The Coral Reef Rescue Project

Out where stars carpet the sky,

where the only sounds are lapping waves,

another kind of star reaches from the seafloor.

One,

two,

a tapestry of star coral, building a reef, protecting the coast.

Until one day…

a white wound appeared…

an infection spread.

Tap! Tap!

Scientists gently pried away pieces of coral to study.

But scores of star, maze, and pineapple coral became sick.

Fish swam away,

turtles paddled elsewhere.

The disease was overwhelming.

Universities, zoos, and corporations teamed up and flew

thousands of coral to tanks all around the USA,

where they silently wait

for a cure.

Author’s Note:

Imagine if the entire Redwood Forest burned down. An ecological calamity of that magnitude is happening right now along North America’s only barrier reef. A herculean team effort is underway to remove and rescue coral while researching treatments for an unknown pathogen (called Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease [SCTLD]). While many answers are unknown, the Coral Rescue project sits at the intersection of environmental sustainability and technology and highlights humanity at its finest. 

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

-Coral liquifies from the inside out

-Stony Coral are the building blocks of the reef

-Coral that are hundreds of years old die within weeks

-Started in 2014 off the coast near Miami

Additional Reading:

https://www.aza.org/coral-reef-rescue?locale=en – The Coral Reef Rescue Project is comprised of “twenty-two AZA-accredited institutions managing 21 rescue coral holding facilities located in 14 U.S. states, including Disney, The Florida Aquarium, Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium, and Sea World. These four facilities in Florida provide leadership to the network of coral holding facilities.”

SCTLD Dashboard: https://myfwc.com/research/habitat/coral/disease/dashboard/

Simplified Coral Anatomy (usgs.gov)  – “The hard skeleton of coral is formed by the secretion of calcium carbonate by the polyp. The cup-like skeleton deposited by an individual polyp is called a corallite. Polyps gather food particles with the nemotocysts (stinging, venomous cells) in their tentacles, and feed from sugars produced by photosynthesizing zooxanthellae, a type of algae. The coral tissue protects these algae from herbivorous grazers, and the algae in turn use many of the polyps’ waste products such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and phosphorus.”

Photos of the coral rescue team: https://www.flickr.com/photos/myfwc/albums/72157701541143545

https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/news/aug18/coral-disease-mystery-florida-keys.html

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