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Reef Hope Project

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Executive Summary

Project Scope
This project focuses on the development of STEAM initiatives related to the marine environment in south Florida. The project includes curriculum development, skill training, and research studies integrated into Palm Beach State College’s Environmental Science, Engineering, Biotechnology, and Art departments, as well as aims to achieve biological and ecological sustainability goals for the marine environment.

There are numerous departmentally-specific and interdisciplinary learning goals for this project. Environmental Science Technology students learn scientific skills by monitoring the data collected and analyzing for specific reef characteristics and biological and ecological community functions, interactions, coastal health, and conservation goals. These students also utilize cutting-edge underwater GIS mapping skills to create base-maps for data analysis, story maps for sharing the scientific results with the community, and full-motion video samples. PBSC’s Engineering students develop marine technology skill sets as they create ways to electrify the reef to encourage a faster rate of accretion and more rapid species settlement, growth, and survivorship. These students also apply 3-D printing skills to the creation of research tags for the reef. The Art students design and create sculptures to be deployed on a county reef, making the artificial reef environment beautiful, intricate, and attractive for marine biodiversity and recreational activities that garner interest and support of marine habitat sustainability. PBSC Environmental Science Technology and Biotechnology students collaborate on growing and studying reef organisms, such as corals, here on our campus for later deployment onto a reef, giving students a first-hand look at saving threatened and endangered species, learning the aquarium trade and marine veterinarian techniques, and studying various aspects of species’ abilities to survive in a changing marine environment as a result of climate change and human impacts. These students study marine species’ DNA, directed by specific research and permitting objectives, and prepare samples for mass sequencing for our contribution to the Smithsonian Global Marine Biodiversity Project and NOAA’s National Coral Reef Monitoring Program. This is the first time ever that Jupiter’s inshore and offshore communities will be included in these global biodiversity monitoring efforts. All these learning objectives lead to the creation of an engaging curriculum, the development of needed marine workforce skills, and active engagement of students in their community and in marine ecosystem conservation.

This project involves collaboration with various agencies, non-profits, and foundations, and it incorporates several field sites that may fluctuate as opportunities arise. For example, one site, the Jupiter Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area, will host three Autonomous Reef Monitoring Systems, and will involve student work in biodiversity assessments, shoreline enhancement and protection projects, and oyster reef electrification projects, to name a few. Also, the Andrew “Red” Harris artificial reef, about 1.5 miles NE of the Jupiter Inlet, is the location for select curriculum and research projects. The Andrew “Red” Harris Foundation built and deployed 234 artificial reef modules and additional boulder piles and donated them to Palm Beach County.  Scientific equipment deployed on the artificial reef adds to our understanding of the ocean environment and its health and provides opportunities to explore ways to make the artificial reef environment more successful in supporting biodiversity and sustainable marine populations. Additional projects take place in the field and laboratories of south Florida.

Project Goals
The Reef Hope Project aims to study natural and artificial reef habitats, to support the conservation of marine biodiversity over time amidst ongoing threats, to provide project-based learning opportunities and scientific data collection opportunities that can in-turn be used for educational outreach, STEAM career skill building, and improved reef conservation and management plans, and to stimulate interest in reef protection through inspired beauty, creativity, and interaction with natural marine wonders.

Hopeful Actions

  1. Raise species in our lab for later "outplanting" on to a reef. Aim to support increased survivorship and sustainability of reef species amid ongoing threats of rising temperatures, ocean acidification, disease, and pollution.
  2. Create a place of beauty and recreation, supporting the growth of thriving reef communities that in turn enhance tourism and fishing opportunities.
  3. Study artificial reef characteristics that enhance survivability, increased biodiversity, and support long-term sustainability.
  4. Inspire individuals to care about this habitat and to devote time, energy, and resources to its conservation.
  5. Involve students in purposeful and exciting  and learning opportunities, forming a challenging scientific education and developing STEAM career skill sets, while creating active, educated, community-service, orientated professionals.

 

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