Coral Restoration Foundation is the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to restoring coral reefs to a healthy state in Florida and globally. Headquartered in the Florida Keys, CRF was incorporated in 2007 in response to the widespread loss of coral species on the Florida Reef Tract, the third-largest barrier reef in the world. CRF’s core mission is to restore coral reefs, to educate every generation on the importance of our oceans, and to us science to further coral research and restoration. Since 2012, CRF has returned more than 215,000 endangered corals to restoration sites from Key Largo to Key West, resulting in more than 34,000m2 of coral coverage along Florida’s Coral Reef and proving that large-scale restoration is possible. In addition to restoration, consistent monitoring efforts provide evidence that our corals are not only growing, but thriving as we observe them spawning (a coral’s natural way of reproducing) annually. This work is carried out by a collaborative team of staff, interns, and countless volunteers.
As a result of our success and innovations, CRF is now at the forefront of international reef restoration efforts. We have now become an international resource for the reef restoration community; providing training, techniques and technology, and, most importantly, hope through direct action on a massive scale. Our model is collaborative, and holistic, and our methods are freely available to practitioners everywhere; we are dedicated to creating broader infrastructure to support our work and that of the greater restoration community. In the last 5 years alone, we have demonstrated the ability to effectively leverage support to grow programs exponentially, scaling coral restoration at an unprecedented rate.
CRF is also a learning organization. We believe it is important to educate others about the urgent problem of the loss of coral reefs and how individuals’ actions can be part of the global solution. At the heart of our Education Program lies our Coral Conservation and Reef Restoration Internship. Our competitive internship program is cultivating the next generation of conservation leaders. As interns, university-level students are immersed in reef restoration, marine science, and non-profit management. We provide a structured learning environment and the opportunity to contribute on a professional level to a world-class non-profit organization. Interns are challenged, mentored, and inspired, all while working with a dynamic team to help them find their focus as they, in turn, support the restoration mission of CRF. We also provide them with the opportunity to become members of the prestigious Explorer’s Club – one of this century’s strongest advocates for scientific exploration and field science.
Our interns serve as ambassadors for the organization. They engage the public through active learning experiences and general outreach programs at our Key Largo Exploration Center. Through online presentations and events hosted throughout South Florida, they deliver conservation programs beyond the Florida Keys. Interns are trained in interdisciplinary, STEAM-based workshops, giving them a crash course in curriculum writing, presentation skills, and the ability to relate to diverse audiences of any age.
Our intern training program includes a Scientific Diver accreditation as they contribute significantly to our annual reef restoration goals. In 2021, the intern team completed 2,500 restoration and scientific dives, spending upwards of 3,000 hours underwater in our coral nurseries and on the reef. They were responsible for returning nearly 18,000 corals to Florida's reefs – almost 50% of our overall organizational goal for the year.
Our competitive internship program continues to grow – on average, we receive over 100 applications each semester from candidates across the country to fill approximately 10 new intern positions.
Last year, CRF established a new collaboration with SeaBase, a unique scouting program that offers sailing, scuba diving, fishing and rustic camping activities on an undeveloped barrier island in the Florida Keys. Together we have developed an in-depth summer program that gives Scouts an opportunity to take an active role in our mission to save and restore our coral reefs. This summer, we held 25 educational sessions at SeaBase that included presentations, hands-on workshops, and dive programs. More than 500 Scouts were involved and collectively they helped us return over 400 corals to Alligator Reef off Islamorada. This collaboration will continued in 2023 with a dedicated lead intern guiding the Scouts involvement with CRF.
Beyond the act of coral restoration, our oceans need a dedicated community. By engaging students, young professionals, residents, and visitors in our mission to restore Florida’s Coral Reef, we can bring healing to our most important ecosystems. Together, we can change our ocean’s future.