TED Conversations

Colleen Flanigan

Director, TED Media, Miss Snail Pail


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Reviving corals -- how can your community maintain the living sea sculptures?

Do you live in or know of a place that could benefit from coral restoration, shore protection, artistic coral refuges?

Corals are dying due to many conditions largely caused by humans: overfishing, pollution, run-off, climate change, ocean acidification, sedimentation.

How we can implement more restoration to complement Marine Protected Areas and waste reduction?

I work to rehabilitate corals using BiorockĀ® mineral accretion.
This is how it works:
low volt direct current through seawater precipitates mineral deposition onto metal. The resulting surface is a natural substrate for corals to settle upon and colonize. The process can increase their survival in heating trends, and the corals can grow faster because they are getting minerals for exoskeleton growth from the electrolysis. To learn more about a current project in Cancun, Mexico that unites art, science, and eco-tourism: http://kck.st/vZ4GIk
And also: http://blog.ted.com/2012/03/09/sculpting-coral-gardens-fellows-friday-with-colleen-flanigan/

The aim is to help people and oceans live in better harmony.

What do you think makes the ideal scenario and approach for creating a successful coral refuge that is assured to be maintained after installation?

Do you have suggestions for creating a self-contained power supply to make this technology more viable worldwide?


Closing Statement from Colleen Flanigan

thank you all, for joining and sharing your voices.. And thanks, Troy, for those contacts; I did not get here in time to reply. This question led to discussion and agreement that there are problems and solutions are needed. Seems internal infrastructure and interdisciplinary programs are suggested. Bottom up. I tried to reframe the question to invite more direct responses about who within communities are interested in this work and how can they set up systems to be responsible for these type of projects. What are the incentives and ways to get more projects going. To date, Bali has the 2 most cared for Biorock nurseries and it is because of expats and locals, NGO's and dive shops, govt, tourists, universities, and workshops doing it together. As an artist activist, I believe this art/sci work can help the environment, the economy, and education, so hope to meet more partners open and ready to make it happen.

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    Mar 8 2012: For your title question, I'd suggest you to look at World Resources Institute's site (http://www.wri.org/), they have published very detailed reports on the state of the coral reefs all around the world, down to the specific stressors in each region.
    To protect the marine habitats, we have to go to the source of their degradation: the land. Watershed protection, urban planning and zoning as well as urban surface cover management to reduce runoffs, habitat restoration are just some approaches to address parts of this solution. Marine ecosystems cannot be considered as a separate entity. They are engulfed by the socio-economic and urban/rural characteristics of the human activities within their proximity. Therefore the whole cycles of production and waste should be tackled as a closed loop holistic system.
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      Mar 9 2012: thanks. i will check it out. i very much agree with you, Naz. And to my reply above, I now add that crucial element: the developers/planners that are so key in preventing their run-off. That is the crux when it comes to eco-tourism: making sure it is not just a publicity stunt and bringing in commitments to comply with treating the waste of hotels and buildings so that they are composted through plants and other bio-remediation. When I think of doing these projects, I would like to see policies that integrate the holistic approach you talk about, or else it can be much effort with barely symbolic impact once realized. How to get businesses to clearly see that their capital is dependent on the beauty and well-being of nature is a big issue. Do you work in this field of holistic systems?
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        Mar 9 2012: Yes, I'm an architect by background, and I'm now doing my graduate degree in sustainable design. My focus is the impacts of urbanism coupled with climate change on fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs.
        Right now, as a course-related work, I'm trying to create a watershed protection and management process and plan to alleviate the urban impacts on coral reefs in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, while also focusing on issues like capacity building and job creation; trying to address both socio-economic and environmental problems within a single project. (it's just a project unfortunately.)
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          Mar 9 2012: Haiti is one place that I've wanted to connect with about putting some of these structures closer to shore so that it could attract fish and other marine organisms for food while keeping the deeper outer waters Marine Protected Areas so that other fish could grow to full size and recover their populations undisturbed. With such a huge hunger problem in Haiti, and fish being such a necessary food supply, it might help. There is a group in France that is working to populate the Biorock structures with juvenile fish so that they can quickly become open water sustainable "fisheries." I wish you the best with this project. please let me know if you meet people who are interested in creating shore structures...
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        Mar 9 2012: In Haiti, a group called Reef Check is working on coral monitoring and ecotourism capacity building. Maybe you'd like to check that out.
        I believe NOAA also has a coral reef program.

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