ReeFLorida Symposium: Bringing the Coral Reef Community Together

After an alarming heatwave over the summer which resulted in mass coral bleaching throughout Florida’s Coral Reef, it is more important than ever for researchers, conservationists, educators, and the public to work together to conserve our reefs. As part of our role as the National Coral Reef Conservancy (ReeFLorida), Frost Science helped to initiate these collaborations by holding the first-ever ReeFLorida Symposium at the museum from November 6-9. The Symposium gathered over 150 researchers, conservationists, and educators invested in the health of Florida’s Coral Reef, bringing them together to discuss the challenges and opportunities to save Florida’s Coral Reef and the immense biodiversity that relies on it.

The meeting featured plenary talks from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Sarah Fangman, University of Miami professor Dr. Andrew Baker, and Oscar Flores and Joyce Campbell-San Jorge, both high school science educators from Miami-Dade County. Each provided an important perspective on the status of research, conservation, and education regarding Florida’s Coral Reef.

In addition to these presentations, participants also attended a variety of 15-minute scientific presentations focused on how to better understand, conserve, restore, and champion Florida’s Coral Reef. The scientific program included 49 such presentations, with topics ranging from “urbanized corals” that are growing nearshore in areas like the Port of Miami, to how to facilitate effective community stewardship and public engagement with reef conservation.

These talks inspired attendees to ask questions and share their own experiences, building relationships and professional collaborations that will sustain our reefs for decades to come. Many attendees were impressed with the quality of the presentations and appreciated the opportunity to receive cutting-edge research content firsthand. Attendees also had the option to attend workshops on topics including scientific communication through outreach and infographic design, fish identification and survey methods, and the Southeast Florida Action Network BleachWatch program.

The Symposium also included evening events such as a research poster session and networking event. Both gave attendees time to discuss the new research they had learned and make new connections in informal settings. On November 7, participants perused 16 poster presentations while enjoying drinks and catching up with colleagues. The networking event on November 8 featured beautiful rooftop views, drinks and snacks, and a competitive bingo game that required participants to introduce themselves to new faces.

After the networking event, keynote speaker Dr. Les Kaufman of Boston University was able to connect with both symposium attendees and the public during his free LIVE@Frost Science event, Breathing New Life into Florida’s Coral Reef. During his talk he delivered an inspiring message of reef recovery and emphasized the efforts of an ever-growing community dedicated to supporting Florida’s Coral Reef. The symposium wrapped up on November 9 with a barbeque hosted by Nova Southeastern University and held at the Marine Environmental Education Center.

This symposium was made possible by a federal grant through the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The ReeFLorida Symposium is an annual event held at Frost Science. If you are a researcher, conservationist, or educator focused on Florida’s coral reef, we hope you join us next year!

Special thanks to our sponsors of the 2023 ReeFLorida Symposium:

  • Plankton level – Reef Aquaria Design

  • Polyp Level – Constellation Culinary Group, Open Water, Georgian Wine and Spirits, Eagle Brands Sales, RSLVE, Ascendence Sustainable Events