Reef Renewal USA

Bleaching Emergency Response

beat the heat

Background Information

As we face unprecedented high water temperatures which began in July 2023, we are dedicated to closely assessing the impact on the corals under our care. Our team is actively engaged in monitoring the situation across all our offshore nursery sites and swiftly responding to mitigate damage. Collaboration with partners and stakeholders is at the core of our efforts, allowing us to access supplementary resources, including scientists and proficient dive specialists, to enhance our operations.

At Reef Renewal USA, we draw upon the invaluable lessons learned from past mass mortality events, like the devastating white band disease in the 1980s and the widespread bleaching event in 2014 and 15, and ongoing spread of SCTLD (Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease). Our approach involves diversifying our nurseries structurally, genetically, and geographically, with the aim of minimizing mortality during this unprecedented weather event. Together, we strive to protect and restore our precious coral reefs for a sustainable and resilient future.

Collaborations are Key

We are proud to showcase the incredible teamwork and partnerships that have played a vital role in our efforts to combat the ongoing bleaching event. At Reef Renewal USA, we believe in the power of our communities, and we plan to maintain our commitment to sharing knowledge, offering support, and collaborating with other like-minded organizations striving towards the common goal of restoring Florida’s coral reefs.

Through these invaluable collaborations, we are implementing complex response efforts, including the relocation of hundreds of corals from our nurseries to secure land-based holding systems, as well as newly scouted and built out deep water nurseries. The strength of these partnerships has proven indispensable in navigating this crisis, and we anticipate that they will continue to yield significant results well into the future. Together, we are building a new foundation of protection and revival of our precious coral ecosystems for generations to come.

Our Efforts Are Possible Because of These Partners:

Rescue Efforts

In response to the unprecedented high water temperatures affecting our offshore nurseries, Reef Renewal USA has undertaken an urgent and complex rescue mission to relocate the corals to safety. With great determination, we have set up three specially permitted deep water nurseries, strategically chosen for their proximity and lower temperatures. Our dedicated team has meticulously planned every step of this critical operation, ensuring minimal stress on the corals amidst the natural challenges they already endure due to the high water temperatures.

The process has been both challenging and rewarding as we scout and secure suitable sites, create structures tailored to the change in depth, substrate, and currents, and carefully relocate each coral to their new home. This monumental task requires precise organization. We must track every species and genotype within the species with tagging, and meticulously map the specific locations of each coral.

These collaborative efforts have our team working double time, but all in the spirit of doing whatever it takes for the best outcome. Thanks to the collective recognition of the urgency to save our corals from bleaching beyond recovery, resource management companies and fellow coral restoration practitioners have also acted with incredible speed, enabling a swift and effective response in record time. Behind every decision we make in this novel venture to relocate so many corals in such a short period of time, lies our utmost care and attention to the survival and well-being of the Florida coral reefs.

The Tavernier Nursery

Thus far, the corals in our largest nursery, managed by Ken Nedimyer, offshore from Tavernier Florida, are mostly not lost. Despite being spared the worst effects of the bleaching so far due to slightly lower water temperatures, we are aware that the situation may change soon, prompting us to take swift action. We are focused on the healthy corals at this site which represent 20 different species, and hundreds of unique genotypes. Depending on the species and condition, we will be taking action to relocate many fragments to land-based temperature controlled tanks, or to deeper, cooler water. With patient and careful monitoring of all sites and scenarios we will gather invaluable data on which to base future reef renewal strategies.

Land Based Coral Care

As stewards of coral reefs, we’ve always embraced innovation and adaptation. Today, our mission necessitates a critical evolution – land-based coral care.

The global coral bleaching event, accelerated by rising ocean temperatures, compels us to adapt. While our in-water nurseries remain invaluable, we must acknowledge the changing landscape of coral restoration. Extreme events like this, sadly, may become more frequent.

Our vision extends beyond the sea’s horizon. We are developing cutting-edge land-based facilities to complement our in-water nurseries. These facilities will provide a safe haven for corals during extreme events and serve as genetic reservoirs.

Your support is pivotal. Funding this new frontier of our mission is an investment in the future of our oceans. Together, we can ensure that our coral reefs have a chance to thrive against all odds.

What you can do

As stewards of our precious coral reefs, taking action is an empowering way to express hope for their future. Your support matters, whether it’s making a donation to fuel our conservation efforts, volunteering your time and skills to get hands-on with reef restoration, or simply spreading the word to raise awareness about the challenges our reefs face. Each action, no matter how big or small, contributes to a collective force for positive change. Together, we can make a lasting impact and build a sustainable future for these invaluable ecosystems. Join us in shaping a brighter tomorrow for our coral reefs – the time to act is now.


In the wake of the unprecedented bleaching event, the threats to coral reefs have gained widespread attention, drawing the focus of news outlets seeking to understand the magnitude of the crisis. While the urgency of the situation is apparent, we must recognize that the true story of our reefs and their resilience requires time and accurate data to be told. Our team has been interviewed and filmed by various media outlets, and we are committed to remaining steadfast in our mission. We refuse to lose hope, knowing that innovation and science are our allies in the fight to create a better future for these fragile ecosystems. It is not too late to make a difference, and we firmly believe that together, we can safeguard the reefs for generations to come.


Meg Kiley

Digital Media Manager

Meg has a diverse background, but has always had a focus on environment and sustainability. When she isn’t communicating the important work of Reef Renewal USA, she practices underwater photography as an expression of her love for the coral reef and its inhabitants.

more about meg

AutumnReady to dive 2

Autumn Blum

Board Member

Autumn is a visionary, entrepreneur, cosmetic chemist, and ocean advocate and the formulator and CEO of Stream2Sea, a company setting the new standard for sustainable, safe body care products and sunscreen. She holds a B.Sc. in Chemistry with a minor in Environmental Geology from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. As a cosmetic chemist, herbalist and entrepreneur for over 24 years, Autumn sold her first start-up in 2009 to the publicly-traded Nutraceutical Corporation. She has dedicated her career to creating natural and effective plant-based formulas safe for humans, marine life and the planet. Her formulations have won multiple awards including Best of Natural Beauty from Better Nutrition, Best of Show from Natural Products Expo, Delicious Living’s Beauty & Body and Taste for Life Essentials. A triple-bottom-line may be a relatively new business term, but it’s been a lifelong passion for Autumn. Formulating products that contribute first to people and the planet and then to profit has been her goal throughout her entire career.

Growing up in Sarasota, Florida, Autumn has always been passionate about the outdoors. She became a NAUI certified diver at 14, and spent her youth diving, backpacking the Appalachian Trail and kayaking the Peace River. Recently inducted into the Women Divers’

Hall of Fame, she’s also a technical diver, shark advocate, underwater photographer and SCUBA Instructor.

Autumn is an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and the American Botanical Council and is a founding member of the Safe Sunscreen Council, a coalition of environmentally conscious companies with a mission to study the issue and raise awareness about the impact of sunscreen ingredients on the planet. “This journey began on a liveaboard trip to explore one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. I

watched, with increasing frustration, as the divers and crew bathed on deck after every dive

– the soap, sunscreen and conditioner residues washing right overboard into these pristine waters. I watched as the divers and crew reapplied sunscreens, then shortly after, dove back in to

repeat the process. As a cosmetic chemist, I understood that many of the ingredients used in these products could be highly toxic to our fragile aquatic ecosystem. Understanding the adverse and long-term effects they could have on the coral reefs, I thought… we can do better!”


Board Member 

Bob hails from California, but has been a Florida resident for most of his life, calling South Florida home. He is a graduate of Florida State University and has spent the majority of his career working as a sports marketing professional in college sports.

Bob is an avid outdoorsman and loves fishing, diving, biking, competing in triathlons and enjoying all of the things Florida’s great climate offers. His passion for the sea is unmatched and he has a deep concern for the environment. Bob gives his all to initiatives that he believes in, and the mission of Reef Renewal USA is close to his heart.

Tom Myers

Tom Myers, Phd.

Board Member – Secretary/Education Chair

Tom earned his B.A. in Economics from St. Lawrence University, a M.A. in Positive Psychology from The Union Institute & University, and a Ph.D. in Psychology and Organizational Development from the University of Twente (The Netherlands). Tom’s research and doctoral dissertation included Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and management applications from Jung’s “Synchronicity Theory.”

Tom is passionate about all aspects of business, education, and positive organizational development. He spent his early professional career as a ski racing coach, a fitness trainer, an entrepreneur, and an economic development official when he served as Director of International Trade and Investment for the state of Vermont. In 2001, he moved to higher education where he was a full professor and Chair in the Stiller School of Business at Champlain College for over twenty years.

Today, Tom leads TriSync Impact, LLC., a strengths-centered consulting firm with a focus on management & strategy, positive organizational development, and entrepreneurship & leadership. He is certified in Appreciative Inquiry, Emotional Intelligence (EQi-2.0), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and StrengthScope Assessments for individuals and enterprises.

Tom is also a founding board member of Reef Renewal USA and is also an avid technical diver (GUE), which includes exploring Lake Champlain (VT) year round.

Additionally, he enjoys biking, birding, cooking, fly-fishing, and social science research. Tom lives with his wife, Julie, in Jericho, VT and they have two grown sons, Will and Charlie.

To reach Tom, please visit our contact us page.

Ken Nedimyer

Ken Nedimyer

Board Member -Technical Director

Ken is known throughout the world of coral restoration for spearheading new techniques. More than 20 years ago, he was one of the first to develop propagation techniques for growing and planting corals in the wild. He brings his incomparable expertise to Reef Renewal USA and continues on a quest of revision to improve existing methods of rearing and outplanting coral.

To reach Ken, please visit our contact us page.

Craig Adam Watson

Board Member – Technical Advisor

Craig is the Associate Director of Aquaculture Programs with the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and Director of the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory at the University of Florida. He has served in numerous aquaculture and marine life- related capacities with the University of Florida since 1988. Currently, he is responsible for coordinating extension educational programs and applied research projects in aquaculture for the University of Florida’s Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program.

Major efforts have centered upon securing funding from industry, county, state and federal sources, both for creation and long-term, recurring funding. His research focuses on commercial aquaculture, especially in reproduction strategies for new species.

In the mid-1980s, Craig was a Fisheries Volunteer Leader with the U.S. Peace Corps Fisheries Program in Tunisia. He served as a liaison between newly-assigned volunteers and their Tunisian Government counterparts. Craig was involved in training, programming and administration of six separate programs in Fisheries Development, and also served as project coordinator for the inland fisheries program involving stocking and monitoring of six reservoirs in the interior.

In addition to his board position with RRUSA, he currently serves on the board of Rising Tide Conservation, and is a past board member of the National Aquaculture Association (2001- 2019) and The Florida Aquarium (2001-2018). Craig is a member of the World Aquaculture Society, the Tampa Bay Aquarium Society, and the American Fisheries Society.

Craig earned a B.S. Biology/Chemistry (Major/Minor) from the Florida State University in 1981, and a Master of Aquaculture from Auburn University in 1988.

Read his full bio here.

To reach Craig, please visit our contact us page.



Board Member – Treasurer

Mike is a retired Partner with Ernst & Young, LLP Auditing and Advising. As a senior partner at EY, Mike has served large public and private companies in a variety of industries including aerospace and defense, oil and gas, energy, consumer products, and transportation. Mike also served as the managing partner for the Tampa and Jacksonville offices, and for the Florida and Caribbean practices as well.

As an avid diver, Mike took a special interest in Reef Renewal USA as it combines his love for scuba diving with his concern for the Florida Keys’ community wellbeing. Mike holds a divemaster certification, and loves nothing more than diving and working in the nursery to make a tangible difference for the future of the reef.

Mike’s commitment to his local community is evident in the long list of boards he has served on. In addition to his Board of Director role at RRUSA, he currently serves as a Board Member of the Tampa Bay History Center. He has served as a Board Member and Chairman of the Audit Committee of Children’s National Medical Center, one of the top pediatric health systems in the country. He previously served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Treasurer of the United Way of Tampa Bay, Board Member and Chairman of the Finance Committee for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, and Board Member and Chairman of Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay. He is also a member of the Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club and the Tampa Yacht and Country Club (for the latter of which he served on the Board of Governors and as Treasurer). In Jacksonville, he served as a Board member and as Chairman of the Audit Committee of the United Way of Northeast Florida.

Mike and his wife, Karen, reside in Tampa, Florida. They have three grown children and two grandchildren.

Click here for full bio.

To reach Mike, please visit our contact us page.


Board Member – Field Work and Operations

Ben is President of Dynasty Marine Associates Inc., the world’s premiere supplier of tropical marine fish and invertebrates to public aquaria, wholesale, and the pet trade since 1983. Ben has been involved in the collection, holding, and transport of living collections of over 75 aquariums.

Ben is also President of Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters Inc., a purpose-built, interactive public educational facility with over 50,000 guests per year and is a Florida registered aquaculture facility breeding several species of fish, sharks, and rays.

Additionally, Ben is President of REACH, a 501(c)3 nonprofit arm of Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters that focuses on: Rescue, Research, Rehabilitation, Education and creating Awareness in our Community around the importance of animals and the Habitats in which they live.

In addition to Ben’s service as a Board Member of RRUSA, he is V. P. of the Florida Marine Life Association, Vice Chair of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, WAZA Member (World Association of Zoos and Aquariums), ATA Member (Animal Transportation Association), EUAC Member (European Union of Aquarium Curators), Marathon Chamber of Commerce–Tourism/Lodging Committee Member, Monroe County DAC III–Advertising Committee Member, and is a volunteers with Manatee Rescue to help protect and rescue injured and distressed manatees. Ben holds multiple diving and diving instruction certifications with IANTD, NAUI, and PADI, and he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University in 1995.

To reach Ben, please visit our contact us page.


Field Work and Volunteer Coordination

Meagan has been diving since she was thirteen and has always known the importance of the reef system. Her varied background in marine science gives her a broad understanding of caring for marine animals. She has been responsible for maintaining our Looe Key nursery, and guiding volunteers since the infancy of Reef Renewal. Without her no-nonsense approach, our field work wouldn’t be half as effective.


Education Program Manager

From a young age, Gabrielle has had a passion for conserving wildlife. She’s dived in different corners of the world learning about and conserving tropical marine ecosystems. Her dedication to educate others on how they can make a difference and be involved is why she is the perfect leader in developing our volunteer diver training program.



Field Work and Diadema Program Development

After his marine science studies, Jim sought out ambitious collaborations with like-minded coral renewal practitioners, and naturally found a place with Reef Renewal. His dedication to reef renewal work, and the innovation required to improve such a complex habitat, is inspiring. His work is especially focused on diadema and their potential to renew the coral’s habitat.

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Andrea Williams

Board Member – JED&I Chair

An educator for over twenty years in private, independent and public schools, Andrea began her career as a long-term substitute kindergarten teacher; has worked as an admission director, special programs director, operations director and education consultant; taught French and American Sign Language in middle and high school; and taught dance. Most recently, she worked as an education consultant advising nonprofits on topics that included curriculum, S.T.E.M. and organizational structure. She regularly presents at workshops and conferences on topics ranging from best practices to diversity issues to panel discussions.

An alumna of Spelman College, Andrea needed a course to complete her hours in graduate school at Ohio University and was first introduced to diving then. That was thirty- one years ago! Her certifications include: PADI Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor, DAN Instructor, CPR, Rescue, Enriched Air, Dry Suit, Equipment Specialist, AWARE Coral Reef Conservation, Digital Photography, Coral Restoration Team Leader and several more. Andrea’s love of teaching and scuba led her to volunteer for CRF, and now join Reef Renewal USA’s board. A member of Aquatic Voyagers Scuba Club (AVSC in NYC) and National Association of Black Scuba Divers (NABS), Andrea is the current vice president of NABS, serving in her second term. In 2019, she was named NABS Diver of the Year in Cairo, Egypt.

An avid traveler, Andrea has dived all over the US, Caribbean, Dubai, Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt, Mexico, Maldives, Belize and the Philippines. When not underwater, Andrea enjoys skiing, reading, golfing, ballroom dancing and spending time with her family.


Taylor Rothen


Originally from New Hampshire, Taylor fell in love with coral and the marine environment on a vacation to Hawaii. Upon hearing about some of the restoration efforts going on in the Florida Keys, he became interested in helping. He now attends the College of the Florida Keys, majoring in Marine Environmental Technology and Professional Research Diving. Taylor has always had a love for the water. He began competitively swimming from a young age. Eventually this love transitioned to SCUBA diving, coral reefs and coral restoration.


Business Development

Bill is a quick witted business strategist, working with Reef Renewal to improve its operational structure. He’s ensuring that we bring our vision for the reef to fruition, without sacrificing fun in the process.



Leadership Development and Planning

Sherri leads us to positivity by example. She encourages the team to exploit our strengths and stay focused on our mission. Her ability to inspire and motivate is unparalleled in the coral world.



Accounting and Bookkeeping

The corals don’t spend much time on their finances, but thankfully Adam has them covered. He channels his appreciation for our Florida Reef tract into his impeccable bookkeeping.




Brandy has been an avid diver since 2005 but has always been passionate about marine life. Before interning
with Reef Renewal USA and Aquarium Encounters, she worked in different realms of marine science including habitat monitoring, coral disease surveys, and sea turtle conservation. Her favorite things to do in the Keys, other than diving, are paddleboarding and snorkeling. Although she
loves all corals, her favorites are zoanthids because of their variety of color morphs. 
Brandy is excited to learn more about coral restoration efforts and to be a part of the Reef Renewal
USA team!




Min Min is a senior at USF St. Petersburg, pursuing a degree in Marine Biology. She is beyond excited to intern with Reef Renewal USA and Florida Keys Aquarium, where she looks forward to dual roles of restoration and education/ecotourism. She was immediately drawn to this internship because of Reef Renewal USA’s inspiring mission and impressive progress in the coral restoration field. The team’s dedication and achievements have truly captured her attention and she is excited to be a part of it!



Operations Manager

With a 14-year tenure as a marine biologist in the Florida Keys, Kevin brings a wealth of experience from his roles at FWC, FDEP, and most recently as the field manager, lead research diver, and associate researcher for the NSU Coral Disease Intervention Laboratory.

During his time at the NSU lab, Kevin designed and implemented research and monitoring programs to gain a better understanding of coral disease intervention. He also brings pertinent experience in managing grants, budgets, and scientific materials. He has conducted over 4,000 scientific dives in which he monitored, assessed, and treated thousands of coral colonies for SCTLD, and assessed the health of reef ecosystems at hundreds of sites from Biscayne Bay to the Dry Tortugas. This work gave him a deep appreciation and understanding of the spectacular diversity of the ecosystems and the communities within them, but also of the extreme hardships facing them.  
In addition to these impressive professional achievements, Kevin has extensive knowledge in marine equipment maintenance, including diesel, gas, and electrical systems. A resident of a self-sustaining sailboat which he built out himself with solar, wind and compost systems, he lives the sustainability he believes in. He is also a proud foster dog dad. 
Kevin is passionately devoted to the long-term preservation of the coral reefs and committed to the philosophy of sustainability, making him a wonderful fit to lead Reef Renewal USA’s operations.
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Joseph graduated from Middlebury College in 2023 with a degree in Conservation Biology, focusing on marine ecosystems. He has been an avid diver, adventurer, and conservationist his whole life.  Prior to interning with Reef Renewal, Joseph worked with the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and as a Divemaster in Monterey California.  He is excited to bring his experience from both to this internship and to learn more about the field of coral restoration!


Joey Perrotte


Joey is a marine enthusiast with an unwavering commitment to safeguarding our planet’s most precious ecosystems. Despite a non-traditional background with degrees from Florida State university in finance, and risk management insurance, his heart has always belonged to the sea. This profound connection led him to embark on a transformative journey to align his career with his lifelong passion: marine biology and conservation.
Driven by an insatiable curiosity about the mysteries of the underwater world, Joey is excited to learn, grow, and contribute to the preservation of coral reefs and aquatic biodiversity in this internship.
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Sandy Vogel


Sandy has worked with Ben Daughtry and the team at Dynasty Marine Associates, Inc. for over 10 years and has also been apart of the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters Inc. and the non-profit R3each Inc since their inception. Being a part of these companies has given her the understanding of the importance of the ocean and all that inhabit it.

She regards it an honor to also be a part of the Reef Renewal USA Inc. accounting team and will strive to use her experience and abilities to further the mission of the company and it’s goals.

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Hailey Rathgeber


Hailey is a senior at the University of Minnesota- Twin cities studying environmental science and marine biology. She has always been fascinated by the ocean and marine life and is expanding her skill set as an intern for RRUSA. Hailey has experience helping at a coral nursery in Turks and Caicos and will use that knowledge to further the growth of the coral nurseries at RRUSA. Hailey is super excited to gain more insight on coral restoration and to help with the coral conservation movement.  


Board Member – President

Mike graduated from Florida State University in 1979 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. He then attended and graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1983. After running his own law firm and practicing law for 28 years, he left to focus on nonprofit and charitable causes.

Mike served on the Board of Directors for the Florida Aquarium, Inc. (FLAQ) in Tampa Florida for 10 (ten) years and was the Board Chair for (3) three years. During that time, he was also a volunteer diver and was trained to serve as a Scientific Diver. He served on the FLAQ rebreather team and completed three deep dive cruises to Pulley Ridge on project entitled “Understanding Coral Ecosystem Connectivity in the Gulf of Mexico from Pulley Ridge to the Florida Keys.” He also participated as a diver in some of the very early coral spawning efforts.

Mike also served on the Board of Directors for the Coral Restoration Foundation, Inc (CRF) for 6 (six) years and was its Chair for 4 (four) years. CRF grew dramatically during that time. Mike also served CRF as a dive volunteer.

Mike helped form Reef Renewal USA, Inc, in 2019 to carry on efforts to help grow and plant corals faster, better and less expensively by using innovative nursery and out- planting techniques.