Growing Stuff

Lu and I just finished cleaning the coral trees. It was good. A lot of work. I did have the feeling that Bonaire would be work. I wasn’t sure exactly how it would be, but an afternoon of cleaning coral nursery trees today helps to explain it!

Cleaning one tree takes about two hours. And that depends if you want to get all the fire coral off. Fire coral scrubs off like a milky stain. Scrub and scrub and maybe eventually you’ll get there. Use a scraper and the results are mixed. If you’re not careful, you end up scraping the fibreglass branch. I suppose there’s a knack to it. And you have to wear gloves for fire coral. Fireworm and fire coral. The names give these stinging animals away.

I’ve got Lu as my dive and cleaning buddy. I really didn’t expect her to be so enthused about helping out with coral cleaning. Not that she isn’t socially and environmentally conscious. Just that I usually need the equivalent of a fire coral scraper for her room.

But nope: put her on a coral tree and she brushes and cleans away. She likes it, she says. I should probably arrange her all her clothes on the floor like this. Hang them on a coral tree.

The whole craic of going to Buddy Dive is part of the fun too. They have such a great dive operation. A nice place to get changed and we get free tanks for volunteering. There are two ladders to enter the water. It’s easy and friendly. The staff are even friendlier now they see us coming more than once to help. Lars gave us a big hello! The Reef Renewal team meanwhile have their own office, storage rooms and makeshift lab.

It seems that growing coral can be as practical, or as scientific as you want it to be. I wont lie. I’ve been sniffing things out. Are there ongoing coral-based research projects? PhDs? Overall collaborations with universities or NGOs? The answer is yes to all of the above… with some room for expansion. I might be wrong, but it seems the most important thing so far has been growing the stuff. The conveyor belt of successful out-planted coral reef. And of course that’s good. That’s how it should be.

In these biological fields, things are often pragmatic. In embryology, work was also about the functional. I had a really long training period when I started out as an embryologist. Just writing the patients’ names and adding culture media to test tubes for the next day’s egg collections was a major operation. I loved it. I enjoyed the feeling of getting good at something simple. I remember being pushed to finally do egg collections and to process sperm samples. All the while, wishing I could go back to preparing test tubes.

Coral cleaning doesn’t seem so different. The cleaning part, like the preparation of tubes, is the essential part. It also grounds the person. Reminds them that the growing of stuff is about one main thing. The work.

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