Ocean Conservation Seminars 


Thank you to all of those that joined us to make our first ever Speaker Series a success!

We look forward to offering additional talks in the future and hope you will join us.

Coral Restoration Foundation held an afternoon of engaging guest speakers. This Speaker Series complemented our 5th Annual Gala hosted on April 1st at Ocean Reef Club. The 30-minute presentations highlighted conservation initiatives from partner organizations throughout Florida. Attendees also had the opportunity to meet with Coral Restoration Foundation team members and discover ways to get involved through volunteering and upcoming events.

Speakers Include:

Ashley Hill, Education Program Manager of Coral Restoration Foundation

“Restoring Reefs and Empowering Change”

Coral reefs are some of the most vital ecosystems to this planet! Coral Restoration Foundation is working to restore reefs and educate others about the importance of ocean conservation. In her presentation, Ashley Hill provides an overview of CRF programs, where they’ve been, where they are, and where we are headed.

About the Speaker:

Despite growing up in the landlocked state of Colorado, Ashley fell in love with the ocean at a young age and pursued a degree in marine science. Ashley graduated from Western Washington University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and emphasis in Marine Ecology. After studying coral reefs while abroad, Ashley knew that reef preservation and conservation was her calling. Ashley began her time at Coral Restoration Foundation in 2014 and has happily resided in Key Largo ever since. She is responsible for all educational messaging, outreach programming, and education initiatives. She also runs the internship program for the organization and works with the Dive Program Manager, Roxane Boonstra, to provide immersive learning opportunities!

Tommy Cutt, Chief Conservation Officer of Loggerhead Marinelife Center

“Living to Change: Improving the Health of the Global Ocean Through Local Action”

The actions of mankind have left a devastating impact on our ocean. Discover the work being done globally by Loggerhead Marinelife Center to protect the ocean and marine life and how each person can make a difference.

About the Speaker:

As Chief Conservation Officer, Tommy Cutt propels the evolution of Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s (LMC) conservation strategy and education programs. His focus includes developing and expanding LMC’s programming portfolio to provide accessible environmental education to guests and partners worldwide. Tommy, an innovative and visionary thinker, designs global conservation programs to offer creative and practical solutions to individuals, organizations, and government municipalities. With a community focus in mind, he seeks to bring people of common interest together to reduce human-caused stressors impacting the ocean and marine life.

Tommy is an active member in his local community. He serves on the Board of Directors for MOC Marine Institute, coordinates the South Maui Marine Turtle Stranding Network, and participates in numerous underwater and beach cleanup events.

The ocean has long been a place for recreation and inspiration for Tommy. When he’s not traveling across the world to work with conservation partners, Tommy can be found surfing, diving, and exploring the ocean near his home in Maui, Hawai’i.

Colin Foord, Co-Founder of Coral Morphologic

“Coral: From Microscope to Telescope, the Most Cosmic Form of Life on Earth”

Corals are a life-form that intelligently amalgamates animal, plant, and mineral into a collective unit, and whose life-cycle is controlled by the cosmic synchronicity of the Sun and Moon. Besides humans, corals are the only other animals that have created colonies on a scale visible from space on Earth. These reefs are successful ecosystems where symbiosis, opportunism, and complex interdependence create a harmonic foundation for the evolution and diversity of life. Corals have survived multiple global extinctions over millions of years, and yet man has only been building cities for several thousand, the lifespan of a typical reef. It is the corals’ innate ability to morph, adapt, clone, evolve, symbios, and reproduce that provide humanity with a blueprint for sustainable living on planet Earth.

Colin proposes that unlocking the secrets of coral reproduction and aquaculture is a culminating achievement in humankind’s quest for colonization of planet Earth, and is a gateway through which we must pass before expanding our knowledge of unknown worlds. Furthermore, symbiosis between corals and humans will be essential for our collective survival in the (accelerating) decades to come. When, and if, Homo sapiens finally leaves planet Earth in search of aquatic worlds, corals will be hitchhiking with them.

About the Speaker:

Colin Foord is a marine biologist, coral aquaculturist, artist, and filmmaker educated at the University of Miami and James Cook University in Australia. He is co-founder of marine biological art duo Coral Morphologic, through which he operates the world’s only multi-media coral aquaculture studio located in the heart of Miami. It is Colin’s mission to bridge the gap between art and science by exploring corals in a humanistic way, such that people of all ages can relate with the mystery and importance of conserving the world’s tropical reefs.

Beyond Miami, Colin has explored the reefs of Indonesia, Australia, Fiji, Cook Islands, Bahamas, Hawaii, Arabian Gulf,, and the Solomon Islands. He has been featured by the BBC, New Yorker, the Miami Herald, Vice Magazine, the Sundance Film Festival, NPR, the New York Times, and CBS Morning News.

Margaret W. Miller, NOAA-NMFS, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

“Elkhorn and Staghorn Coral Restoration in the Upper Keys: Is it Doing Any Good?”

The fate of elkhorn and staghorn corals has been a sad one over the past four decades.  The development and investment in new models of proactive enhancement of coral populations in the past 10 years has produced hundreds of thousands of new corals in Florida alone.  Skeptics may inquire, however, as to the long term, reef scale benefits if these new corals are subject to the same ongoing environmental stressors that have degraded the natural population.  In fact, research is demonstrating that, though background elkhorn and staghorn coral populations continue to decline, coral outplanting efforts are successfully offsetting these losses.  More importantly, the research and monitoring platform provided by coral nursery and outplanting efforts is revealing that some corals show inherent resistance to both coral bleaching and disease, the primary drivers of coral loss.  These inherent resistance traits in cultured coral stocks can provide tools to foster improved resilience in restored coral populations of the near future.

About the Speaker:

Margaret Miller is an Ecologist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center.  She received an undergraduate degree from Indiana University and a doctorate in marine ecology from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill).  She then moved to south Florida and began studying coral in the Florida Keys under a three years post-doctoral position with the University of Miami.  She began work for NOAA in 1997 as the lead benthic ecologist at the Miami Lab and has served as a foundation for its growing coral reef program.  She is an active field researcher and diver.  Her current research addresses coral early life history, coral restoration, population studies of threatened elkhorn and stagorn corals and their threats. She resides with her husband and 13-yr old son in Miami, FL.

Tracy Nolan, Education Director of Debris Free Oceans

“Marine Debris: Impacts and Solutions”

Plastic is one of the most pervasive forms of pollution in modern society.  This presentation will give a brief overview of how that came to be, how plastic is affecting marine ecosystems and wildlife, and what you can do in your every-day life to help spread awareness regarding this issue.

About the Speaker:

Tracy obtained her Masters of Professional Science degree from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, in May of 2016. She has spent the majority of the last three years focusing on plastic pollution research, education, and building Debris Free Oceans. She is currently the Education Director at Debris Free Oceans and a naturalist at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, where she educates children on coastal ecosystems and marine debris.

Michael Terrell, Florida Aquarium

” ’90 Miles By Water’ Collaboration Between the Florida Aquarium and the Aquario Nacional de Cuba for Coral Reef Restoration”

Coral reefs worldwide are in severe decline due to local, regional, and global stressors.  While many of Cuba’s reefs are still pristine, others are beginning to show decline. This month biologists from the Florida Aquarium traveled to Cuba to assist the Aquario Nacional de Cuba with the installation of their first large scale in situ coral nursery.

Using techniques developed by the Coral Restoration Foundation, the collaborative team installed a 20 “tree” nursery, complete with 20 presumed genotypes of staghorn coral, off the coast of Maria la Gorda in the Guanahacabibes National Park.

About the Speaker:

Michael Terrell is the Director of Husbandry at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, the 250,000 square foot home for over 20,000 animals from around the world.  The aquarium fulfills its mission – to entertain, educate and inspire stewardship about our natural environment – by creating immersive experiences for guests, taking them into the animal’s world and connecting them to the aquarium’s conservation efforts.

Prior to his current position, Michael was the aquarium’s Dive Safety Officer and oversaw the aquarium’s 9,000+ annual dives.  An accomplished scientific diver and dive instructor, Michael has worked on numerous field projects, including the Tampa Bay Shipwreck Survey, Little Salt Spring Archaeological Investigation, deep coral studies on Pulley Ridge in the Gulf of Mexico and coral spawning operations in the Florida Keys.

When not at the aquarium, Michael enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife and two sons.