HCNSO Student Theses and Dissertations

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Marine Biology

Second Degree Name

M.S. Marine Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

David S. Gilliam, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicole D. Fogarty, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Elizabeth A. Goergen, Ph.D.


For decades, coral reef ecosystems have been in decline. To promote recovery, restoration efforts have been implemented for many degraded reefs across the globe. In the Caribbean, there is restoration focus on the coral genus Acropora. Current methods target Acropora cervicornis and A. palmata, two threatened species of branching coral that can mate to form a hybrid taxon, A. prolifera. By including the hybrid in restoration efforts, researchers may better understand how this taxon may promote nursery expansion and outplanting in restoration efforts. Establishing efforts in novel areas may further advance restoration methods by comparing location differences in nursery success. For this project, Nova Southeastern University in conjunction with Norwegian Cruise Lines established three coral nursery sites at Great Stirrup Cay (GSC), The Bahamas. The goal of this project was to identify parameters that optimize successful fragment growth and survival in an in-situ floating tree coral nursery. A successful pilot study beginning in February 2018 using A. cervicornis and A. palmata at one nursery site allowed the project to move forward with an expansion to two additional nurseries after 5 months. Fragments from A. cervicornis, A. palmata, and A. prolifera were collected from reefs around New Providence by the Perry Institute of Marine Science and transported to GSC (n=157) in June 2018. These fragments were attached to floating trees at each of three nursery sites. Fragments were differentiated by nursery site, taxa, fragment type (apical, middle, and basal), and genotype. Linear growth, percent mortality, and condition data were collected monthly for each fragment. After 13 months, site significantly affected fragment survival (pA. prolifera fragments had the greatest growth by the end of the study period compared to all other taxa and fragment types. This study highlights the importance of careful consideration of nursery location to optimize survival. Coral taxa and fragment type should be considered when comparing growth within a nursery, especially for future use of coral fragments in outplanting. Coral restoration managers may benefit from capitalizing on fast growing hybrids for outplanting to degraded reefs and increasing the scale of nursery projects, with consideration of competition between the three acroporid species in outplanting methods.


I am a dual degree student in Marine Biology and Environmental Science.