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CMHRP coral-reef researcher featured in National Parks Traveler podcast

Research Marine Biologist Ilsa Kuffner was interviewed by Lynn Riddick, reporter for National Parks Traveler

An orange branching coral grows on a cinderblock on a reef in clear water.
The U.S. Geological Survey St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center is conducting research to guide the restoration and recovery of the threatened elkhorn coral, Acropora palmata, in Dry Tortugas National Park and throughout the western Atlantic. Shown here is an elkhorn colony, raised from a fragment donated by the Coral Restoration Foundation, that overgrew the “calcification station” where it was attached for an experiment. The USGS has established these stations, composed of cement blocks fixed to the reef with stainless-steel rods embedded into the reef, throughout the Florida Keys and the U.S. Virgin Islands to do experiments on the growth rates of select coral species important to the process of building coral reefs. Because scientists were unable to get back to the experiment during the COVID-19 pandemic, the corals in Dry Tortugas overgrew the blocks. The scientists plan to leave the corals in place and continue monitoring their growth using a different method as they grow into an elkhorn reef. Learn more about Coral Reef Ecosystem Studies (CREST) at USGS. (Credit: Ilsa B. Kuffner, USGS. Public domain.)

For the February 29, 2021, National Parks Traveler podcast, Dr. Kuffner was interviewed by Lynn Riddick about the results of a USGS study on elkhorn coral growth in the Florida Keys that was published in December (

Elkhorn coral populations crashed in the late 1970s and have not recovered since. This species is the only one that builds the reef-crest habitat zone, the part of the reef where waves break, meaning it is essential for shoreline protection in Florida, Puerto Rico, and across the tropical Atlantic Ocean. The study results provide hope and ideas for how to restore elkhorn coral populations to help them sexually reproduce again, thereby connecting vestigial populations and allowing opportunity for natural selection in a changing ocean. National Parks Traveler reports that the podcast was downloaded more than 850 times in just the first three days.


Read what else is new at the St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center.


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