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Miami Beach Staghorn Coral Survey – Pre & Post-Hurricane Irma

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

One of the last tasks we took on before securing our laboratory prior to Hurricane Irma was check on the health of a community of endangered staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) just offshore Miami Beach. This community is one of the few remaining nearshore populations of these corals in Florida, and has proven to be more resilient than populations further south in Biscayne National Park, which have suffered from diseases in recent years. Because these staghorn corals along Miami Beach are growing on flat, hard seafloor, we knew that they were going to be subjected to significant wave energy during Hurricane Irma.

When we finally had a chance to survey the damage this past week, we sadly found that most of the staghorn colonies had been smashed to bits. Fortunately, many of the broken pieces of coral survived the maelstrom and have already begun cementing themselves back down to the sea floor and developing healthy new growth tips. While hurricanes can be exceptionally damaging to coral reefs, asexual fragmentation of corals due to these storms is also an important way they can colonize large areas of substrate. As unfortunate as it is to see this damage, based on what we observed post-hurricane offshore Miami Beach, we can expect new colonies to form, and thickets of these endangered corals will return once again.

‘Coral Orgy’ Retrospective

Sunday, March 5th, 2017

Thanks to everyone that attended the CORAL ORGY as part of the 10th Borscht Film Festival this past Friday, February 24th at the New World Center on Miami Beach. CORAL ORGY was a site-specific audiovisual collaboration by Coral Morphologic and Animal Collective on the cosmic secrets behind the sexual reproduction of corals. Coral Morphologic proposes that unlocking the secrets of coral reproduction is a culminating achievement in humankind’s quest for colonization of planet Earth, and a first step towards restoring a healthy biosphere.

Animal Collective performed an hour of new music inspired by the reefs while Coral Morphologic projections painted a cosmic world of fluorescent coral inside the Frank Gehry-designed concert hall.

Read reviews of the event here: Creators & Miami New Times.

We are grateful to have been able to include footage of one of the first predicted stony coral spawns in captivity from Project Coral at the Horniman Museum. This advancement in coral reproduction (led by aquarist Jamie Craggs) is evidence that humanity is finally crossing this all-important milestone at just the critical juncture when the world’s coral reefs are ailing most. We are proud to support the work of SECORE and the Coral Restoration Foundation, and were thrilled to be able to display their footage of corals spawning in nature across the New World Center’s 7,000 square foot video projection wall in Soundscape Park prior to the main event.

Coral Morphologic Joins the Mission Blue Sylvia Earle Alliance

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Coral Morphologic is proud to announce a partnership with Mission Blue, an alliance of conservationists founded by Dr. Sylvia Earle, with the shared goal of exploring the ocean and engendering empathy for Earth’s marine life. By joining the Mission Blue network, we look forward to helping advance Mission Blue’s goals, including increasing marine protected areas (Hope Spots) around the globe 20% by 2020, developing sustainable fisheries, and reducing oceanic pollution. Coral Morphologic is committed to educating the public and building new paradigms around the value of the ocean and its essential role as Earth’s life support system.

Please explore Mission Blue’s website and watch the eponymous 2015 documentary about Dr. Earle “Mission Blue” on Netflix.

New Species of Coral Discovered on PortMiami’s Seawall Contains a Powerful Anti-Cancer Drug

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

These Palythoa sp. zoantharians contain a remarkably potent chemical, palytoxin, proven to selectively destroy cancerous cells.

Several years ago we were excited to report that our survey of Zoantharian soft corals from South Florida had resulted in the identification of several undescribed species. Today, we are even more excited to report that one of these Palythoa species zoantharians, collected off the PortMiami seawall, contains an extremely powerful compound with proven anti-cancer properties. Coral Biome, our partners in Europe, have officially received a patent for the chemical’s extraction and application in the treatment of cancer and other serious diseases. From Coral Biome’s inception in 2011 in Marseilles, France, we have been assisting them in the collection, identification, and aquaculture of soft corals that produce medically-valuable chemicals, a process known as ‘bioprospecting’.

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The Endangered Corals of Fisher Island & The Saga of The Deep Dredge (Pt. 3 of 3)

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Fisher Island, Government & Norris Cuts

A Nursery Solution:

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!

The Endangered Corals of Fisher Island & The Saga of The Deep Dredge (Pt. 2 of 3)

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

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.

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