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UB ERI Restoring Orbicella

On a few spectacular nights a year, under the dark ocean’s surface, the potential for new life fills the ocean. Species of coral release their gametes of sperm and eggs into the water from each of their tiny polyps to allow for sexual reproduction.

The reality of the situation however, is that coral colonies, some several hundreds of years old, are in great danger. They are threatened globally by the onslaught of pollution, sedimentation, climate-change, disease, reckless fishing practices, and hosts of other perilous activities.

At the UB ERI, we are building capacity to mitigate these threats through a collaboration with the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México – Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (UNAM-ICML), laboratory of Dr. Anastazia T. Banaszak (ATB) to restore Orbicella faveolata on the fore reef of Calabash Caye. As part of this collaboration, our Science Director (Marine) and Research and Education Officer visited UNAM-ICML in August for a 3-week training on coral restoration. The members of ATB lab then travelled to the Calabash Caye Field Station (CCFS) from September 17-28, 2016 to join our staff in our pilot coral restoration efforts.

On September 22, 2016, the sixth night after the full moon, colonies of Orbicella faveolata, commonly known as mountainous star coral, spawned, releasing their tiny gamete bundles. The team from the ATB lab and UB ERI collected these gamete bundles and brought them back to the CCFS wet lab to fertilize the eggs, care for the embryos, encourage the settlement of the larvae, and eventually relocate the “baby coral” to a nursery within the back reef.

UB ERI will transplant future colonies in the coming weeks and monitor their growth and development. Our hope is that this project will aid in the recovery of reef health.

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