Save Baby Turtles & Coral Reefs on These Meaningful Eco-Tours

I’ve visited the Florida Keys many times over the years, road tripping through the interconnected islands that have welcomed all sorts of characters from Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Buffett. I’ve gone scuba diving, explored reefs off the coast, and gotten up close and personal with many types of fish, all in between slices of Key lime pie. But I’d never given much thought to the value of the area’s ecosystem until

I volunteered with Key Largo’s Coral Restoration Foundation. The third largest barrier reef in the world and the only one in the US can be found in the Florida Keys. It stretches for an expansive 360 miles and supports thousands of marine animals. But this delicate ecosystem hangs in a delicate balance, as it’s been negatively impacted by environmental changes that cause coral to die off.

That’s the whole reason that the Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF)—the largest reef restoration organization in the world—exists. Originally launched in 2007, it now operates the largest ocean coral nursery in the world. “We developed something called the coral tree,” explains Alice Grainger, Communications Director of CRF. “It’s a very cheap, cost-effective technology that enables you to grow coral.” And, she adds, “It’s an in situ nursery, so it’s ocean-based.”

The CRF’s coral trees—internationally-used, publicly available pieces of tech that resemble Christmas tree frames—grow coral in seven different offshore nurseries, the largest of which covers more than an acre of ocean floor. These nurseries produce thousands of coral pieces to be transplanted into the reef every year, in 11 different varieties.

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