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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Hatch

Educating Divers Through Citizen Science Expeditions

Updated: Apr 1


Divers clean a coral tree in Dominica
Divers clean the DMF coral tree in Dominica

DiverMojo Foundation’s (DMF) mission is to develop conservation leaders by supporting impactful, scalable local projects around the world. We provide connections, education, and funding for micro game-changers to protect our oceans, one project at a time.  One of those game-changers is Nature Island Dive (NID) on the Caribbean island of Dominica. 

NID has been working tirelessly on the study of Stony Coral Tissue Loss  Disease (SCTLD) and coral preservation / restoration. 

 

Coral is a foundation species that supports a million or more other species – including humans.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, despite covering less than 1% of the ocean floor, coral reefs provide shelter and food for about 25% of all marine life!  The nooks and crannies formed by corals give fish places to hide from predators, find food sources, reproduce and allow offspring to grow. 

 

Small fish attract medium fish, which attract large fish.  Over half a billion people depend on reefs for food, income, and protection. Fishing, diving, and snorkeling on and near reefs add hundreds of millions of dollars to local communities and offer opportunities for recreation. The net economic value of the world’s coral reefs is estimated to be nearly tens of billions of US dollars per year.  Coral reefs also protect coastlines from storms and erosion.

 


Divers cleaning coral trees in Dominica

Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease destroys the soft tissue of at least 22 species of reef-building corals, killing them within weeks of becoming infected. Due to its rapid spread, high mortality rate, and lack of subsidence, it has been regarded as the deadliest coral disease ever recorded, with wide-ranging implications for the biodiversity of Caribbean coral reefs.


 

Fighting such a disease takes money and manpower; both of which are in short supply on Dominica.  DMF continues to educate divers through citizen science expeditions and also raise money for this effort.  Our initial donations allowed for the purchase of amoxicillin and marine-safe epoxy – the only successful intervention method currently known for SCTLD. Treated corals are then monitored and re-treated as needed. 



We have also sponsored two coral trees, allowing Nature Island Dive to do more

fragmentation for out-planting.  NID currently has a total of 7 coral trees it is caring for.  These structures are created out of PVC pipe “arms” onto which tiles, each containing one piece of coral, are attached.  The trees float in the water column.  Algae, fire coral, and other fouling organisms can grow on the trees and need to be periodically removed.  Divers carefully brush the trees and tiles (NOT the coral of course) with tooth or wire brushes and sponges. 

 

A few days ago, five of us, including two DMF Board members had the privilege of diving with Simon Walsh, Managing Director of NID, to gain hands-on experience in coral research and restoration.  Not only did we clean trees but also had the honor of placing five new coral tiles onto one of the DiverMojo Foundation trees. 


The hope is that by keeping these hard corals alive, they can reproduce and eventually be used to re-populate the region.

 

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