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Researcher Postpones Retirement After Accidentally Discovering Method to Restore Coral Reefs

By Carly Sitzer

After a lifetime of hard work, Dr. David Vaughan was looking forward to enjoying retired life — until he made a discovery that could rewrite for the future of our coral reefs. And to make it all the more impressive, it turns out that the initial discovery of his groundbreaking method of coral reef restoration was initially an accident. 

Dr. Vaughan was studying corals at his place of work, the Mote Marine Laboratory, where was trying to remove one piece from the bottom of the tank, and accidentally shattering it. Much to his surprise, all the pieces then regrew in a matter of weeks even though the original coral took three years to grow to the same size. Dr. Vaughan’s process — dubbed “micro-fragmenting” — allows corals to grow 40 times faster than they would in the wild, the lab’s research has found. Additionally, the process has proven to be successful with every species of coral found in the Florida’s reef. 

The newly discovered process gives renewed hope not to only the Florida Reef, but also to Dr. Vaughan, who has set an ambitious goal to “plant” 100,000 corals on the Florida Reef Track by 2019, with plans to share their restoration findings with researchers around the world.