With this being my second SCUBAnauts summer trip to the Florida Keys, it was my first thrilling opportunity to work with Reef Renewal USA Inc. and getting to admire their beautiful work in the nursery.

Sierra cleans fouling organisms like algae and mussels off a coral tree in the Reef Renewal USA nursery

Going into this day I was looking forward to it, and aware that this is not the coral restoration work I’m used to seeing. I was exceptionally delighted to see the different methods that coral reefs, with luck can be restored back to how they were years ago. 

During the briefing before the dive, Mike Echevarria showed us the two techniques we would be working with to hang staghorn coral, as well how to clean up the algae and mussels off the year-old corals, and how the overall dive plan would lay out. For my first dive, Trent and I were buddies and planned to clean coral. To my surprise this was a very satisfying activity, minus my hand feeling like it was on fire from gripping on trees and accidently brushing up against some fire coral. We had a pretty good system going. I would use the brush to scrape off algae and Trent would pop mussels off with the clippers that Megan had handy for us. At a bottom time of 60 minutes we cleaned two trees. During this I imagined them thanking me saying “I can breathe!” and I found myself giggling a little too much about this humorous thought. 


Creating New Fragments

Sierra and Hatcher pose after successful completion of their bamboo pop up structure.

After about 45 minutes on the surface, we jumped back in for a second dive. This time we used zip ties to tighten the corals onto a long piece of bamboo which would be secured in the nursery. Furthermore, Hatcher and I worked together shifting back and forth with tasks so we both got the same hands on opportunity we both wanted. This put us ahead of the other group and made us finish much quicker than expected. Because of this, we got to swim around a little and look around the nursery. When the other team finished, we brought our bamboo to a different part of the nursery where a select group of Nauts secured it to the bottom and added a buoy so it would sit vertically in the water column. When all corals were attached we finished our dive and headed back to the boat.


By: Sierra S., 2nd Class Naut, Tarpon Chapter