Happy Small Business Saturday, Friends! I'm so happy to introduce this year's small business, The Reef Institute! As many of you have read in my recent emails, I am donating part of the profits of all of my Loggerhead Sea Turtle classic totes and sandwich baggies for the month of December. I hope you enjoy learning more about all of their great programs today and consider donating in the many ways mentioned or through the purchase of a bag.
Thank you, Mo Belanger, for representing The Reef Institute today!
Tell us a little bit about Reef Institute and how it started.
While I have only had the honor of being apart of this organization for a year, The Reef Institute (TRI) was founded in 2016 as “Healthy Aquatics Marine Institute of Florida” with a goal of improving ocean health while teaching students to care about their environment. In 2018, with the reality of Florida’s coral reefs in severe decline, Healthy Aquatics changed its name and identity to “The Reef Institute.” It was a natural change since the decision had already been made to move the organization towards coral conservation. The Reef Institute is on a mission of coral conservation through education, research and restoration. Our audacious vision is simple: We save the ocean. To do this, we believe we must start with saving our coral. Located in the Northwood District of West Palm Beach,TRI believes we must take a multifaceted approach of treating education, research and restoration equally. Our education endeavors reach over 9,000 people annually. As part of the Florida Coral Rescue Project, we are holding over 140 colonies of rescued coral. Our restoration efforts involve rearing juvenile corals that will be used to repopulate the ocean. Currently, TRI stands as the singular coral conservation non-profit with a focus on Palm Beach County first, and the Caribbean beyond.
What are you currently working on?
We are currently working on a few different projects both in and out of the water!
1. Our educational programming serves to move someone from becoming aware of coral conservation to becoming better stewards of the ocean at large. We provide K-12 education to multiple Palm Beach County schools to supplement their science classes with hands-on and engaging projects, activities, and lessons that place emphasis on marine conservation and conscious steps towards action in their own community. We also provide educational excursions, free education days at Peanut Island, outreach opportunities, interactive experiences, partner days, and pop up education. Currently, we are ramping up citizen science projects in and around Peanut Island.
2. The Marine Living Structures Initiate is a partnership with Michael Singer Studios to build ecologically engineered coral reefs. This unique intersection of architecture and marine conservation is an effort to protect shorelines while encouraging the growth of a living reef. While it may look like an artificial reef, it will attract the settlement of larval coral and one day become a true living reef. This project has been years in the making, and we are excited to finally see it coming to fruition as we have already placed them in Palm beach County and are excited to be expanding into the Bahamas this month!
3. Our Coral Christmas fundraiser! While this isn’t one of our typical projects, it is a special moment for us. As a small and young organization, we are working hard to get our name out in front of people and have them get to know us as the “coral people” in their community. This fundraiser is on Sunday, December 5th, in Jupiter and we would love to see everyone out there so they can get to know our cause and our mission- and of course, enter to win a Carly Mejeur Marine Art piece!
Do you have any funny or interesting stories you want to share from your adventures?
I think every day is funny and interesting at The Reef Institute. We are a small staff so we are constantly rotating between education, aquarium and coral care, research, snorkel eco-tours, and more! It makes every day exciting and allows us to have a hands-on approach to every aspect of the organization. I would say some of the most interesting days for us are when we get to connect students who are underexposed to the ocean, to teach them how to snorkel and identify fish and coral! It is always an eye opening day for our students and we love to see them fall in love with something that is so accessible to them. We also show them how to explore new career paths in marine science that they may not have thought about before, that is always a priceless experience for us!
How can people get involved, share, donate, etc.?
Great question! People can donate at www.reefinstitute.org/