Moody Gardens Opens Reefer Lab on 4/20

Aquarium Pyramid’s New Coral Reef Lab Addresses Critical
Environmental Crisis On Florida Reef Tract

GALVESTON, Texas–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Moody Gardens wants you to be a reefer starting 4/20. Now that we have
your attention, an international effort is underway to increase
awareness and combat a disease that is rapidly killing the Florida Reef
Tract, the third largest coral reef system in the world. Moody Gardens’
new Coral Rescue Lab will be used to propagate coral as it focuses on
species being impacted by this disease.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) selected Moody Gardens to
participate in this vital project to help save corals native to the
Florida Reef Tract as one of 60 institutions from 21 states and Canada.

“We are excited and honored to be selected as one of the institutions
that are being entrusted with the care of these corals,” said Greg
Whittaker, Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager.

In 2014, an unidentified coral tissue loss disease was first observed in
Miami-Dade County and quickly spread throughout the north areas of the
Florida Reef Tract. The disease outbreak continued to persistently
spread south of Miami through the Upper and Middle Keys, reaching the
Lower Keys by April 2018.

In response to the disease the Florida Wildlife Commission (FWC),
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Florida Keys National Marine
Sanctuary (FKNMS), and the Florida Department of Environmental
Protection (FDEP) have formed the Florida Coral Rescue Team to execute
the Florida Coral Rescue Plan to save what is left of Florida’s healthy
coral stocks. Part of that plan includes the Rescue Team reaching out to
institutions to house and maintain corals for gene banking and
propagation for potential future restoration activities.

The Rescue Plan has two primary goals: prevent ecological extinction of
the most susceptible species along the Florida Reef Tract, and maintain
as much genetic diversity as possible among approximately 25 species of
coral.

“Corals are animals and are highly impacted by their environment.
Through this effort we are helping nature respond to a crisis and
recover to once again become a healthy ecosystem,” Whittaker said.

In March the Aquarium Pyramid received 250 pieces of live aquacultured
rock in preparation for the live corals for the exhibit. Aquacultured
rock is rock used to season coral aquariums and prepare them for holding
local corals. On April 17, Moody Gardens received the coral entrusted to
us and acclimated it to its temporary home inside an exhibit inside the
Aquarium Pyramid.

“We are looking forward to being able to educate our guests about the
diversity of Florida’s coral reefs and the importance of maintaining a
healthy ecosystem for them to thrive,” Whittaker said, adding that this
project fits in perfectly with the cornerstones of Moody Gardens’
mission of conservation, education, rehabilitation and research.

The arrival of the live coral into the Aquarium Pyramid appropriately
coincides with Earth Day, being celebrated property-wide at Moody
Gardens with presentations and crafts on April 20. As part of the Earth
Day festivities, the first 100 people starting at 10 a.m. to visit a new
Reef Rescue VR Experience will receive two-for-one admission to the
attraction. Reef Rescue VR is an interactive high-capacity virtual
reality experience where up to 16 people can pilot their own R.O.V.E.R.
to help clean up waters, plant new coral branches and feed the fish,
returning the reef to complete health in the process.

While 4/20 might be popular for different reasons, Moody Gardens
encourages you to remember coral reefs and the issues they are facing.
You can learn more, and donate to the cause by visiting www.moodygardens.org/be_a_reefer.

For more information about Moody Gardens call (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.

Moody Gardens® is a public, non-profit, educational
destination utilizing nature in the advancement of rehabilitation,
conservation, recreation, and research.

B-ROLL AND PHOTO LINKS FOR DOWNLOAD:
Hightail: https://spaces.hightail.com/receive/6sVgBi2akH
YouTube:
https://youtu.be/URNWQ18mMF4

Contacts

Media Relations:
Alexis Shelly
Office: 409-683-4256
Cell:
409-771-3891
pr@moodygardens.org
Jerri
Hamachek
Cell: 409-789-2607
jhamachek@moodygardens.org

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