NSU Coral Nursery Initiative

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What marine scientists are doing to restore coral reefs...


About one mile offshore Ft. Lauderdale beach, Staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) are being grown in underwater nurseries.  The idea is that by nurturing these delicate corals in a safe setting, within a year, the 2" long coral fragments will be large enough to plant back out onto the natural reef.  When you're listed as a Threatened species in the Caribbean under the Endangered Species Act, you can use all of the help you can get.


Marine biologists from the Coral Nursery Initiative at the  Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography have been studying ways to improve coral conservation methods that promote recovery of sensitive species like the Staghorn coral.  

By understanding the inner workings of natural ecosystems and the species they contain, scientists are able to identify the ideal reef locations, habitat types, and community structure that positively affects coral survival.  


love on the reef

One way scientists have found to increase sexual reproduction in Staghorn corals is to outplant coral colonies in close proximity to one another.  

Staghorn corals reproduce both sexually and asexually.  In an impressive demonstration of synchronicity, these corals release trillions of eggs and sperm into the water column during the full moon each summer.  You can witness this natural phenomenon for yourself on one of the coral spawning dives offered by these local dive charters

Image credit:  Dr. Dave Gilliam

Image credit:  Dr. Dave Gilliam



Though in the Florida Keys and in the wider Caribbean, populations of Staghorn coral have declined by over 90% since the 1980's, there is a glimmer of hope.  Recently, a new patch of healthy Staghorn coral hundreds of meters in diameter was discovered offshore Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  Why this patch is thriving so close to a highly populated coastal city is still being investigated, but it's not the only one.  Other large patches also exist in the area.


Why corals are cool

The research being conducted by marine scientists like Liz and Mauricio in the video above provides an invaluable tool for coral recovery.  When we take a closer look, coral reefs represent a major economic boost bringing in more than $2 billion to Broward County’s annual economy and creating more than 36,000 jobs.

Coral reefs provide shelter for fish and invertebrate species, protection from storm surge and coastal erosion, recreation for divers and boaters, and inspire a sense of awe.

Image credit:  Liz Goergen

Image credit:  Liz Goergen


ADOPT your own CORAL nursery

Supporting the NSU Coral Nursery Initiative means you are directly making a difference in numerous ways including:

  • Promoting a student's educational experience (donations helped to sponsor my graduate assistantship!)
  • Supporting our valuable local coral reef ecosystem
  • Fostering cutting-edge coral restoration research

In a sea of changing times, the least we can do is adopt a coral nursery!


The NSU Coral Nursery Initiative

(954) 262-3617


Dr. Dave Gilliam heads up the NSU Coral Nursery Initiative and was Paola's master's thesis advisor!

Dr. Dave Gilliam heads up the NSU Coral Nursery Initiative and was Paola's master's thesis advisor!