‘A Blessing’ For Wounded Soldiers Who Help Scientists Save Coral Reefs
Wounded US Army veterans are being enlisted to restore coral reefs of the Florida Keys, giving them a new mission and purpose.
Feeling like they have no purpose is a common despair from veterans of several generations, and the work under the waves is helping combat that sense of listlessness, not to mention putting them in an environment where a lost leg is not nearly as impeding.
The work is part of a collaboration between the Mote Marine Laboratory and the non-profit Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC).
Veteran Woulded Soldiers
For a week every year, a team of veterans comes down to help Michael Crosby “re-skin” coral reefs below the waves off the southern tip of Florida.
Crosby has been breeding corals of specific phenotypes that demonstrate tolerance and resilience to rising temperatures and more acidic water, representing conditions that may arise during the next 50 years as the climate changes.
Taking the nursery-raised coral down with them, this year’s work saw a team of 31 veterans seed 1,040 new corals in a reef called Higgs Head. This takes the total of such corals planted by the Mote Laboratory to over 200,000.
They dive down to first clean the dead or dying corals of algae, then use an epoxy resin to glue new, lab-grown coral fragments.
“They have been instrumental in my recovery, helping me learn what I was going to be able to do after losing my leg,” said 41-year-old Army veteran Billy Costello. “It’s great for the heart and the soul, especially when you’re around a group of veterans that have gone through very similar situations and have beat the odds and recovered in such a positive way… It is such a blessing.”
“The coral planting gives the wounded, ill, or injured service member a new found sense of purpose, they get to help the environment and work as a team with other military members who have been what they have been through,” said Lt. Col. (Ret) Andrew Lourake, CWVC Vice President of Operations. “The challenge, camaraderie, and knowing they are making a difference is the highlight of the year for almost all our participants.”
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