Popular Coral City webcam has scientists excited about the health of dying reefs around the world

MIAMI – At the very beginning of the pandemic, a new experiment launched in South Florida brought joy and peace to millions of people around the world who were locked in their homes.

It’s an underwater webcam in a coral reef just off PortMiami that scientists believe may hold the key to saving dying reefs, not just here in Florida, but around the world.

“Miami is the magic city, magic is everywhere,” said Colin Foord, co-founder of Coral Morphlogic. “And being able to live in a city where megafauna are swimming around it, for me, is really special.”

An underwater symphony of life presented to a global audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, through the lens of the Coral City webcam.

“We’re in Vice City,” Foord said. “I mean, you can’t get more from Miami than that.”

The art-science hybrid research project is the brainchild of Foord and his partner at Coral Morphologic.

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In February 2020, the team strategically placed a live underwater camera on a coral reef along the shore at the east end of PortMiami that the world would soon discover teeming with life.

“We saw over 185 species of fish,” Foord said. “We see manatees almost every day, lemon sharks every day. We see seabirds, we’ve seen loons, we’ve seen sea turtles, we’ve seen octopus, squid.

All of this, plus playful dolphins, at least a dozen different species of sharks and rays, and 22 different species of coral, and counting.

“Five different species of brain coral,” Foord said. “We now have Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral. Pretty much any species you find offshore may have pioneered here.

This is quite remarkable considering all the environmental challenges that corals face around the world.

The Florida Reef is the third largest reef system in the world. However, it is rapidly disappearing due to climate change and disease.

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“Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most unhealthy integrated coral reef ecosystems in the world,” Foord said.

In fact, only two percent of Florida’s original coral cover remains, yet the corals living in PortMiami are thriving.

And it’s the resilience of these urban corals that now drives Foord’s research with the University of Miami and NOAA scientists.

“Trying to figure out how these corals are able to survive so close to town with all the anthropogenic sources of pollution, extremes and temperature, and yet the corals here seem to be thriving even better than they are offshore and in the national park,” he said.

Super corals that reproduce and grow in an urban environment that has become a coral sanctuary.

In fact, when one of Star Island’s century-old seawalls collapsed a few weeks ago, NOAA scientists rescued all the living coral there, some of Miami’s oldest, and brought them to the coral. cam reef.

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“Just yesterday, 15 coral colonies from the Star Island breakwater collapsed where they were transplanted here,” Foord said.

The next day, Louis Aguirre of Foord and Local 10 News went to check how these coral refugees had settled into their new excavations.

“So far they look great,” Foord said. “The first few days after transplanting are kind of the most critical because you’re dealing with a coral that has to adapt and acclimatize.”

It was a very good sign that the corals will survive.

Some reef dwellers also came over to say hello. RJ the parrotfish, Lisa the lemon shark, and Hunter the porcupine pufferfish, all identifiable by unique markings and traits.

“In fact, they live here. it’s like a city,” Foord said. “They are not transient, but this is truly their home.”

A home to an abundance of sea life.

A living laboratory for Foord, who hopes the corals could be the ones to seed offshore reefs and hold promise for corals around the world.

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“You couldn’t build a better lab to understand how corals are going to adapt in the future,” he said. “If you want to understand how corals are going to adapt globally in the future, you come and look at Miami today.”

People watch the Coral City webcam from around the world for an average of 45 minutes at a time.

The diehards are called coral heads. And the coral camera Youtube channel logs about two million minutes of viewing each month.

It’s free on YouTube, and through that you can really start to learn a lot about our local ecology, the health of Biscayne Bay.

To visit the Coral City Webcam, Click here.

They are also on Instagram, which can be found by click here.

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