That passion led to Nedimyer starting the Coral Restoration Foundation, which has grown more than 25,000 staghorn and elkhorn corals in underwater nurseries. He and his staff of volunteers work three days a week maintaining the nurseries just off Key Largo. The nurseries cover more than an acre of the ocean floor.
“Ken’s coral nursery is the largest in the wider Caribbean,” Causey said. “It’s probably 10 times larger than any others that I know of.”
Nedimyer’s methods for growing corals have evolved over the years, but they’re all simple, easily duplicated and can be taught to anyone who can dive, he said.
After the corals spend about a year growing in the nursery, they are transplanted to a reef in the wild. The goal is to get them to reproduce on their own and repopulate an area where they no longer exist.
“We’ve been able to recreate one of the biggest thickets in the Florida Keys of staghorn coral, and that’s something we can duplicate throughout the Keys and throughout the Caribbean,” Nedimyer said.
Through education and awareness, Nedimyer has built a community committed to bringing coral reefs back to the Keys. His organization often collaborates with other groups, including the NOAA and the Nature Conservancy, a nonprofit conservation group. Nedimyer also spends a lot of time showing high school students his methods and working with them at his nurseries.