Adopt-A-Coral Friday!

On “Black Friday” rather than running out to the nearest mall, Adopt-A-Coral™ from Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) instead!  CRF is a non-profit conservation organization created to develop off-shore coral nurseries and reef restoration programs for critically endangered coral reefs at local, national, and international levels.  The mission of CRF is to develop affordable, effective strategies for protecting and restoring coral reefs and to train and empower others to implement those strategies in their coastal communities.

I’ve already adopted three corals – Mother’s Day (see 5/10/11 post “An alternative Mother’s Day bouquet, thanks to the hard work of Coral Restoration Foundation”), Father’s Day, and the third to the Property & Environment Research Center (PERC) as gift from the 2011 Enviropreneur Institute class (http://percolatorblog.org/2011/09/20/return-on-investment/).  With the holidays coming up, I’m planning to get several more as Christmas gifts.

If you are interested in adopting, check out www.coralrestoration.org.

Investing for Happier Dives?

How many SCUBA dives do you have under your belt? I’ve been diving for more than 16 years (now that I’ve turned 30, reference “The Big 3-0” post from 11/14 for thoughts on that) and have somewhere in the range of 250-500 dives. Perhaps I should have done a better job of logging my dives, but in the past several years, I haven’t had reef-based underwater experiences that I could get REALLY excited about. That all changed last week with my whirlwind tour through South Florida for meetings related to my coral conservation project at Georgia Aquarium. I had the opportunity to dive on Coral Restoration Foundation’s (CRF) staghorn coral nursery just off of Tavernier, Florida on Thursday, November 17th.

CRF’s site has an ACRE of coral on the sandy bottom leading up to reefs in just about 30 feet of water. WOW! I spent just over an hour underwater helping to hang a tree with stagorn corals (see photo) which will be out- planted to the reef in ~6 months (pending a permit to CRF for the right to start doing large-scale plantings). While I worked every moment I was underwater up until I hit the minimum air requirement needed for a safe ascent and safety stop, it was the most fun I have had on a dive in years! There is something so satisfying to know that my hour underwater will lead to 50-100 new coral colonies capable of helping to repopulate a reef.

The title for this blog post comes from an innocent question from the daughter of Ken Nedimyer, CRF’s President and founder:
Ken’s Daughter – “Daddy, can I do a happy dive on the nursery?”
Ken – “Yes.”
Brett – “What’s a happy dive?”
Ken – “That’s what we call reef dives when people just float around and look at coral; designed to keep the customers happy.”

I’ve now made it a personal mission to have a positive, direct impact on the environment each and every time I SCUBA dive, investing for happier dives. Over the next two years I am working with Georgia Aquarium and Coral Restoration Foundation to identify long-term ways of making coral restoration financially self-sustainable. Find me on Twitter @BrettWHowell or join Gaia Endeavor’s mailing list to follow the adventure live.

Georgia Aquarium divers work on coral trees in Coral Restoration Foundation's nursery

The Big 3-0

On Thursday I turned 30. Even though I’ve passed this major divide, I am extremely excited for what the future has to hold. For the first time in my life, my passion connects with what I am doing on a day-to-day basis. Who could have thought that attending a lecture celebrating the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration would lead to the inspiration for an entrepreneurial idea, which got funded by the Alex C. Walker Foundation, being invited to the Property & Environment Research Center’s (PERC) Enviropreneur Institute, getting hired by Georgia Aquarium as the Walker Conservation Fellow, and moving to Atlanta, all in 9 months? I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time and can’t wait for what the next 30 years have to hold.

While I had originally planned on going out of the country for my birthday, I instead chose to embrace my 30th year by getting to know my new home, Atlanta, a little better. Georgia Aquarium’s Diving Control Board gave me the best “gift” ever by granting me scientific diving status under their program. I then proceeded immediately to SCUBA diving in Georgia Aquarium’s Ocean Voyager exhibit, with four whale sharks! Some of my best friends from my MBA program at the University of Colorado at Boulder came to town and we competed in the First Annual Atlanta Mattress 500, gaining press coverage in the Access Atlanta (http://projects.accessatlanta.com/gallery/view/events/atlanta-mattress-500/ – photos 7 & 10), and helping to support families moving out of homeless shelters. We enjoyed birthday cake from Highland Bakery (thanks, Mom!) and had a fun evening checking out bars in Virginia Highlands.

I’m off to Florida in the morning to meet with stakeholders about the potential market-based solutions to coral restoration. Here are several quotes that I’ve found particularly inspirational for my current activities.
• “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
• “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead
• “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” –Unknown

Never forget to live each and every day to its fullest!

Diving at Georgia Aquarium

Profile for birthday scuba dive

Highland Bakery cake

Atlanta Mattress 500