Trevor Caughlin
Recently, I moved away from Boise and my internship at GARF to attend college in Florida. The aquariums at GARF have been replaced by a somewhat bigger tank: the Gulf of Mexico.

One of the most distinctive sights along the coast here is a group of posts sticking straight out of the sand. The yellow tape, often used by police to signify a crime scene, is strung between the posts.

But this is not the sight of a murder. Rather, it is a place where new life starts. These sites are sea turtle nests! The posts and tape protect the sea turtle eggs from stray feet, bicycles and children with shovels.

Sea turtle conservation is a big deal here. Actions taken to preserve this endangered and beautiful species include measures like the yellow tape and a suggestion for black-outs: in order to reduce light pollution (which bothers the turtles), beach-front properties are asked to turn their lights off at night.

There are other aspects of sea turtle survival that are looked at perhaps less frequently. One of these aspects unexpectedly leads right back to GARF.

According to Karen Bjorndal, of the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, the preferred food item for the hawksbill sea turtle is Ricordea florida. I couldn't believe it! The familiar Ricordea, something GARF propagates and sends out every day as part of our soft coral sets, is not just a gorgeous coral for the reef tank, but an essential part of the diet of sea turtles.


This connection demonstrates once again the importance not only for coral conservation but for a better understanding of coral species. In many places, corals provide a first link in the vast food web that powers the ocean. If coral species become extinct in the ocean, it will have great consequences on everything in the sea. Sea turtles and Ricordea are just one example of an unexpected connection between the corals and their environment. There are many more connections, some that we know about and others that people have probably never guessed at.

This is why the aquaculture of corals is so important. First of all, captive-raised corals will not place further stress on the populations of wild corals, which are not only currently overcollected but also rapidly being damaged by pollution and many other factors. Second, having corals in captivity will allow for further study of these fascinating animals. The more we know about corals, the better we can manage the ocean as a whole.

As a hobbyist, you can help with these goals. Buy only captive-raised corals, and pay attention to your reef: you just may discover some new aspect of coral life!