Biscayne National Park

Coral Restoration Intern -  Miami, FL

Position Type: LHIP Internship
Primary Field: Resource Management

The coral restoration internship will focus on coral restoration actions in Biscayne National Park (BISC). The intern will be a key participant in two field initiatives: large-scale outplanting of nursery-propagated corals, and treating diseased corals affected by Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. The intern will also monitor outplanted corals and disease treatments.

Park needs:

An extensive and thriving coral reef ecosystem was a key factor in the creation of the park. Now, reef health in the park mirrors regional and global patterns of demise. Coral reefs are in severe decline due to multiple factors including thermal stress, disease, ocean acidification, overfishing, coastal development, and more. Within the past decade, several species of stony corals have been listed under the Endangered Species Act. Coral populations in the park have been hit particularly hard in recent years by back-to-back bleaching events, followed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Additionally, the Florida Reef Tract is under siege by an ongoing and unprecedented coral disease outbreak. The “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease” (SCTLD) outbreak has spread across the entire reef tract from Martin County to Key West, and is now racing through reefs in the Caribbean.  Resource trustees view the SCTLD outbreak as an ecological catastrophe.

Park coral populations are at a historic low. The park embraces active measures to conserve its precious coral reef resources, by rebuilding large and genetically diverse coral populations and by implementing the best available coral disease intervention methods.  The goal of coral restoration is to support coral populations until the abatement of regional and global stressors enables the recreation of ecosystems in which coral reefs can thrive. The intern will directly contribute to two active restoration fronts: coral disease intervention and rebuilding dwindling coral populations.

Project goals:

The intern will spend approximately 50% of the internship treating diseased corals with an antibiotic ointment, while embedded in various dive park operations. The intern will be responsible for preparing and administering the treatment ointment, documenting treatment applications (noting coral species, size, treatment methods, site coordinates; installing marker tags; and photographing treatments), and monitoring treatment effectiveness. The intern will "piggy-back" on multiple dive operations to enable broad coverage of park reefs for disease treatment.  This approach will also provide the intern with the opportunity to learn first-hand about the wide variety of resource management and research initiatives ongoing in the park.

The intern will spend approximately 25% of the internship working directly with coral nursery partners and park staff outplanting corals to multiple reef areas. The intern will be responsible for helping to prepare, transporting, and staging corals at outplanting sites, installing site markers, preparing outplanting sites, preparing reattachment materials (e.g. epoxy, cement, nails, cable ties), physically outplanting corals, and monitoring outplant survival.

The intern will spend a small portion of time helping coworkers on other natural resource management projects such as sea turtle nest monitoring, marine debris removal, lionfish management, and fish and lobster creel surveys.

Disease treatment, restoration, and monitoring activities will be conducted alongside the supervisor and/or coworkers, following established protocols.   Across all field efforts, daily work requires substantial advance and day-of planning, adherence to safety protocols, assembly of dive and field equipment, boat operation, problem-solving, equipment cleanup and breakdown, and summary documentation.

Deliverables and work products: The intern will be responsible for thoroughly documenting the disease treatments that s/he implements, using existing datasheets, and ensuring that all treatment data collected during the internship are entered in an existing MS Access database. The intern will also create two brief summary reports, one each for disease intervention (quantifying corals treated, species, locations, treatment methods, treatment efficacy) and outplanting efforts (noting outplanted species, quantities, methods, sites, and initial monitoring results).

Qualifications:

Applicants must have completed advanced coursework towards a bachelor’s degree in biology, ecology, marine science or a related field. Graduate students in the aforementioned disciplines are encouraged to apply.

Required qualifications:

  • SCUBA certification
  • Active scientific diver status through an AAUS organization
  • A minimum of 10 scientific dives
  • Experience with underwater data collection
  • Knowledge of coral reef ecology
  • Software proficiency: MS Word, MS Excel, MS Access, ESRI ArcGIS
  • Willingness to work with and take direction from a variety of coworkers
  • Willingness to withstand long field days with exposure to high temperatures, extended sun exposure, rough seas, chilling associated with long hours in the water, biting insects, and hazardous marine life
  • Willingness to spend extended periods of time performing tedious office tasks (e.g. data entry and processing)

Preferred qualifications:

  • Previous experience with small boat operations
  • DOI Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC)
  • Coral restoration experience
  • Experience with scientific data entry

 Work Environment:

The intern will work a full-time schedule that will be heavily field-oriented. Once appropriate training levels are achieved, it is anticipated that the majority of workdays will be spent as dive days, of course leaving appropriate time for recovery, rest, and other responsibilities. Long hours are spent on boats and in the water, snorkeling and/or diving. Heavy lifting is required (e.g. SCUBA tanks). The internship involves frequent exposure to heat and sun, as well as to hazardous marine life. The park frequently hosts multiple interns throughout the year.

Driver's License:

A valid license is required as the intern may occasionally drive park vehicles. A personal vehicle is required to commute between the park and the local communities (for shopping, banking, entertainment, etc.) and/or to a residence if the intern does not live at the park.