Coral reefs are some of our most precious ecosystems. They are often referred to as the rain forests of the sea because they are home to such a wide variety of plants and animals—creatures crucial to the survival and health of the world’s oceans. Over the past few decades, coral reefs have been dying around the world. As crucial keystone species go extinct, the health of our ocean creatures and, by direct extension, our terrestrial ones, are in great danger. Enter: Ken Nedimyer.
Young coral is protected by concrete as it grows:
Nedimyer, a native of the Florida Keys, has been a lifelong lover of the ocean and its inhabitants. An avid SCUBA diver and aquarist from early in life, he watched first-hand as Florida’s precious coral communities began to succumb to pollution, over-fishing and rising ocean temperatures. In 1994 he started the first offshore live rock aquaculture farm in the Keys. The farm provides an attractive, healthy habitat for corals. Eventually, this work led to a pilot coral restoration project which, in turn, led to a large-scale coral nursery and restoration program. In 2007, Nedimeyer founded the Coral Restoration Foundation, Inc., a non-profit dedicated to creating effective and inexpensive coral nursery and restoration tools and techniques that can be duplicated anywhere in the world. With coral imperiled world-wide, Nedimyer’s organization has the potential to make a real, lasting difference in the world’s oceans.
Staghorn coral after 18 months in Nedimyer’s nursery:
The Coral Restoration Foundation welcomes all certified SCUBA divers to volunteer in their international restoration programs. These are community-based programs that include course work to provide background information and training for working with coral underwater. For many people, this opportunity is a dream come true. Most of the time, divers are discouraged from getting too close to coral reefs because they are in such danger. It’s not easy to resist: reefs often harbor wildlife that can’t be found anywhere else in the deep blue sea. Through the Coral Restoration Foundation divers can get up close and personal, experiencing the beauty and diversity of live coral while they work to nurture the organisms in a safe environment. The project also illustrates how man-made structures can provide undersea habitats, an idea that artists and architects are beginning to explore.
Nedimyer transplanting juvenile coral cuttings:
In addition to their work in the Florida Keys, The Coral Restoration Foundation also has an ongoing restoration project in Colombia. They are currently working to establish a project site off the coast of two Caribbean island nations. Much of the work they do is political—working to empower island and coastal regions to create their own coral restoration projects using the technologies and tools CRF provides. The more projects they can inspire, the safer our coral reefs will be. Ken Nedimyer was named a CNN Hero of 2012.