Aquarium Tradition Grows in New Lobby
You might recall reading about the new Ocean Room aquariums in the May 7 edition of the Ocean Reef Press, or if you’ve been here at Ocean Reef, you may have even seen them in person already. At approximately 400 gallons each, these aquariums were built into the newly-renovated Inn Lobby, Reef Lounge and Ocean Roo space, and they represent two differing marine habitats – the Atlantic reef and the Pacific reef.
With both aquariums boasting colorful fish, and the Pacific themed aquarium already fitted with a few young, growing corals, it became time to introduce the Atlantic corals to their new habitat. As of last week, the Atlantic aquarium is now home to one staghorn and three boulder star corals. These local, endangered species of coral were harvested directly from a Coral Restoration Foundation nursery on the morning of Monday, September 27, and by 1 p.m. that afternoon, were being transplanted into The Ocean Room Atlantic aquarium.
A Dual Purpose
The Ocean Room aquariums, while providing obvious beauty to the space, also represent an educational opportunity for Members and their children. The aquariums will give observers a living comparison of the corals and fish native to the Pacific, while the Atlantic aquarium will be a window into what can be seen every day when snorkeling or diving in the waters off Ocean Reef.
“These aquariums are special living educational windows to the sea,” said Jeff Turner, President of Reef Aquaria Design (RAD), the team responsible for designing the aquariums. “They will be an important part in facilitating the education of Members and guests of Ocean Reef to learn more about coral reef conservation. And it’s already working – you can’t imagine how many kids’ fingerprints I’ve already wiped off the aquariums.”
This season, Reef Club Kids will implement mini field trips to The Ocean Room aquariums. Club Naturalist Jeanette Rivera said, “The aquariums provide the unique opportunity for RCK Campers to explore their very own Ocean Reef Club ecosystem by being face to face with local marine life. Additionally, they can compare the ocean they see outside their front door with the one they tend to see in their favorite movies, like ‘Finding Nemo’ based in the Pacific.”
The Coral Restoration Foundation’s (CRF) work will be a significant component of the education. The young corals that now call Ocean Reef home are two types of the endangered species that CRF nurtures in their local nurseries. A visit to the Atlantic aquarium today would show the staghorn and boulder corals in the same form they were harvested in by the CRF. The monofilament line was intentionally left on the staghorn coral, and a marine epoxy was used to attach the boulder corals to the already existing coral in the tank, as a way to demonstrate what Members would see if they were to dive a CRF nursery or outplanting site.
In a matter of weeks, the corals will begin to grow to their surroundings and the three boulder corals, which were planted in a cluster, will begin to fuse together as they grow.
“The Coral Restoration Foundation is very excited to install these corals at Ocean Reef Club,” said CRF’s Amelia Moura. “It will be an amazing educational opportunity to tell the story of reef restoration, the Coral Restoration Foundation’s mission, and how it works not just in the Keys, but throughout Florida.”
As the Atlantic aquarium’s current inhabitants also begin to flourish in their new homes, RAD, the Club and CRF hope to introduce even more endangered corals, like elkhorn, to continue telling the tale of reef restoration at Carysfort Reef and throughout the Keys.