Keys to realize just how fragile nature truly is? instead of coexisting with the environment, we are contributing to its demise. I took it upon myself to take an active role in the conservation and reconstruction of our diminishing ocean ecosystem. My first step in becoming an advocate for the environment was obtaining the training necessary to become a certified RECON (Reef Conservation) diver and ultimately an instructor. RECON is a noninvasive method of researching coral reefs by obtaining measurements consisting of coral size, percentage of bleached and dead coral, and the amount of algal and gorgonian growth covering the coral. In addition, we indicate whether or not other invertebrates and indicator species are observed in the surrounding areas during the dives. This data is collected and then transcribed onto data sheets which are sent to various research foundations including SEA Inc., which sponsors RECON, and the Coral Restoration Foundation. The research collected on RECON dives are used to determine the most favorable locations to outplant juvenile staghorn corals usually unhealthy reefs in need of stony corals. Another aspect of my conservation efforts include diving with the Coral Restoration Foundation and outplanting corals in an effort to restore the health of dying coral reefs. The foundation grows staghorn corals in an underwater nursery about a mile offshore in the Atlantic. Staghorn is more hardy than other corals and is the most frequently grown coral in nurseries. These corals hang from pieces of monofilament fishing line which are attached to pieces of PVC piping. These pieces of PVC piping create a christmas tree formation. Unfortunately, however, these “trees” are breeding grounds for fire sponges and algae. These organisms can grow over the corals and kill them. Consequently, in order to prevent this from happening, the trees must be brushed daily with wire brushes. Ultimately, as the staghorn corals reach their optimal size, they are removed from the trees, placed inside crates, and are outplanted onto dying reefs. On outplanting dives, I use epoxy to glue the young corals onto the reef in the formation of a circle so they can grow onto each other and establish themselves successfully. Prior to gluing them, however, the dead rock must be hammered to remove any algae that is growing as this can hinder the effect of the epoxy and allow the coral to fall off. Once that is completed, I put three blueberry sized pieces of epoxy in the shape of a triangle and attach the staghorn coral. By outplanting, we can potentially bring the reef back to life by increasing its biodiversity and improving its health. Currently, I train students at Coral Shores High School in my school’s marine science department to become certified RECON divers. I also instruct members of the Hawsepiper Foundation, one of the places where I intern, which focuses on ocean conservation, to do the same. In addition to training the members of the foundation, I have also helped develop programs surrounding coral restoration for high school and college students. My role as an instructor is to train members of the community to become “citizen scientists”. By training members of my community, I am instructing those who have never had any exposure to conservation and research and am giving them the tools and means to help save our coral reefs. After obtaining the initial RECON certification, they too can become instructors through additional training and can continue to teach others. This creates a ripple effect of engaging the community and involving them in improving conservation efforts and awareness of the current threats to the reefs. It also provides continuity to the “citizen scientist” program. The most difficult thing I encountered as a leader in these environmental activities was learning how to effectively, and patiently, teach others without becoming frustrated. In order to overcome these challenges, I had to research the most effective teaching methods. Accordingly, I sought the guidance of my teachers and soon came to the realization that combining both verbal and handson instruction was the easiest and fastest way to instruct my students. This included a brief overview of what we would be doing on the dives before entering the water and then demonstrating what to do underwater and supervising them during the process. These activities allowed me to become immersed in my community and lead projects which I feel very passionately about. I discovered how working cooperatively as a team, even on a small scale, can affect change. Venturing into environmental preservation is the first of many steps I will take as I continue to learn about the intricacies of the relationships between people and the environment. My actions alone will not change the world, however, I am confident that what I do in the future will contribute to global change.
Date: December 31, 2015 Views: 3910 File size: 15.6kb, 433.0kb : 2048 x 1536
Hours Volunteered: 425
Volunteers: 50
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 17 & 17 to 55
Area Restored for Native Wildlife (hectares): 6
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