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photo: Miami-Dade County

CORAL CHAMPION

Dr. Brian Walker

Dr. Brian Walker is a true coral champion and has been an incredible partner to the Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative (SEFCRI) and Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Coral Reef Conservation Program. Dr. Walker heads the GIS and Spatial Ecology Laboratory at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Explore the lab’s YouTube page to enjoy some of the virtual reality footage that was featured in the Florida’s Coral Reef booth at the 2020 Miami Super Bowl LIVE fan festival.

“From the very early days of the Coral Reef Conservation Program and SEFCRI, when we did not understand where the reefs were, he developed the benthic habitat maps that are now fundamental to every decision we make. He has helped us assess reef injuries to help enforce Florida’s Coral Reef Protection Act, assess and relocate the commercial anchorages in Southeast Florida to avoid impacts to reefs using those maps.”

~Joanna Walczak, DEP Coral Protection and Restoration Program Administrator

“When we were creating and implementing SEFCRI’s Our Florida Reefs Community Planning Process, we needed a decision support tool to help stakeholders explore the data we had and provide their recommendations. Brian researched the options and worked with us to develop the Marine Planner.”

~Jamie Monty, DEP Coral Reef Conservation Program Manager

Brian is also an excellent example of a highly adaptable coral researcher, working closely with DEP on the priority of the moment. When stony coral tissue loss disease began impacting our reefs, Brian was one of the first to ask what he could do to help. He shifted almost his entire focus to working with partners to develop and implement intervention treatments that would stop the disease lesions from progressing. He is currently leading a Disease Strike Team that has saved hundreds of priority massive colonies in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Read the blog Coral Strike Team Responds to SEAFAN Report.

Brian has discovered 100+ previously unknown massive coral colonies and many patches of threatened staghorn coral. Explore some of his lab’s work via the story map Saving the Exceptional Corals in Florida’s Coral Reef Ecosystem.