The new smartphone app aims to collect data to help save Florida's reefs

Divers at work at CRF Coral Tree Nursery

Wonder how you can help in the fight against coral decline? With a new smartphone application called OkCoral the Coral Restoration Foundation hopes to be able to answer that question by converting underwater photographers into citizen scientists.

The idea behind the application is to get recreational scuba divers to help control the health of coral clusters that the foundation has planted in its program to return Florida Reef Tract severely impacted to its former glory. Deer horn and elkhorn coral have almost completely disappeared from the Florida Reef Tract since the 1

970s, and the Coral Restoration Foundation has attempted to reverse the trend by growing these corals in huge offshore nurseries and then replanting them in the Selected sites along the reef.

Using the application, divers first learn to detect the differences between corals, how to distinguish between living and dead corals, and how to identify whether corals have grown, or fused, together. After that, all you need is your camera and its casing to take pictures of the coral clusters that are on your dives. Back on solid ground, transfer the images to your phone and then send the images you have taken along with relevant information about the site.

Get more information about the coral restoration program and the application in the press release below.


PRESS RELEASE

OkCoral : slide to the right for science!
If you are a diver or a diver, it has never been easier for you to help save coral reefs from extinction: a new application from the Coral Restoration Foundation, OkCoral is bringing Citizen Science to the century XXI, and not a moment too soon.

The world's leading coral restoration organization, the Coral Restoration Foundation, has developed a revolutionary new application that allows all ocean lovers to collect important data that will support the mission of restoring reefs around the world to a healthy state.

A trumpet fish that calls the nursery CRF Coral Tree

Corals in crisis

At the current rate we are losing them, all shallow coral reef systems could be functionally extinct in the next 80 years. However, coral reefs are essential for life on Earth: they sustain 25 percent of all marine life, protect the coasts from storm surges and support economies around the world. The Coral Restoration Foundation, based in the Florida Keys, was founded in response to the crisis facing our planet's coral reefs.

The Florida Keys are found along the Florida Reef Tract, the third largest coral reef in the world and the only coral reef barrier in the continental United States. Since the 1970s, Florida Reef Tract has lost more than 95 percent of its reef-forming corals, kestrel ( Acropora cervicornis ) and elk horn ( Acropora palmata ). These corals are now listed as "Critically Endangered" on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, just one step away from "Extinct in Nature."

Plant a coral, restores a reef

response, the Coral Restoration Foundation developed a simple and scalable method to actively restore coral reefs, beginning with the Florida Reef Tract: they cultivate large numbers of corals Deer horn and genetically diverse elkhorn in massive coral tree nurseries and then replant these corals return to carefully selected reef sites. To date, the Coral Restoration Foundation has planted more than 66,000 corals again at Florida Reef Tract. Many of these corals are now generating, evidence that the natural process of reef recovery is appearing.

Evolution in progress

However, the mission of restoring coral reefs has just begun and the Coral Restoration Foundation team is constantly working to improve its techniques.

"We want to make sure that our methods are as successful as possible, that we are focusing on planting the right coral genotypes, in abundance, at the reef sites where they have the best chance of survival. We can only do this by continuously monitoring the health of the corals we have already planted, "says Jessica Levy, manager of the restoration program at the Coral Restoration Foundation.

But this is a gigantic task. To continuously monitor the thousands of coral clusters they have already planted, it would take a true "army" of researchers, and that's where they come in.

The manager of the CRF restoration program, Jessica Levy, brings new corals to plant on the reef

Science scan

Using her new application, OkCoral the Coral Restoration Foundation has made it incredibly simple for any diver or recreational diver to become a "Citizen Scientist" and collect vital data that will help ensure the success of the mission; All you need to become a Citizen Scientist of the Coral Restoration Foundation is a smart phone.

OkCoral quickly launches budding Citizen Scientists using their intuitive sliding-based game. Once you have passed your three easy levels, you will be ready to begin collecting data. The intuitive interface of the application facilitates the understanding of how to send the Coral Restoration Foundation the direct information they need: OkCoral guides you through the entire process, step by step.

The application was funded in part by a grant from the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit private foundation that was created to provide resources for conservation programs around the world.

"The loss of coral reef habitats is one of the greatest threats facing our oceans today, and the Coral Restoration Foundation has long been a leader in working to restore affected habitats" , said the Executive Director of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, Bill Street. "Assessing impacted coral reefs to determine the most effective restoration strategy is a huge and time-consuming enterprise." OKCoral is an innovative approach to eliciting the help of citizen scientists in a meaningful way that will help prioritize crucial restoration areas as well. As a way to involve those who benefit from the reefs recreationally in their survival and protection, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund is proud to support the creation of OKCoral and provide an opportunity for anyone to participate in the protection of these vital habitats. " .

With an underwater housing for your smartphone, you can even collect and save all data and images while you are on the dive! Thanks to the generous donation of three underwater iPhone cases from Kraken Sports, the Coral Restoration Foundation team can provide underwater training in the use of the application during their diving programs.

"We admire the work that CRF is doing for the reefs in the Florida Keys, we firmly believe that they are making a difference, a coral transplant at a time," said Doug Taleski, founder of Kraken Sports, "As a result , we are partnering with the project to provide smartphone users the ability to participate and help monitor CRF's incredible efforts by easily uploading photos of transplanted corals taken on their smart phone using our Smart Home.Kraken Sports remains a proud CRF defender and his important mission, we are honored to be part of this initiative. "

OkCoral is currently only available for iOS devices. This is just the beginning, however, and an Android version should be available soon.

You can be part of the mission! Visit coralrestoration.org/citizen-scientist for more information.

Staghorn colonies in CRF Coral trees growing in water rich in sunlight and nutrients


Coral Restoration Foundation

Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is a non-marine conservation organization Profit dedicated to restoring the reefs to a healthy state, in Florida and around the world. Through the large-scale cultivation, planting and monitoring of genetically diverse corals, CRF works to support the natural recovery processes of the reefs. CRF involves and empowers others in the mission with diving programs, educational activities, scientific collaborations and outreach. coralrestoration.org


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