Are you scuba-certified? Do you love seeing the beauty of coral reefs when you dive and hope to continue to for years to come? Apply to be a Coral Restoration intern at Biscayne National Park this summer! The intern will be a key participant in two field initiatives: large-scale out-planting of nursery-propagated corals, and treating diseased corals affected by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. The intern will also monitor out-planted corals and disease treatments.
An extensive and thriving coral reef ecosystem was a key factor in the creation of the park. Now, reef health in the park mirrors regional and global patterns of demise. Coral reefs are in severe decline due to multiple factors including thermal stress, disease, ocean acidification, overfishing, coastal development, and more. Within the past decade, several species of stony corals have been listed under the Endangered Species Act. Coral populations in the park have been hit particularly hard in recent years by back-to-back bleaching events, followed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Additionally, the Florida Reef Tract is under siege by an ongoing and unprecedented coral disease outbreak. The “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease” (SCTLD) outbreak has spread across the entire reef tract from Martin County to Key West, and is now racing through reefs in the Caribbean. Resource trustees view the SCTLD outbreak as an ecological catastrophe.
Park coral populations are at a historic low. The park embraces active measures to conserve its precious coral reef resources, by rebuilding large and genetically diverse coral populations and by implementing the best available coral disease intervention methods. The goal of coral restoration is to support coral populations until the abatement of regional and global stressors enables the recreation of ecosystems in which coral reefs can thrive. The intern will directly contribute to two active restoration fronts: coral disease intervention and rebuilding dwindling coral populations.
The intern will spend approximately 50% of the internship treating diseased corals with an antibiotic ointment, while embedded in various dive park operations. The intern will be responsible for preparing and administering the treatment ointment, documenting treatment applications (noting coral species, size, treatment methods, site coordinates; installing marker tags; and photographing treatments), and monitoring treatment effectiveness. The intern will "piggy-back" on multiple dive operations to enable broad coverage of park reefs for disease treatment. This approach will also provide the intern with the opportunity to learn first-hand about the wide variety of resource management and research initiatives ongoing in the park.
The intern will spend approximately 25% of the internship working directly with coral nursery partners and park staff out-planting corals to multiple reef areas. The intern will be responsible for helping to prepare, transporting, and staging corals at out-planting sites, installing site markers, preparing out-planting sites, preparing reattachment materials (e.g. epoxy, cement, nails, cable ties), physically out-planting corals, and monitoring outplant survival.
The intern will spend a small portion of time helping coworkers on other natural resource management projects such as sea turtle nest monitoring, marine debris removal, lionfish management, and fish and lobster creel surveys.
Disease treatment, restoration, and monitoring activities will be conducted alongside the supervisor and/or coworkers, following established protocols. Across all field efforts, daily work requires substantial advance and day-of planning, adherence to safety protocols, assembly of dive and field equipment, boat operation, problem-solving, equipment cleanup and breakdown, and summary documentation.
Deliverables and work products: The intern will be responsible for thoroughly documenting the disease treatments that s/he implements, using existing datasheets, and ensuring that all treatment data collected during the internship are entered in an existing MS Access database. The intern will also create two brief summary reports, one each for disease intervention (quantifying corals treated, species, locations, treatment methods, treatment efficacy) and out-planting efforts (noting out-planted species, quantities, methods, sites, and initial monitoring results).
Applicants must have completed advanced coursework towards a bachelor’s degree in biology, ecology, marine science or a related field. Graduate students in the aforementioned disciplines are encouraged to apply.