The Deep Dredge of Government Cut has caused significant coral stress and mortality on the corals and reefs in and around Miami… including wide areas that the Army Corps predicted would not be affected. In particular, the dredging at PortMiami has resulted in vast sediment plumes that arc around the south-side of Fisher Island and out through Norris Cut where federally protected elkhorn corals are suffering.
As mitigation against this coral die-off and stress, Coral Morphologic proposes the construction of an ‘urban coral research nursery’ along the edge of South Pointe Park where the public can be directly engaged with the marine ecosystem of Miami. This coral nursery will be built primarily to house and grow fragments from the variety of Acropora corals living around Fisher Island. The coral nursery will be a proactive mitigation response to a shameful coral transplantation effort on Fisher Island and the siltation-related mortality of coral around Miami.
In order to test the resilience of these Fisher Island Acropora corals, it is imperative that these colonies are grown and cloned into as many individual colonies as possible. Not only will this allow for exhaustive in-situ research projects, but it will also result in additional fragments useful for restoring reefs around Miami after the Deep Dredge is completed. Because the Fisher Island Acropora corals are so unique, the only way to properly test their resilience is to fragment them repeatedly over time to create enough cloned test subjects. Because the hybrid Acropora corals are not conferred federal protection, their clones are ideally suited for life in educational public aquarium reef displays around the globe where they will become fluorescent icons of adaptation and resilience for both Miami and coral-kind.
Coral Morphologic proposes that such a coral nursery should be deployed just inside Government Cut along South Pointe Park which provides ideal water conditions for growing all of the Miami’s ‘urban coral’ species; especially the Fisher Island Acropora corals. The South Pointe coral nursery will provide coral biologists with a low-cost, easily-accessible platform in which to pursue unique coral research projects that only Miami affords. Close access to land-based electrical and internet infrastructure will allow an array of tools that offshore nurseries can’t count on such as 24/7 live streaming underwater web cameras, flow meters, and water chemistry monitoring probes. A continuous stream of open-access data on the water quality moving into and out of Biscayne Bay with every tide will be necessary to provide the City with the most accurate information possible in which to predict future sea level rise and pollution. Furthermore, the addition of interactive signage will engage and educate citizens and tourists about the overlooked marine ecology of Miami Beach.
This coral nursery project will cost in the tens of thousands of dollars and require a long list of permits and permissions from agencies at the city, county, state, and federal level. While the levels of bureaucratic protection for corals are meant to be helpful, it also presents considerable roadblocks for those wishing to cultivate them for restoration and research. While an initial $10,000 Accelerator Grant from the Miami Foundation has kickstarted the planning process in earnest, we will be requiring more grant funding and donations to complete the project. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the project via the Coral Morphologic Fund managed by the Miami Foundation. We look forward to updating everyone on this project as we move forward to grow the rare and resilient ‘urban corals’ of Miami and Fisher Island!
Fisher Island Hybrid Fused-Staghorn Coral (Elkhorn Morphotype) pre-dredge/ mid-dredge health survey
The most remarkable aspect of the health of the corals growing on Fisher Island, is the success story of two hybrid fused-staghorn corals (Acropora prolifera) that live along its shorelines. The story of the first hybrid coral is well documented through the TEDxMIA talk Colin conducted in 2011. This hybrid coral appears to be much more palmate in its growth morphology which typically means that its mother was a staghorn and its father an elkhorn. This coral has proven to be the most remarkably resilient of the Fisher Island Acropora corals. While its growth has been somewhat slow, it has never demonstrated any evidence of significant die-off, white pox, or bleaching. It also features significant amounts of fluorescent green proteins which may confer it with an adaptive advantage over its non-fluorescent parent species.
However, there is another equally unusual hybrid fused-staghorn coral living on Fisher Island that we’ve also been observing since 2009. And it demonstrates a much more compact branching staghorn morphology, indicating that its mother was likely an elkhorn coral and its father a staghorn.
Aerial view of Biscayne Bay and Government Cut. Fisher Island is encircled in the Army Corps’ Deep Dredge silt 4/14/15
Over the past eighteen months, the Army Corps of Engineers’ Deep Dredge of PortMiami has continuously released dirty water throughout Biscayne Bay and onto our surrounding reefs. The dredging will continue through at least August 2015. Over the course of the Dredge project we have observed levels of suspended silt far beyond what is environmentally acceptable or healthy in a coral reef environment. Silt that is directly causing coral mortality in areas far beyond where the Army Corps predicted.
One of Coral Morphologic’s biggest ongoing concerns during the Deep Dredge has been the well-being of a hybrid fused-staghorn coral (Acropora prolifera) colonizing the Fisher Island side of Government Cut. This coral is what kickstarted our interest in documenting the extent of coral colonization within Miami’s coastal waterways, and was the subject of Colin’s 2011 TEDxMIA talk ‘A Hybrid Future: The Corals of Miami‘. The concerns we expressed to the State of Florida about this coral is ultimately what led them to provide us with permits to rescue corals from the dredging far offshore… but not for the hybrid itself (or any other corals on Fisher Island).
‘Coral Morphologic TV’ debuted this past weekend at the Sagamore Hotel, on Miami Beach. The site-specific installation was commissioned by the Red Bull Guest House, and consists of 4 vinyl-wrapped outdoor televisions each playing the Coral Morphologic films ‘Natural History Redux‘ & ‘Circumtropical’ on loop.
Last month, our film ‘Natural History Redux‘ screened at the Imagine Science Film Festival held at New York University’s campus in Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is located along the Arabian/ Persian Gulf as one of the coastal Emirates in the United Arab Emirates. Colin was asked to speak on a panel regarding the future of global water resources and the importance that art/ science has to play in bringing these issues into public awareness. However, he also had the opportunity to explore the unique marine habitat in the area.
We are very psyched to share ‘Coral City’, a half-hour documentary accompanying the Coral Morphologic cover story in last August’s VICE Magazine. The movie, directed by John McSwain and shot by Jake Burghart of VICE Media, documents our efforts to highlight the urban corals of Miami as resilient pioneers adapting to a rapidly changing world. Check out the online premiere over at The Creators Project.
The ‘Coral Therapy’ Design Curio at Design Miami/ 2014.
For Design Miami/ 2014, we were honored to be asked to create a conceptual room in which we debuted ‘Coral Therapy’, a 360-degree virtual reality film experienced via the Oculus Rift. When viewing ‘Coral Therapy’, the viewer is enveloped by fluorescent corals and sea anemones; much like being inside a virtual planetarium theater. ‘Coral Therapy’ is designed to convey a virtual out-of-body experience in which the viewer is transported to a tranquil tropical reef in outer-space. An original ambient score enhances the cosmic coral perspective while accentuating the peaceful and relaxing experience.