While Miami’s 1st Service Platoon has been dedicated to environmental conservation and stewardship, most of it has been done on land. They wanted to branch out to water-based efforts as well. They didn’t have to look far. Given how integral the water is to life in Florida and the ecosystem of South Florida, they decided to help in one of the places it’s needed most: dying coral reefs. 

Coral reefs are the bedrock of life for many species of sea life, and are largely hailed as the most biologically diverse places on Earth. Their health is crucial, which makes any effort to help them all the more crucial as well.

The Miami 1st Service Platoon partnered with the University of Miami’s Rescue A Reef scientific team to send 40 veteran/active duty platoon members out on two coral reef restoration dives in Biscayne National Park. The group emplaced over 225+ corals and activated a new wave of veteran citizen scientists!

According to the University of Miami, their “coral restoration program is a citizen science project designed to support coral reef research and restoration activities to restore local staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) populations on Miami’s coral reefs.” The experience “provide[s] a unique, hands-on education experience for recreational divers and snorkelers to participate in coral restoration efforts.”

Dalton Hesley, Senior Research Associate at the University of Miami’s Benthic Ecology and Coral Restoration Lab was a key in growing this partnership. He led both dives for our veterans, and educated them on coral reef restoration. 

More than that, he coordinated the service event with us, and as we worked together for over a year to bring this event to fruition, it became more and more clear how passionate he is about his work. His enthusiasm spread to our veterans, who walked away with a deeper appreciation for coral reef conservation.

This was truly a win-win service event. Dalton said, “This collaboration with The Mission Continues was important as it allowed our team to connect with a new audience and advance our coral reef restoration efforts. With their help, we were able to team up with 40 U.S. veterans and outplant 225+ staghorn corals to a local reef-in-need.”

“The mission did not end there, however. These individuals can now act as stewards for coral conservation and educate others on their role and importance.”

To illustrate his point, veteran Karen Quiles learned a lot at this service project. She said, “I was immediately inspired to do more and help raise awareness.”

Karen is a platoon member and Service Leadership Corps alumna. She started scuba diving in her teens and says she noticed more and more trash building up over the years. She is very interested in helping save the reef habitat and has volunteered with other organizations for that purpose. From her perspective, “Partnering with Rescue a Reef has been a huge step forward for the local service platoons to be aware and engaged in local ocean conservation efforts.” 

Even for a seasoned environmentalist, “It was exciting to have hands-on knowledge and experience planting corals back in our local reefs, being a part of that effort and movement, and meeting people that dedicate their lives to the health of our oceans.”

Thank You!

A special thank you to our partners Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, who are dedicated to ocean conservation and veteran causes, and to the brilliant team at the University of Miami’s Rescue a Reef program, who fight daily to save one of our ocean’s most precious resources. 

We also could not have completed this partnership without our friends at Aquanauts, who helped us greatly by providing a discounted rate for diving gear rentals.