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Coral reef conservation: One school’s effort at awareness

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 5:25 PM EDT
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REDDICK, Fla. (WCJB) - Climate change and conservation - it’s something world leaders, scientists and conservationists are trying to get a handle on.

TV20 visited first graders at Reddick-Collier Elementary School, where they glazed ‘corals’, and took finished ceramics out of the kiln.

It’s all part of a conservation project by Art Teacher PJ Commerford.

“Half of all corals in the last 50 years have died. When I looked into it more, I found out that the corals around the world are threatened and sadly the worst situation is here in Florida,” Commerford said.

According to the Florida Museum, pollution, over fishing, tourism and global climate change are among the greatest threats to coral reefs.

Florida’s corals are also facing ‘stony coral tissue loss disease’, which first appeared in 2014.

“Especially in Florida, but also world wide, coral reefs are really suffering…Florida is an ocean state. Without being good stewards and conservators of the ocean, it’s going to dramatically effect quality of life and the economy of the state,” Dean Emeritus and Professor at the NOVA Southeastern University, Richard Dodge said.

He said there are things being done to bring these sea creatures back including growing new corals in a nursery and transplanting them later, but if we stay on the current path and do nothing, it could be detrimental.

“Your fish populations would decrease, lobster populations, you’d probably have an over growth of algae covering the reefs. The quality of life and the quantity of life would be vastly decreased,” he said.

Back in the class room, Commerford said she took inspiration from Ocean Conservationist and Ceramic Artist Courtney Mattison.

They started the school wide initiative six months ago.

“They were so excited about it. They made this coral themselves and again, the whole class contributed to it,” Commerford said.

Some of the ceramic corals will be painted bright colors like blue but the others will remain white to symbolize just how many have died.

With the help of a grant, the finished project will be installed in the school’s front office.

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