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Beauty & Degradation of Coral Reefs

Posted by Will Foy '14 and Paul Frye '15

February 10, 2015

Category: Student Blogs

coralreefs01.jpgEDITOR'S NOTE: Catawba students Will Foy of Baltimore, Md. and Paul Frye of China Grove, N.C scuba-dived around the coral reefs near the Caribbean island of Bonaire or help restore the staghorn coral off Key Largo. They were part of a group of students who took what they learned in their marine science class and put it to use in a real-life setting. The students learned how to scuba dive as well as learning about marine life during their class. They wrote about what they saw in Bonaire, identifying the fish as they dived for hours. They share their experiences below:

Will Foy '14
We saw this pristine coral formation in Bonaire. It was amazing. It has drastically changed what I’m looking at doing now.

I thought when I came to Catawba that I would become a landscape architect. And now, after diving, I have fallen in love with that. I’m actually looking at aquarium jobs.

The difference between the health of the coral in Bonaire and Key Largo is like night and day. The staghorn coral is considered critically endangered. White band disease decreased the population by 80 percent in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and the coral is destroyed by divers landing on it or boats running ashore.

Our group helped attach farmed coral near Key Largo through the Coral Restoration Foundation. We cleaned off algae and fire coral, which compete with the staghorn coral, and glued staghorn coral to the reef. It was a real, real neat experience.

Paul Frye '15
The expedition to Bonaire was one of the best trips I’ve ever taken in my life. When you wake up in the morning, breakfast is waiting for you on this patio. You go out there and an iguana and a couple of birds are there while you’re eating. The weather is already 85 degrees. When you get ready to go out, you can go anywhere on the island. You have maybe a 15-yard or 100-yard swim out to the reef. It’s just beautiful.

You see a different type of life out at night – a lot more crabs and lobsters. A couple of people saw an octopus. Some of the tarpons are as big as you are. It was cool.

I found the decimation of the coral disturbing. I looked at a map of where there used to be a staghorn coral thicket. It was at least a hundred yards long and about 30 yards wide, and it doesn’t exist anymore in Key Largo. It’s just gone.

The trip has changed my mind-set. I’ve actually been doing more research on electric cars and I’m moving toward that – and I’m somebody who grew up around NASCAR racing. Something is going to have to give because we’re putting too much stress on the ocean.

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