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Key Largo Citizen Science Diving Project


We envision conducting citizen-science, donor-participant research expeditions to help protect coral reefs in the Florida Keys.


July 10, 2023


Key Largo, FL

Sustainable Development Goals


This unusual program would involve citizens in hands-on, cutting-edge scientific research. It is the outgrowth of Dr. Porter’s multi-decades career in teaching, research, and policy advice on coral reef conservation in the Florida Keys. Discoveries from his research program have already saved coral in Key West. For this work, Dr. Porter received the 2020 Eminence in Research Award from the International Coral Reef Society. For his contributions to the Netflix Documentary, Chasing Coral, he received a 2017 Peabody Award and the 2018 Emmy Award for Best Nature Documentary.

We propose to organize two 7-day research expeditions with 10 SCUBA divers each in the Florida Keys during 2023. The goal of each expedition will be to engage all of the donor-participants in front-line scientific research. The research will be focused on the detection, quantification, and prevention of coral disease in the Florida Keys. Divers will be trained to systematically photograph the reef and take samples for water-quality analyses. Diver certification or recertification will be available prior to each expedition for those wishing to receive advanced SCUBA training. Our research stations are all located in shallow water (no station is greater than 30’ and several stations are in less than 6’) and in places where Dr. Porter has worked for more than 50 years. The ease of access and shallowness of many of these patch reef sites means that full science team participation is possible.

Expedition members will be fully immersed in all aspects of this coral reef conservation project. There will be several evening lectures which will provide context and detail for our reef investigations. Everyone will participate in the in-water work, sample processing, and computer analyses after we return to shore. With their hands-on participation and generous donations, participants are making possible a continuation of this National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health funded research. By their involvement, donor-participants are advancing both coral reef science and coral reef protection for one of the most biodiverse, and yet critically endangered, ecosystems on Earth.

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Jim Porter – Meigs Distinguished Professor at University of Georgia – Emeritus

Leslie Ruyle – ruyle@exchange.tamu.edu – Research Professor at Texas A&M University

Jake McGrew – Executive Director of TNT