Florida Aquarium biologist Jenny Lee collects coral embryos to inspect under the microscope as part of Project Coral, a scientific spawning project.

Project Coral a success: For the second straight year, scientists at The Florida Aquarium in Apollo Beach spawned threatened Atlantic pillar coral using LEDs and computer systems. The corals spawned at nearly the exact same time as last year, about 100 minutes after sunset on the second day after August’s full moon.

Protecting a threatened species: More than 200 Atlantic pillar coral colonies collected from Florida’s coral reef are housed at the Florida Aquarium Coral Conservation Complex. It is estimated only 40 unique pillar coral individuals remain in the wild in Florida. It is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
An encouraging sign: “Pillar coral is an extremely challenging species to collect eggs and sperm from in the wild and raise large numbers of offspring,” says Keri O’Neil, the aquarium’s senior coral scientist. “The lab-induced spawning allows us to produce more larvae with a much higher diversity of parents than we ever could from wild spawning. The high level of synchrony that we achieved between last year and this year shows that this technique is really working, and every year we spawn this species, we are one step closer to ensuring its long-term survival in Florida.”