Ken Nedimyer first dived into the pristine waters off the Florida Keys at the tender age of 13, whilst on vacation with his parents. He loved it so much, that he returned in 1969, to obtain a degree in Zoology from the Florida Atlantic University and never left.
Everything went well until 1977, when a series of cold fronts resulted in such extreme temperatures that two of Florida's reef building corals - the Staghorn and Elkhorn were severely impacted. The ones that were not killed were weakened and destroyed by an outbreak of the 'White Band disease' - A condition that peels off the coral skeleton in a uniform band.
In 1985, just as the corals were beginning to recover, a couple of destructive hurricanes hit Florida's coast forcing them into such a serious decline, that they had to be placed on the endangered list.
While distressed at seeing the beautiful coral disappear, Ken had no idea how to fix the issue. Then in 2000, he noticed tiny Staghorn coral beginning to grow in his underwater live rock farm. Intrigued, his daughter and he decided to try artificially cultivate some for a high school project.
They were so successful, that Ken decided to approach the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to see if they could use their method to help restore Florida's coral. Ken received his first grant in 2004 for a pilot project and since then, there has been no looking back!
While things are still not back to normal, a lot more funding has been granted and the Coral Restoration Project has now been extended along the entire Florida Reef Tract and all the way down to the US Virgin Islands.
Though Florida's issue was unique, disappearing coral is a problem worldwide. Scientists estimate that about 25% of the world's coral has been lost, primarily due to the rising sea temperatures and higher carbon dioxide levels caused by global warming. They believe that if something is not done soon, more than half of the world's coral will vanish within the next 50 years. Ken Nedimyer believes that his method of coral re-planting can be implemented anywhere in the world and hopes, that others will follow his lead.
Resources: coralmagazine.com,www.fla-com, reefresileince.org