PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Scientist Hopes To Save Critical Coral In Florida Keys

Joe Berg

AMote Marine Laboratory scientist will try to find out why a type of coral in the Florida Keys is dying. Staghorn corals help create reefs and provide a critical habitat to the thousands of species that live within them. The number of these corals sharply declined over the last three decades-- 97-percent of them are gone.

Staghorn corals are brown, red and orange. They almost look like fingers. And when there’s a lot of them, they form thickets around coral reefs.

But Mote Marine Lab scientist Erinn Muller said those thickets are really rare now.

"So now when you see these Staghorn corals, there are just a few branches maybe here or there that are really sparsely located throughout the reefs of the Florida Keys," she said. 

The National Science Foundation awarded her about $580,000 to study the corals.

Within the next five years, Muller will plant nursery-grown Staghorn corals around the Florida Keys. She will try to determine what makes them most resilient to diseases, high water temperatures and ocean acidification.

"I’m hopefully gonna be able to take the science and apply it to increase the population and move things from a downward spiral into an upward slope," said Muller. 

She doesn’t expect to accomplish this in just five years, but said she hopes her research can help Staghorn corals in the long-term.

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media, and former reporter and host of All Things Considered for WGCU News.
Related Content
  1. Some Ecotours Could Be Harming Wild Dolphins
  2. Is Rick Scott the Environmental Governor? And PolitiFact Fl on Marco and Job Creation
  3. County, Environmentalists Prepare For Battle Over Everglades Air Show
  4. Everglades Activist Says Reservoir Still In Play