5 Funtastic Coral facts

5 Funtastic Coral facts

The Wonders of Coral Reefs: Unveiling 5 Fascinating Facts

Coral reefs, often considered the vibrant metropolises of the ocean, are teeming with life and captivating beauty. Beyond their picturesque appearance lies a world of fascinating facts that make these underwater ecosystems truly exceptional. In this article, we will delve into five funtastic facts about coral reefs, shedding light on their crucial roles, incredible biodiversity, and the captivating dynamics of these marine wonderlands.

Coral in Costa rica

Fact 1: Coral Reefs - Not Just Pretty Faces

Contrary to popular belief, coral reefs are not static structures; they are dynamic, living organisms. Unlike plants, these underwater wonders don’t whip up their own meals through photosynthesis. Instead, they are composed of colonies of tiny organisms known as polyps. These polyps, akin to microscopic powerhouses, collaborate to build the intricate structures that we recognize as coral reefs.

Imagine a bustling neighborhood, where a quarter of all marine species convene for the ultimate underwater block party. Coral reefs serve as the epicenter of this marine fiesta, providing a habitat for an astonishing array of fish, invertebrates, and other marine creatures. Every nook and cranny of the reef becomes a hotspot for oceanic diversity, creating an underwater realm that rivals any terrestrial ecosystem in its complexity and interdependence.

Fact 2: Aquatic Custodians of Cleanliness

Beyond their role as marine meeting grounds, coral reefs play a crucial role as nature’s underwater janitors. These aquatic custodians filter and purify their watery homes with an efficiency that surpasses any oceanic mop and bucket. Through a process known as nutrient cycling, coral reefs remove excess nutrients from the water, preventing algal overgrowth and maintaining a delicate balance in the ecosystem.

Picture the reefs as diligent cleaners, tirelessly working to ensure the health and vitality of their surroundings. As they filter the water, coral reefs contribute to maintaining the pristine conditions that support the incredible biodiversity thriving within their structures. Let’s take a moment to applaud these unsung heroes of the ocean – the coral reefs, the true custodians of cleanliness beneath the waves.

Pavona gigantea - Corals of Costa Rica

Fact 3: Sun-Seeking Beach Bums of the Sea

Coral reefs, much like sunbathers on a tropical beach, require sunlight to grow and thrive. These marine ecosystems depend on sunlight for a process called photosynthesis, which takes place within the symbiotic relationship between the coral polyps and microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. The coral provides a safe haven for the algae, and in return, the algae supply the coral with essential nutrients.

However, just like humans, coral reefs can suffer from too much heat. Excessive heat, often caused by rising sea temperatures due to climate change, can lead to a phenomenon known as coral bleaching. This is analogous to the ocean’s version of a sunburn, where the coral expels the algae, resulting in a loss of color and vitality. To ensure the well-being of these underwater ecosystems, it is crucial to keep coral reefs within the optimal temperature zone, allowing them to continue groovin’ and thriving in their watery abode.

Fact 4: Shore Defenders and Wave Tamers

Coral reefs hold the prestigious title of VIPs (Very Important Protectors) along coastlines, as they play a vital role in reducing coastal wave energy. Studies have shown that coral reefs can slash coastal wave energy by an impressive 97%. Acting as nature’s breakwaters, these underwater structures provide a formidable defense against the erosive forces of waves and storms.

The intricate architecture of coral reefs acts as a natural barrier, dissipating the energy of incoming waves and protecting coastal areas from erosion and damage. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, coral reefs serve as the ultimate shore defenders, making waves and keeping it cool along the coastlines they inhabit.

coral in Costa Rica

Fact 5: Vulnerability and Conservation

Despite their resilience, coral reefs face numerous threats that jeopardize their existence. Human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change pose significant risks to these delicate ecosystems. Rising sea temperatures, in particular, contribute to coral bleaching and the deterioration of reef health.

Conservation efforts are critical to preserving the biodiversity and ecological functions of coral reefs. Initiatives like marine protected areas, sustainable fishing practices, and global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions play pivotal roles in safeguarding these underwater marvels. As stewards of the planet, it is our responsibility to take proactive measures to protect and conserve coral reefs for future generations.

Want to get involved ?

With all of the projects we work hard on throughout the year, we are always looking for help. You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

About the Author

Vera Mkhsian is an 18 year old Intern from Los Angeles, California. She is currently a Anthropology student studying to be an Archeologist with a focus in Marine development. A future archaeologist set on diving deep into the ocean’s secrets, Vera dreams of merging the worlds of archaeology and marine biology. Vera actively looks for opportunities to work with scientists to untangle the intertwined tales of human history and ocean life, as she is eager to bridge the gap between archaeology and marine biology.

You can get involved with one of our internship or volunteer programs.

Apply Now

Global issue of Coral Bleaching

Global issue of Coral Bleaching

The Global issue of Coral Bleaching

Imagine this, you are on vacation and pay good money to scuba dive in the wonders of the sea. You are thrilled to see an abundance of the world below us, filled with happy ecosystems, baby sea turtles, huge sharks and incredible colors. To your surprise, the ocean lacks its beauty and majestic glow. The coral isn’t its vibrant, healthy self but instead decaying and dull. There are far less fish and aquatic plants than expected, and instead you find yourself surrounded in a never-ending vast blue, longing for the return of a lively reef.

Unpleased and disappointed, you question what happened and how you can help, thankfully the Marine Conservation Costa Rica (MCCR) is actively striving to educate and take action.

What is Coral Bleaching?

Due to global warming increasing the temperature of the sea, coral eject zooxanthellae, (the symbiotic algae that lives in most hard corals and provides the coral with most of its energy to build reefs). With the zooxanthellae gone, the coral’s beautiful colors fade and turn white. This process is called coral bleaching.

The good news is the loss of color does not mean the coral has died, it is still alive and can survive a bleaching but undergoes stress and is much more vulnerable. Coral can recover from bleaching if the ocean’s previous conditions return to normal, and zooxanthellae in reabsorbed. By adapting to a lifestyle focused on reducing global warming, we will help regrow those reefs and see them thrive again.

coral bleaching

How Global Warming Hurts Coral

Global warming has become a widespread issue across the world, and unfortunately the ocean has been the number one victim. The sea life thrives in a specific climate and temperature range, with little to no wiggle room. When the ocean begins to warm up, even just a couple of degrees, living organisms struggle to survive. Thus, leaving the coral lifeless with only the calcium carbonate skeleton remaining. Now what was once a lush and thriving community of organisms is a bare and lifeless area of sand and coral skeletons.

Pavona gigantea - Corals of Costa Rica

Why does Coral Matter?

Coral may look like a simple plant, however, it is actually a sessile animal that relies on the oceans floor and algae to thrive. A healthy reef provides an entire community for its residents to live, eat and be protected. It is home to millions of varied species like fish, algae, crab, clams, seahorses and turtles. Without it, essentials like food, shelter, and biodiversity would become scarce resulting in food-web changes and relocating or dying of needed species.

How are we Affected?

The health of coral is significant to the health of our earth and humans. Since coral reefs are the center for ecosystems in the ocean and supply the food chains, we are losing food too. For us, they are vital for feeding many coastal populations of people since they provide us with most of the seafood we eat.

Furthermore, coral reefs play a significant role in protecting our precious coastlines and beaches. During the time of storms or natural disasters like hurricanes, the reefs act as a barrier to protect land from flooding and erosion.

Coral reef research

Simultaneously, coral reefs do an excellent job of storing carbon dioxide, which aids in the regulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. As you can see, coral reefs hold many responsibilities to organisms of all levels.

Just as we rely on coral reefs, they are dependent on us! It is now our turn to take a closer look at how we as humans are treating our wonderful corals and helping rebuild their sustainability in the natural world.

Respect the coral reefs.

Written by Danielle Brittle

Content creator and Social Media intern

Content creator and Social Media intern

Get Involved

 

social media intern
outplanting corals

We need your help to spread our message of awareness

We have been super busy this year already with both the nurseries, and some exciting new projects coming soon. We are still small and growing fast and we need your help to keep this momentum going. We are looking for two interns. One to help us with content creation for our media channels, and one for managing the social media channels that we have. Both positions are for 3-6 months depending on the person, possibly longer. Our hope is that we can then find some enthusiastic eco warriors to help spread awareness and our message to our expanding network of supporters. And find some new ones in the process. Outlines for the two positions are found below. We look forward to hearing from you!

What do you get in return?

You get to work with us and help spread awareness for the plight of the oceans!

Not just that, obviously! We are offering either a full marine conservation internship in exchange or if you are a looking to become a professional diver we can discuss the ECO Divemaster option with you as well. We have options for housing and homestays available as well.

If you are not a diver then we can work with that as well. We can make that happen as it is important to us that you have a good understanding of what we do. In order to do that, you are better off underwater!

Social Media Intern

We are looking for an enthusiastic social media intern to join us. You will be responsible for creating social media campaigns and the day-to-day management of MCCRs social media social media posts and channels. You need a passion for social media and marine conservation.

The successful intern will be an excellent communicator, a versatile creative writer, and a team player. You will be able to manage our channels through scheduling software, analyze posts and campaigns, and interact with our network of enthusiastic eco warriors.

 

coral nursery costa rica

Requisites

We ask that you have experience in the management of social media channels and scheduling software. Also, that you understand branding and production of effective and engaging social media posts.

You can work closely with our content creator

Knowledge of Spanish is a bonus.

Scuba diving experience is desirable.

To apply

  • Please submit a current Resume (CV) with references
  • Please submit an example of how you would plan and manage a campaign on a new artifical reef project.

 

Note: Can be offered as part of a university degree work experience/Thesis project if desired. Please outline in your application.

 

Content Creator Intern

suAs Content Creator at Marine Conservation Costa Rica, you’ll be in charge of creating online content like blog posts, newsletters, social media posts both visual and written. This content will help us reach our eco warriors. It’s up to you to provide them with valuable information about our projects and more. 

You will need to be able to create both written and visual content so you will need to be able to take photos, videos around the dive center and on our projects.  Access to a Gopro is perfect as this can also be used underwater. If you do not have any experience underwater, we have Divemasters and instructors around who very often can provide underwater footage which you can then utilize.

We hope that you will be able to assist us with creating more education materials for our programs and projects.

 

coral nursery costa rica

Requisites

You have the ability to write for multiple channels 
You have excellent writing and editing skills.
You have a sense of branding and know how to keep a consistent tone of voice in your writing and media
You have experience working with a CMS like WordPress.
You can create basic visuals and videos
You know how to optimize your writing for SEO.
You have a passion for the underwater environment.

You can work closely with our social media intern.

Knowledge of Spanish is a bonus

Scuba diving experience is desireable

To apply

  • Please submit a current Resume (CV) with references
  • Please submit some examples of your writing and photo/video content

 

Note: Can be offered as part of a university degree work experience/Thesis project if desired. Please outline in your application.

 

Apply Now

What Does it Takes to be a Coral Restoration Warrior?

What Does it Takes to be a Coral Restoration Warrior?

coral restoration

In the current fracturing state of our natural world, the three different approaches to defending Earth’s ecosystems include preservation, conservation, and restoration. While they all have the common goal of sustaining Earth’s diverse and natural beauty, their methodologies differ. For instance, preservation defends what is left of the wild world, conservation prevents future damage to what currently exists, and restoration rebuilds what has been broken. All of these are incredibly necessary, but the one that is the most heart-wrenching is restoration. 

Restoration projects all over the globe are proof that we are living amidst damaged ecosystems. As a result, this type of work is not for the weary or the doubtful. Restorators are Mother Nature’s warriors, not afraid to salvage what is crumbling before their eyes. Instead of weeping at what the fire has burned, restorators are the ones running into the flames of human-induced destruction with a bucket of water. While much has been burned and lost, restorators choose to look at what is left and what has survived against the odds. The same holds true with coral restoration work. Since the 1950s, studies have found that 50% of global coral reef coverage has been lost. Yet hundreds of coral restoration campaigns dispersed throughout the oceans worldwide show the persistence of the human spirit to defend and rebuild what we hold dear.  

coral polyp

This optimism that restorators cling to is the foundation of the work itself, understanding that “every drop in the ocean counts”- Yoko Ono. While this work is oftentimes slow and tedious, the successes deserve recognition, for they are the drops filling up the ocean. Diving in Manuel Antonio with Marine Conservation Costa Rica’s coral restoration internship one gets to witness the coral rehabilitation process from the ground up. Corals are harvested and propagated on plugs where they are given time and space to grow in the nurseries. Here they undergo nurturing care, weekly cleanings with toothbrushes, and continuous assessment of their health. After they have proven themselves to be hearty and healthy sprouts, the corals are ready to be planted in the wild. This aspect is arguably the most fulfilling part of coral restoration work– having the opportunity to cultivate young and hopeful corals back into the environments that desperately rely on them. 

 The work of a coral gardener is this constant dualism– swimming through ecosystems of  chalky, gray corals while planting new plugs full of life, color, and promise. 

coral restoration work

This optimism that restorators cling to is the foundation of the work itself, understanding that “every drop in the ocean counts”- Yoko Ono. While this work is oftentimes slow and tedious, the successes deserve recognition, for they are the drops filling up the ocean. Diving in Manuel Antonio with Marine Conservation Costa Rica’s coral restoration internship one gets to witness the coral rehabilitation process from the ground up. Corals are harvested and propagated on plugs where they are given time and space to grow in the nurseries. Here they undergo nurturing care, weekly cleanings with toothbrushes, and continuous assessment of their health. After they have proven themselves to be hearty and healthy sprouts, the corals are ready to be planted in the wild. This aspect is arguably the most fulfilling part of coral restoration work– having the opportunity to cultivate young and hopeful corals back into the environments that desperately rely on them. 

 The work of a coral gardener is this constant dualism– swimming through ecosystems of  chalky, gray corals while planting new plugs full of life, color, and promise. 

Although restoring what is broken can be disheartening at times, the hope of a future filled with vibrant, flourishing corals for succeeding generations to relish in outweighs the gloom. Herein lies what it takes to be a restoration warrior, in a world that desperately needs restoring.

Because restoration efforts are consistently bombarded with threats and casualties to what they attempting to protect, it is important to maintain a hopeful mindset. As restoration workers, one must understand and balance the duality of our dying yet adaptive world. In the world of scuba diving, the health of the coral reef ecosystems is noticeable with every dive. On one hand, there is abundant life and miraculous creatures thriving under the sea, while on the other hand there are countless signs warning of irreversible destruction and sickly coral reefs.

The more one learns about coral reefs, what threatens them, and what a diseased coral looks like the harder it is to disregard these truths– hence exposing the burden of knowledge. It is impossible not to notice the pink pimples and white scarring revealing the stress the reefs are enduring. As a diver you also witness firsthand the bleached, decaying corals, and grasping the full weight of these hard truths only adds to the pressure already felt underwater. In order to sustain the hope that keeps restorators moving, making space for the realities of resilience and fatality is a practice that all of us can learn as we cope with the current warming state of our one and only planet.    

outplanting corals

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A Deep Dive into Reefs: Why Protecting Corals Advocates for Human Survival

A Deep Dive into Reefs: Why Protecting Corals Advocates for Human Survival

Pavona gigantea - Corals of Costa Rica

Coral reefs in Peril

Coral reefs, polar bears, pandas and sea turtles are adored across cultures and known as the poster children of climate change. While each of these organisms has a difficult journey of survival ahead, the ancient coral reefs have arguably been suffering degradation since the 70’s. Coral reefs have been around for some 50 million years, outliving the dinosaurs and witnessing the birth of all other forms of complex life. These organisms represent the beauty and interconnectivity of our world. They are the foundations of coastal ecosystems, their rainbow collages attracting a diverse interaction of plants and animals. Yet the recent decline and death of coral reefs sends a shocking message at what we risk to lose if business continues as usual.

Oceans Heating Up

It is common knowledge that ocean temperatures are heating up, and although this represents one of the many threats to these delicate structures it is far from being the only one. Corals are also affected by the pollutants that find their way into rivers and streams from pesticides used to maximize crop yield. In addition to these silent killers polluting the water cycle, habitat destruction from coastal construction and the overly extractive fishing industry threatens the health of reefs. Finally, maybe the most dangerous of all is our addiction to fossil fuel consumption and the smoky trail of carbon dioxide we humans leave in our backwash.

Although the ocean is able to absorb a quarter of carbon dioxide emitted, there are still consequences to our incessant gobbling. In this simmering hotbed our corals are surviving in, their first stress response is to dispel their food source, the algae. As they lose these plants and subsequently their coloration, the surrounding organisms also feel the loss as their food source depletes. The stressed corals turn a skeletal white, and as the bleaching continues, they eventually turn as gray as tombstones. 

bleached coral
coastal development

Pressure on the reefs

Though reefs thrive in coastal paradises where conditions are idyllic and picturesque, the beauty of these habitats is a double-edged sword. As demand for these utopias increases, so does the pollution and runoff from development and tourism. As more people develop in and around the tropics, the pollution which comes with development and human consumption also grows. With this logic, it is no surprise that coastal communities are among the first to feel the effects of climate change

While the climate crisis often-times feels like a looming catastrophe, protecting coral reefs would trigger a chain reaction in sustaining the local ecosystems both above and beneath the ocean.  The urgency needed to preserve the remaining survivors can be grasped by painting a stark picture of what our world risks to lose with the extinction of coral reefs. A coral-less future would mean 6 million reef fishers without work; a net loss of $9.6 billion dollars to the tourism industry; 1 million marine species with no place to live, spawn, or feed; coastal communities with no natural protection against storms, tsunamis, flooding, and erosion; not to mention the incalculable loss of potentially life-saving medicines researchers discover in these underwater medicine cabinets (Basic Information About Coral Reefs). In short, our world without corals is hardly even a world at all. What are we without the very life that supports our human existence? 

coral bleaching
dead coral reefs

Dark situation

With less than 50% of coral reefs already dead, these submerged skeletons serve as a foreboding message: to save the coral reefs is to save ourselves.We are at a crucial moment in history, and our response to  the climate crisis is pivotal, but passivity is the most dangerous option of all. 

Although our current situation may feel dark, resilience is our silver lining. Coral restoration projects are underway across the globe helping to stabilize reefs. Restoration efforts assist in maintaining the base populations of coral species, giving more time for corals to adapt to changing conditions. This type of recovery work, however, will not restore reefs to their pristine state. Instead it buys time for the corals to adapt. That being said, restoration is most effective in conjunction with fishing quotas, Marine Protected Areas, and individual actions. 

coral internship

So what can you do?

That being said, there is a wide range of behaviors you can do that can reduce your negative impact on our planet. The following list includes suggested actions that the coral reefs, polar bears, pandas, and sea turtles need from all of us:

 

  1. Participate in Coral Restoration

– Take part in a Coral Internship 

– Enhance your knowledge of marine life with a Coral Reef Research Certification

  1. Be a conscious tourist

– Use Reef Friendly sunscreen 

– Be a Responsible Snorkeler and Scuba Diver: Never touch or harm corals/marine life 

  1. Support environmentally friendly companies 

–  Purchase organic products 

– Buy from sustainable fisheries (or avoid eating animal products altogether!) 

  1. Measure and manage your impact

Calculate your carbon footprint

– Practice zero waste living and stop using plastic bags!

  1. Raise awareness 

– Talk with your family, friends, and coworkers about the climate crisis

– Establish sustainability action groups in your school/work and come up with solutions in your own communities

 

Written by Anna Patton

Anna Love is a writer, biologist, advocate, massage therapist, and scuba diver. She writes about environmental movement, healing work, and science fiction. When she is not playing sand volleyball or reading, you can likely find her practicing handstands or meditating. —
Anna Lovelace Patton
anna.patton15@gmail.com

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Spotlight on Coral – Pocillopora damicornis

Spotlight on Coral – Pocillopora damicornis

We are back with our spotlight on coral. Pocillopra damicornis is the third principal hard coral that we work with in Costa Rica. Our coral intern Sebastian has created this great article all about it.

Here are some cool coral facts about Pocillopora damicornis!

What is Pocillopora damicornis?

coral restoration costa rica

Pocillopora damicornis is a species of branching stony coral, commonly known as Cauliflower coral. The species is distinguished from other species by having thinner branches and less regular verrucae. While small, regular verrucae exist, most of the protuberances are irregular and are often not true verrucae at all but are more like incipient branches. As a result, Pocillopora damicornis exhibits greater branching than does P. verrucosa. Colonies are usually less than 30 cm tall. Reported growth rates of Pocillopora damicornis vary substantially between locations in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, from 1.27 cm per year in Colombia to 3.96 cm per year in Panama.

Pocillopora damicornis occurs at all depths between the surface and 40 m deep or more, and is particularly abundant between 5 to 20 m. It is equally abundant in lagoonal areas and clear water reef slopes. Commonly forms monospecific, densely packed stands many tens of metres across in water 5 -10 m deep.

Restoration Success with Pocillopora damicornis

coral restoration project

We started our coral restoration project with Pocillopora damicornis and Pavona gigantea. Pocillopora is a great candidate for reef restoration, as a branching coral it is easy to harvest from wild coral colonies and it is also relatively easy to micro fragment. Pocillopora has responded well in our coral nurseries with good growth rates in both table nurseries and line nurseries. This coral species has a faster growth rate than the two massive coral species, which means shorter time in the nurseries, and therefore less maintenance and costs.

Geographic Range of Pocillopora damicornis

Pocillopora damicornis has a broad range which extends from the pacific coast of the americas america all the way to East Africa and the Red Sea. in the tropical pacific and through to oceania and southeast asia. The range of this coral in panama is it even considered as one of the major reef building species.

coral restoration in costa rica

Feeding methods of Pocillopora damicornis

Cauliflower corals are a filter feeding species that catch plankton and other small organisms from the water column using their hair-like tentacles. 

Sexual Reproduction of Pocillopora damicornis

Pocillopora damicornis is a broadcast spawner with the capacity to function as a simultaneous hermaphrodite. Pocillopora damicornis, like other Pocilloporid species in the eastern Pacific, has low rates of recruitment.

Histological evidence indicates that spawning is likely to occur during a few days around the new moon. The reproductive activity in the eastern Pacific is related to local thermal regimes. This then results in a generally higher incidence of coral recruits at sites with stable, warm water conditions. Also during warming periods in areas that experience significant seasonal variation. Pocillopora damicornis is also able to spread asexual due to natural fragmentation, making this coral a good candidate for restoration efforts.

Specific Living Conditions for Pocillopora damicornis

  • temperature: 20 °C -30 °C (optimal is 26 °C )
  • salinity: 34- 38 ‰ 
  • Depth: 0-40 meter
  • Ph: 8,1- 8,4
  • DKH: 8-12
  • Habitat: occurs in all shallow water habitats from exposed reef fronts to mangrove swamps and wharf piles
  • sedimentation, Pocillopora is relatively tolerant as long as there is adequate water motion


We hope you enjoyed the article, thank you to our intern Sebastian Moesbergen for writing it.

If you are interested in joining our team at Marine Conservation Costa Rica you can contact us. We run internships, volunteer programs and research opportunities, please contact us here.

sebastiaan intern

Sebastiaan Moesbergen joins us from the Netherlands. He is currently studying applied Biology at University and has been enrolled in our internship program since the beginning of March. As part of his internship he is assisting us with research and investigation and has been spearheading our spotlight on coral articles. Thank you Sebastian!