Counting Coral: Viola’s Passion for Reef Restoration

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PADI Open Water Diver and Torchbearer Viola highlighted the small print of an fascinating coral restoration venture with the Torchbearer Facebook Community. She piqued our collective curiosity and consequently, we acquired in contact to study extra concerning the challenge and the way divers can become involved…

Who're you, the place are you based mostly and what's your place?

My identify is Viola Zhang, I'm based mostly in New York Metropolis, and at present have a place as Fundraising Intern with Counting Coral.

Are you a diver? How did you get into diving?

I'm! I've been skindiving since I used to be younger and I even have my Open Water. I obtained into scuba diving about once I was about 16 years previous and was within the Bahamas. There, I had my first dive at a shipwreck and was tremendous lucky to have seen a nurse shark, an octopus, all of the fish, and coral reefs! It was superb.

Why is saving the ocean essential to you and what are you most captivated with conservation-wise?

Rising up in coastal cities, the ocean has all the time been a pivotal a part of my cultural panorama and livelihood. Meals, drugs, supplies, the ocean offers invaluable assets. It's equally a supply of immense magnificence in itself, but in addition within the tales and artwork, philosophies and customs it provokes. It may be tranquil, bringing peace, but highly effective and wild. It's to be revered and holds so many undiscovered secrets and techniques—we’ve explored extra of outer area than our oceans. It's teeming with Earth’s historical past and residential to distinctive ecosystems and organisms. The ocean encompasses for me this pleasure of exploration and intrigue paired with the sweetness and luxury it creates for the human situation.

Conservation-wise, I'm most keen about biodiversity conservation.

What's the origin story of Counting Coral? Who began it and why?

Counting Coral was based by Jolyon Collier in 2020, with a gaggle of ocean lovers to revive coral reefs and shield them from additional injury. Jolyon Collier is an artist, philanthropist and ocean fanatic; integrating his various expertise into the creation of the world’s first underwater chrome steel sculptural coral nursery.

With this mission in thoughts, Jolyon created Counting Coral, a nonprofit devoted to revive Earth’s most significant and biodiverse ecosystem. By aligning arts, engineering, and science disciplines, Jolyon and a group of main scientists plan to save lots of the small populations of coral reefs which might be left. By 2030, over 90% of the world’s coral reefs may have disappeared.

These chrome steel sculptures serve each aesthetic and function, appearing as a primary stage coral nursery and offering each bodily help and consciousness to the trigger. In alignment with different coral conservation teams, Counting Coral goals to plant warmth resistant coral, redistribute diver visitors from fragile reef techniques, drive consciousness by way of artwork, create stakeholders, educate and create group tasks with funding from the sculptural park.

How did you become involved?

I obtained concerned earlier this yr after graduating from college as a result of I needed to make use of my interdisciplinary background for ecological and societal sustainability. The clock is ticking with local weather change and we'd like individuals from all walks of life, with all types of experience to be placing our planet first. Safety of our coastal ecosystems is so built-in into the well-being of our oceans, the broader ecological stability, and the hundreds of thousands of people that rely upon it for meals, assets, tradition, and inspiration.

I discovered Counting Coral’s strategy multifaceted and notably impactful as it brings artwork and science collectively to revive reefs with the area people, and generates consciousness by way of an emotional connection. Whereas the impression of the ocean is way reaching, and we’ve seen the severity within the occurrences of pure disasters, it isn't all the time seen on a regular basis particularly when lives are being turned the wrong way up on a regular basis by totally different climates—political, financial. I feel the extra we make the sweetness and energy of the ocean accessible to individuals, they are going to be touched and that emotional connection will impel individuals, prefer it has me.

What does success appear to be to the Counting Coral workforce?

General, success for Counting Coral is with the ability to mobilize and encourage a group, a volunteer, a donor, or anybody from any stroll of life. Being efficient in an strategy to create significant methods to interact people and join them to the nonprofit’s mission. Huge or small, direct or oblique; Counting Coral strives to positively affect and educate people on find out how to higher look after the planet. With this in movement, Counting Coral will have the ability to progressively work on assuaging the coral devastation.

Counting Coral’s brief time period objective is to efficiently set up the primary underwater sculptures in Fiji. That is underway as Counting Coral has raised the funds for the primary set up, accomplished the complete design, and are working with lead marine scientists targeted on reef conservation. Counting Coral’s bigger plan for fulfillment is to collaborate internationally with governments to create marine protected areas, handle websites, and develop giant tremendous coral farms which can in flip help native restoration tasks.

The way forward for Counting Coral’s long run success includes a marine protected space/nationwide park, that may be managed and arranged by the group. This space can be restricted and managed equally to a nationwide park on land, together with charges, and the utilization of the ecosystem assets. Right here we might set up the world’s largest marine park with an unbiased dive operation the place all revenues would return into reef restoration.

Inside the nationwide park boundaries will probably be one of many largest sculptural coral nurseries on the earth planted with warmth resistant coral. The area shall be used as a spawning floor for tremendous coral, and a harvesting space for fragmentation coral planting. The coral could be harvested utilizing strategies of sexual, or asexual copy. We hope to construct out 5 acres of interactive and elaborate sculpture mazes for all divers to take pleasure in. Our particular intentions are to emphasise night time diving by lighting up our sculptures at night time, highlighting particular coral progress, and creating probably the most memorable and breathtaking night time time diving expertise.

Are you able to clarify a bit extra concerning the sculptures and the supplies used? How do they differ from different synthetic reef buildings?

Counting Coral’s sculptures are made out of marine-grade chrome steel, which is a sturdy and non-corrosive materials. Differing from most coral gardening practices, Counting Coral’s buildings are usually not solely sensible, however are superbly designed, and add a visually interesting aesthetic to the underwater world. With a main give attention to being a coral nursery, there's immense significance to be visually interesting, as this can assist appeal to divers to those reefs for consciousness in addition to to divert visitors away from fragile pure reefs. Members of the area people during which these restoration websites reside are key stakeholders and obtain the financial advantage of the installations.

The advantages of Counting Coral’s sculptural nurseries embrace their capability to lower diver visitors from the delicate reef techniques, whereas driving consciousness by means of divers and the inventive aesthetic of the sculptures. When put in they're planted out as a primary stage coral nursery, planted with warmth resistant coral, and later being harvested and planted onto a secondary nursery or again onto the reef for restoration. Dive operators, hoteliers, eating places and the native communities  have an added income stream and grow to be stakeholders via these sculptures. In some instances, they may also be used as a research website for scientists to have a managed surroundings to review coral.

So the plan is to put in the primary sculpture park in Fiji, proper?

Fiji’s borders have been closed since March 2020 because of the COVID pandemic. As soon as Fiji opens their nation, Counting Coral plans to put in instantly. In Fiji, Counting Coral is partnered with Coral four Conservation, and Plantation Island Resort, who's internet hosting us during the set up. The sculptures might be partially assembled when shipped, however upon arrival, all 496 elements of the sculpture will have to be welded to create the completed artwork. As soon as assembled, rope and stakes can be used to organize the ocean flooring for the intricate design format. There are 109 sculptures to put in, beginning with 100 of the flower design, after which engaged on the bigger items which may weigh as much as 300 kilos. Float luggage will probably be used for this. The entire ocean set up shall be about 14 days.

Do you want any assist from PADI Divers? What kind of assist is perhaps wanted? How can we keep updated on potential alternatives?

Counting Coral does have key diving instructors to assist with the Malolo Reef Venture, nevertheless additional palms are wanted. Counting Coral can be thrilled to have PADI divers part of this undertaking and expertise. As Fiji will get constructed and extra restoration tasks are initiated, we would wish divers to assist with set up. Websites will range in location globally so we hope the diving group may also help restore reefs with us wherever they name residence. Our publication might be informative on the newest attainable alternatives in addition to our web site: countingcoral.com and we're on social media all over the place @countingcoral.

What is going to the sculpture park appear to be as soon as it’s within the water and can divers have the ability to go to? What kind of marine life do you hope it can appeal to and help?

The sculptural marine parks will range from website to website. The preliminary park in Fiji is a park of 109 sculptures surrounding the centerpiece that includes an unrevealed design across the theme of “hope”. Divers will completely be capable of, and are very welcomed to go to! Our sculpture might be planted out with warmth resistant coral reminiscent of thick-branching Staghorn Coral of blue Acropora Nobilis and multi-colored tightly branched Digitate coral, that is available in vibrant colours of purple, blue, yellow and inexperienced. It will usher in a plethora of reef fish, some for meals within the type of alea and sponges that may develop on our work and a few for shelter from predators.

How is the undertaking financed? Can divers donate to the initiative? How?

Counting Coral’s tasks are financed by most of the people, philanthropic donors, sponsors, supportive companies, and all of you! Our nonprofit mannequin is that each one donations go instantly into the tasks, each penny makes the world of distinction. We now have additionally included a full breakdown of the challenge’s extra particular prices, so we might be absolutely clear with all donors. Along with this, we're working in the direction of securing basis grants, each private and non-private. Divers can donate on our website (https://www.countingcoral.com/contribute-1) in addition to my private web page (https://secure.givelively.org//donate/counting-coral-corp/the-world-s-first-stainless-steel-sculptural-coral-nursery/viola-zhang). Please take a look at the “Donate” web page on our web site for the breakdown on undertaking prices.

If divers need you to think about their native reef for the subsequent sculpture park, what recommendation would you give them?  

For this request and any query or remark, please be happy to succeed in out! E mail Counting Coral at connect@countingcoral.com. Introduce us to your native reef and your group. Counting Coral can be thrilled to keep in touch with anybody trying to make any kind of change for his or her native reef.

Anything so as to add?

Counting Coral is so grateful to have the chance to speak, collaborate, and study from fantastic organizations corresponding to PADI. We’d wish to take a second to rejoice the Nonprofit sector and the selfless work that so many people do for our planet and our individuals. Nonprofit organizations play an important position in offering essential providers that strengthen communities and turn into a voice of the individuals or difficulty they serve. In a world that’s continually burdened with pure disasters, social injustices and numerous different issues, nonprofits function a glimpse of hope.

In distinction to the fantastic work they do, nonprofits obtain the least quantity of funding, making it more durable for them to scale and develop. Nonprofits, donors, philanthropists, eco-friendly companies, anybody that’s on the market making an attempt to make a distinction – you're a drive for good and we thanks on your direct actions and your variety coronary heart. Your engagement and help is sincerely appreciated. Please be happy to succeed in out at any time for any purpose –  connect@countingcoral.com

[Answers written by Viola Zhang, Brooke Hodgson, Jolyon Collier of Counting Coral]

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