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Galveston Monthly

Moody Gardens Opens Coral Reef Lab

May 03, 2019 06:46PM
An international effort is underway to increase awareness and combat a disease that is rapidly killing the Florida Reef Tract, the third largest coral reef system in the world. Moody Gardens’ new Coral Rescue Lab will be used to propagate coral as it focuses on species being impacted by this disease.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), selected Moody Gardens to participate in this vital project to help save corals native to the Florida Reef Tract as one of 60 institutions from 21
states and Canada.

In 2014, an unidentified coral tissue loss disease was first observed in Miami-Dade County and quickly spread throughout the north areas of the Florida Reef Tract. The disease outbreak
continued to persistently spread south of Miami through the Upper and Middle Keys, reaching the Lower Keys by April 2018.

In response to the disease the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC), National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS), and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) have formed the Florida Coral Rescue Team to execute the Florida Coral Rescue Plan to save what is left of Florida’s healthy coral stocks.

The Rescue Plan has two primary goals: prevent ecological extinction of the most susceptible species along the Florida Reef Tract, and maintain as much genetic diversity as possible among approximately 25 species of coral.

Part of that plan includes the Rescue Team reaching out to institutions to house and maintain corals for gene banking and propagation for potential future restoration activities.

In March the Aquarium Pyramid received 250 pieces of live aquacultured rock in preparation for the live corals for the exhibit. Aquacultured rock is rock used to season coral aquariums and prepare them for holding local corals. On April 17, Moody Gardens received the coral entrusted to them and acclimated it to its temporary home inside an exhibit inside the Aquarium Pyramid.

A new Reef Rescue VR Experience is also part of the exhibit. Reef Rescue VR is an interactive high-capacity virtual reality experience where up to 16 people can pilot their own R.O.V.E.R.
to help clean up waters, plant new coral branches and feed the fish, returning the reef to complete health in the process.

You can learn more about the exhibit, and donate to the cause