Expedition: Curacao

Discovery Place

Curacao may not be as recognizable as its island neighbor, Aruba, but it’s a beautiful and diverse island that’s home to some of the healthiest coral reefs in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, as vibrant as the reefs are, the amount of coral has declined by about 50% in the last 20 years. Due to environmental changes, the rest of the coral population is in serious trouble.

Each year scientists from Discovery Place and around the world meet on the island to study the sexual reproduction of coral species and to experiment new ways to restore coral. They work under the guidance of SECORE (SExual COral REproduction), a “global network of scientists, public aquarium professionals and local stakeholders who use a multidisciplinary strategy combining research, education, outreach and active reef restoration for the conservation of coral reefs,” at the CARMABI Foundation (Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity) lab in Curacao.

Meet the Team

This year, we’re fortunate to have many members from Discovery Place and the community join us on this research expedition from May 19 - 24:

  • Elliot Provance, Director, Living Collections and Exhibitions, Discovery Place
  • Dr. Amy Ringwood, Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, UNC Charlotte
  • Andrea Anderson, Program Manager, Education Studio, Discovery Place
  • Lauren Braun, Manager, Discovery Place Kids-Huntersville
  • Riana Clark, Lab Coordinator, Explore More Life & Explore More Collections, Discovery Place Science
  • Maggie Connelly, Coordinator, Girls in STEM, Discovery Place Science
  • Robyn Levitan, Maker II, Discovery Place Science
  • Keely Lewis, Collections Manager, Discovery Place
  • Matt Lowder, Aquarist, Discovery Place Science

Team members will observe, assist with research and bring back their knowledge to then execute in their field of work.

Safety First

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During the six-day trip, the team will participate in five dives: a morning dive to review scuba competency, a day dive near the Curacao Sea Aquarium, two sunset dives to observe coral spawning in the wild and a dive to healthy coral reef populations on an undeveloped area of the island.

To participate in the Curacao expedition, all team members had to have scuba certification or obtain it before the trip, a three-step process:

1.)  Knowledge Development - Our divers learned the basic principles of scuba diving, including how to choose scuba gear, underwater signals and planning dives. This consisted of reading an online manual and passing an exam.

2.) Confined Water Dives - Our team met at Huntersville Family Fitness & Aquatics where, before they even set foot in the water, they learned how to set all their scuba gear up and take it down. After they each did that three times, they were able to get in the pool and practice breathing techniques and staying underwater for prolonged periods of time.

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3.) Open Water Dives - The final and most important step of the process is to practice in open water. They met at the Lake Norman Quarry and explored the underwater world, applying the skills they learned in confined water and diving as deep as 30 feet.

Check back for more stories, photos and videos throughout the expedition!