Making Coral Babies for the First Time

The First Successful Coral Sexual Reproduction Expedition in the Virgin Islands

In the days of set-up prior to the coral spawning and sexual reproduction expedition, the team finds badly degraded reefs below the surface.

The expedition team builds long docks made to float in the ocean, which will house finishing pools where the new coral embryos will grow.

The floating docks are taken out to sea where the expedition team constructs the finishing pools for the new coral embryos.

The team transports conditioned tiles, or tetrapods, on which the new coral embryos will grow in the floating finish pools.

 

The expedition team embarks on an exploratory night dive, the first of many as they wait for just the right window when the elkhorn corals begin to spawn.

The team spots an octopus resting on elkhorn, watching them...but no spawn yet.

And then....there is spawn! After several nights of diving and waiting, the elkhorn corals begin to spawn - and it's a beautiful sight!

The coral gametes - bundles of sperm and eggs - are carefully collected, drawn up into tubes that will be transported back to the boat and prepared for facilitated sexual reproduction.

 

Hundreds of elkhorn coral gametes...the treasure this expedition team was hunting!

Thousands of elkhorn coral gametes are rinsed on the boat and prepped for facilitated reproduction. By the expedition's end, 750,000 new coral embryos were produced, each one a possibility for a healthy young coral that will help restore the degraded reefs of the Virgin Islands. This advanced technique, which the Conservancy is helping to advance and implement in partnership with SECORE International, can help restore reefs on a broad scale throughout the Caribbean and beyond.

 

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