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BUILD A REEF — BECOME A ‘CITIZEN SCIENTIST’

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KEY LARGO, Florida Keys — Divers can work side by side with marine scientists to assist in reef building during a coral restoration workshop set for Tuesday through Friday, June 23-26, with Amoray Dive Resort in Key Largo.

Focused on environmental education, the advocacy event is to include Tuesday and Wednesday evening lectures and dives Wednesday and Thursday to restore endangered staghorn coral.

Scuba divers are to learn from and work with coral restoration expert Ken Nedimyer and marine scientist Lad Akins. Respectively, they serve as president and executive director of the Coral Restoration Foundation, and lead education and dive trips as part of the nonprofit organization’s mission.

The class sessions are to focus on coral health, corals’ function in marine ecosystems, identification of natural and man-made threats to coral and the means to protect the resource in the Florida Keys.

“This is something the average person can get their hands on and do,” Nedimyer said. “It shows positive results in real time.”

Participants go on a working dive at the coral nursery, an orientation dive at some of the restoration projects that have been completed and two dives to plant corals on the new restoration site.

At the nursery, corals are started from clippings about the length of a knuckle and grow to 30 or 40 centimeters (11 to 14 inches). After a year on the reef, they can grow several inches tall with multiple branches, and in five years they are strong, independent structures serving as habitat for a variety of tropical fish.

“Participants in the coral nursery workshops get to see what can happen in a year and five years,” Nedimyer said. “It’s like an adrenaline shot and they feel like, ‘we can do this!'”

Workshop cost is $100 and includes a $25 donation to the Coral Restoration Foundation. In addition to the CRF event, optional Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) lectures are available Thursday night and Friday, as well as a fish survey dive. Advance booking is required. Additional fee is $35.

Amoray is offering a combination stay-and-dive discount package for the event. For details on dive fees and availability, call 1-800-426-6729.

For information about Florida Keys coral restoration efforts, visit www.coralrestoration.org.

For additional area lodging information, contact the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce at (800) 822-1088, e-mail info@keylargochamber.org or visit the official Web site of the Florida Keys & Key West at www.fla-keys.com

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