Wednesday 5 May 2010

Further adventures at Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Hi all

Staff at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are keeping me and Sanctuary Sam very busy! Robert Keeley, a member of the Education and Outreach Team, told us about how there are many different environmental agencies and organizations who do conservation work and resource management within the boundaries of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Today, we were invited to visit one of the more prominent NGO’s (non-governmental organisations), Mote Marine Laboratory. Mote Marine Lab is a full service lab facility which provides vessel support, aquariums, laboratories, and dormitories for visiting students and scientists. Mote Marine Lab are partners with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary for several programs including the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, Coral Reef Classroom, and Coral Restoration.
Dr. Dave Vaughn, the Director of Mote in Summerland Key shows us around one of the research vessels at the dock.

Here we are in front of a coral nursery. This was a very interesting project. This is where they take small pieces of coral and grow it in aquariums. Once the coral colonies are big enough, they are brought out into the ocean and transplanted into the wild. It is hoped that these transplanted corals will continue to grow in the wild and create new habitat for all of the creatures that live on the reef. Wow that's amazing!

Sometimes, when boaters run aground on the reef, staff from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary will take some of the corals from the nursery to restore and repair the area where the boat damaged the reef.

Dr. Vaughn shows us around some of the outdoor tanks where they are doing coral research.

Before leaving, Dr. Vaughn showed us his pick-up truck. We thought he wanted to take us for a ride, but really, he just wanted to show us his special license plate. Florida has numerous special license plates that people can choose from. Many of them cost a little more than regular licence plates, but the extra money goes to support a cause.
One of the most popular is the “Protect Our Reefs” license plate pictured here. The extra money from these plates goes to support research and education on the coral reef here in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. I thought this was a great idea.

Dr. Vaughn told us some of the money goes towards sending local school children on field trips to learn about the coral reef. This program is called Coral Reef Classroom. It sounds like a lot of fun. I think we will ask if we can go on a Coral Reef Classroom field trip! Thanks for the tour Dr. Vaughn!

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