ENN Chat Transcript -- Reefballs
Copyright 2000, Environmental News Network
<ENN Chat> Nice to see you here tonight Todd.
Barber> Just made it, they installed DSL on our internet connection today
and I was a bit concerned
<Mary> Well, I'm a total novice on the
reef ball, so I came to mainly listen and learn.
Mary, how are you involved with restoration of coral
<Mary> I'm in the south Florida area so I would assume
this is one of the areas that is utilizing the reef ball?
Barber> Yes, we have lots of Reef Balls in Florida...
Barber> What part of S. Florida are you from?
in the West Palm Beach area
<Todd Barber> Of course, we build
Reef Balls all around the world. Over 1000 projects in 50
<ENN Chat> What is your favorite
<Todd Barber> Mary, we have Reef Balls in West Palm
Beach....in the inland waterway near Peanut Island
they using the reef balls mainly for mitigation efforts?
Barber> They are actually some of the first Reef Balls every
<Todd Barber> Reef Balls are used for a
variety of purposes....mitigation is only one.
Some examples include fishing reefs, scuba diving reefs, beach erosion control,
deterring of fishing netting...
<Todd Barber> The list goes on
<Todd Barber> My Favorite project? I love them
<Mary> Ahhh..that's right..I forget that the reefs are part
of the erosion problems throughout the world.
<Todd Barber> Yes,
they are used for species diversity issues, for marine reserves, as anchoring
buoys...and still more
<Mary> juvenile fish
<Todd Barber> Yes Mary, juvenile fish love Reef Balls
with added internal complexity...we usually fill them 1/3 with
<Todd Barber> This provides habitat for the fish settling
out of the larval stages of life...actually creating fish that would otherwise
not have survived.
<Mary> I'll have to go to your web site and
read up on them a bit more. I'm new to this area so I'm trying to catch up on
<Bob George> About how long does it take for a
reef ball to be completely covered given optimal conditions?
Barber> There is over 1000 pages of information at
<Todd Barber> Also try www.reefball.org,
<Mary> wow! I'll
have to allocate a block of time to settle in and read all of it.
Barber> Bob, the first month, the fish move in and it is covered mostly
with algae. Within 6 months it is covered with soft corals, and intermediate
growth. Hard corals sometimes take 1-5 years to really begin to show. But you
hit the nail on the head...it depends on conditions...location, season,
sunlight, currents, larval flows, etc. Mary, you can also request a video from
us...it's free and in 20 minutes you'll get all the highlights. Many of the
videos are on the website in RealPlayer format.
There's also lots and lots of
pictures...that tells the real story.
<Ellen Horne> Hi Todd. I
wonder if you might tell us a little about oil rigs (sp.?), wrecks and other
<Mary> is the request form on your web
page? I'm a full-time student so my hours are a bit hectic right
<Todd Barber> Well Ellen, that is a tricky
<Todd Barber> In some respects these items are good
<Todd Barber> That is they are good for
divers and fishermen
<Todd Barber> However, the high profile of
these objects can attract more fish than on a natural reef
Barber> This causes some problems....one a depletion of local food
<Todd Barber> And, second, without protection it is very
easy to overfish these structures.
<Mary> But, by attracting
more people, don't they also expose themselves to a great deal of damage in
their formative stages?
<Todd Barber> Mary, you are right this
can be another problem
<Todd Barber> Also, these structures
often contain Iron, which is biologically active and harmful to corals and other
species that can grow...therefore they are not natural reefs.
Barber> Reef Balls, on the other hand essentially turn into real reefs
with 100% natural species diversity and population density of nearby natural
<Mary> What is the composition of the reef balls? If they
are concrete, don't they have a small amount of leaching into the water
<Todd Barber> Another drawback is that ships often move in
storms...causing horrible damage to natural reefs in the path of the
<Todd Barber> We use a pH neutralized concrete with an
additive called Microsilica (Force 10,000 by W.R. Grace) that reduces the
permeability of concrete,...
<Mary> so the wrecks actually
become a type of rubble that shifts against natural formations in strong storm
<Todd Barber> Essentially, Reef Balls are neutral in
sea water. This is why even corals will settle on Reef Balls.
Barber> There are documented ships over 300 tons that have moved 3
miles...in Miami with the last hurricane.
Fortunately, Reef Balls are engineered to withstand hurricanes and in fact have
done so in many many storms....even direct hits!
<Mary> Are the
reef balls anchored to prevent the storms from moving them?
Barber> In most cases, no....we do anchor them in less than 10 feet of
water in areas of extremely high energy or when we are doing breakwater
<Mary> Then what prevents them from shifting in strong
<Todd Barber> We must also anchor them when they are
used as anchoring buoys because the ship's lines can add so much
<Todd Barber> There are several things...first, they
have 80% of the weight in the bottom foot (they are very thick at the bottom and
thinner at top)
<Todd Barber> This keeps them from rolling
<Ellen Horne> Have you told everyone about the thousand
ball deployment? I'm from the Coral Reef Alliance - a partner in conservation
with Reef Ball. We're really excited about the work that you guys do. How's that
project going? When is the deployment? (Did I get the number right?
<Todd Barber> Next, we have a hole in the top that
breaks up the lifting forces of currents....kinda like an airplane wing with
<Todd Barber> I'll be with you in a second
<Todd Barber> Also, the Reef Balls are engineered with
side holes and a rounded shape...we even used wind tunnels at FIT to design
<Todd Barber> Now, Ellen....are you talking about the
Kirbo Memorial Reef off Jacksonville and St. Augustine?...Yes they will deploy
1,000 Reef Balls
<Todd Barber> And probably more as two high
schools are competing to get more than 1,000.
<Todd Barber> The
Reef Ball Foundation is giving them an additional scholarship of $1,000 when
they make the 1,000th ball (they are at 750 now)
Yes! it's an exciting project. How much area will that reef cover? How long has
it been in the works?
<Todd Barber> And then the school that
makes the most gets another $1,000.
<Todd Barber> This has been
in the works for about 1 year. It will cover two locations....each of several
acres. One in Jacksonville one off St. Augustine.
The Reef Ball Foundation funding the entire project so no public money was
<Todd Barber> It's a memorial to Charles Kirbo...Jimmy
Carter's Lawyer and good friend.
<Todd Barber> Now it's a joint
community project with schools, dive clubs, non-profit organizations and others
joining together to improve the oceans.
<Todd Barber> It's
really a wonderful project...we hope to repeat it every year in a different
<Ellen Horne> How were the locations chosen? I'm sure
lots of places would love a thousand reef balls!
In this case, Charles Kirbo used to fish near Jacksonville all the time....it
was his wish to have a memorial there.
<Todd Barber> We work
nearly anywhere that folks want a project...if we have local support....we can
make a project happen.
<Ellen Horne> How do you monitor and
document the increase in fish abundance in the newly created
<Todd Barber> The Foundation provides free molds to anyone
that wants to start a project for public good.
Ellen, that is a good question....and there are lots of answers because we
monitor for lots of reasons...not just fish abundance.
Barber> First of all, we require monitoring in all Foundation projects
and recommend it in all others.
<Todd Barber> As a foundation,
we are mostly concerned that the Reefs are similar to natural reefs so we hope
monitoring will include species diversity and population density
Barber> studies compared to natural reefs.
However, we allow a wide range of monitoring protocols so that we are always
increasing our knowledge...we like the local issues to be
<Todd Barber> too. For example grouper or Jewfish
counts are important on the west coast of Florida right now.
Barber> We will never get enough monitoring...but it's part of the
challenge to make every reef better.
<Jay> It seems the inshore
"under docks" applications are really expanding now too
Barber> There are some new national programs (Recon) that are
standardizing monitoring that we think are really neat.
Does Recon have a web site?
<Todd Barber> Yes, Recon is
sponsored by the Marine Conservation Association.....send me an e-mail and I
will look it up tomorrow
<Ellen Horne> Recon is CMC's -- center
for marine conservation's program. I think they are http://www.cmc-oceans.org.
Recon is a new program
<Todd Barber> Oh Yes, you are right
Ellen..CMC...I got confused!
<Mary> Thank you
Barber> I just saw some of there new work at DEMA and it seemed quite
impressive....but it is still new and too early to tell.
Barber> Jay, the EPA just did an article approving Reef Balls for under
dock uses...I think this area will grow a lot!
We've got a copy of the article on our website if you are
<Ellen Horne> I think they are beginning to train
folks...but they are still working out some details. They will be doing a
training in Bonaire in June for the Dive Festival. You can e-mail me
email@example.com if you are interested joining us and getting trained in RECON
and REEF fish ID.
<Todd Barber> Is anyone here going on the
Tanya Streeter Reef Ball Coalition trip to Dominica?
Seeley> For sure :)
<Ellen Horne> I wish.
Barber> I can't wait....perhaps we can get some REEF fish ID or RECON
training as part of that trip.
<Ellen Horne> What are your plans
<Ellen Horne> Oh, and when is it?
Seeley> I heard from reef check today and they want to add a reef check
program to our trip.
<Todd Barber> It's an earth day event.
Tanya Streeter (World Record Free diver) and I will lead it...
Seeley> April 18-25
<Todd Barber> We are going to build
and deploy balls and have a fun time doing it...
It's a Reef Ball Coalition trip (www.reefballcoaltion.com)
Barber> I think they still have some space left for
<Todd Barber> Hi Tim...welcome.
Barber> If you are new...you need to type in the white box at the bottom
of the screen
<Tim Birthisel> Hello, everyone. Todd, that trip
sounds like a wonderful time, I sure wish I could join you guys!
Barber> Why don't you...everyone needs a vacation and to help the oceans
at the same time...well you can't beat that!
<Jay> Can I
<Todd Barber> Of course there is another way to
<Ellen Horne> That sounds like a
great trip! It seems like there's a lot going on in the ocean for Earth Day.
Tim, maybe you can hook up with something closer to home. I wish I could come,
too! I'll be stuck stateside.
<Todd Barber> Hi Sussy,
<Jason Seeley> Sure--come along
<Jason Seeley> I'll chip in 10 bucks Jay!
Barber> Where is everyone from (Except for Mary from West
<Tim Birthisel> Todd, I have been spending all of my free
time with my little aquaculture project in the Keys. I'm planning to head down
from March 6-11 with a group of 20 students and 3 professors from Bowling Green
State U to provide an "internship" experience for the students.
Barber> That sounds really neat...we aquaculture our model sized Reef
Balls in the Keys for sale into the saltwater aquarium market.
Barber> Check out the Reef Ball project at the Boy Scout's High Adventure
Sea Base on Islamorda when you are down there.
Sussy, don't be shy
<Tim Birthisel> That's a great idea, wish I
had met you guys before I placed two semi loads of coquina on my
<Todd Barber> Is your site in state waters or
<Tim Birthisel> Federal waters, off Plantation
<Todd Barber> Hi Maggie...welcome.
it in the marine sanctuary?
<Todd Barber> Oh Federal..that
explains it...they still don't allow coquina in State waters 'cause they claim
they are not smart enough to know if it's natural or
<Sussy> Do you have experience only in
<Tim Birthisel> Yes, I've worked with Jon Halas to
get my permits, lots of red tape, but I am dedicated to being an ecologically
<Todd Barber> No, we have done many
freshwater projects too.
Barber> But in Freshwater, often Reef Balls are only fish attractors and
not true producers
<Todd Barber> Okechoobee, Venice Florida,
Michigan, England, and lots of private ponds
So...artificial reefs -- attraction vs. production -- settle the
<Todd Barber> Jay, I would need about two more
hours...but to keep it short...Reef Balls are designed for production. E-mail me
and I can give you the long answer.
<Todd Barber> Sussy, where
are you located?
<Ellen Horne> Hang on... attraction/production...
please clarify the conflict for us... long answers by e-mail of course...but
could you give a preview?
<Todd Barber> We are sending 27 molds
to Europe for use by PADI dive shops and operators...you should see lots of Reef
Balls very soon.
<Todd Barber> In England, they use them in
concrete lined canals to slow the waterflow to a rate where natural species can
<Tim Birthisel> In my experiences on the farm, I have
been amazed at what I've learned first-hand, the interactions between the fish,
plants and invertebrates have been very clear as I've watched the biodiversity
build, starting from an empty sand "desert" and becoming a reef, complete with
predators to keep everything under control. It's amazing how much reproductive
energy is in the system, as I'm sure you've seen as well.
Barber> Okay Ellen...their was a scientific debate posed by Bonsack as to
whether Artificial Reefs only attracted fish or if...
Barber> they provided habitats and produced fish.
Barber> As we discussed earlier...many artificial reefs, especially tall
profile ones serve mostly to attract....
<Todd Barber> (Fish
have a lateral line that allows them to sense any structure when a current move
past it...even without seeing it...
<Tim Birthisel> Todd, I'd be
happy to send you the photos of fish eggs which sometimes seem to cover my farm,
no question about production in my mind.
<Todd Barber> it is an
evolutionary response for them to move to structure because natural reefs have
food and shelter)
<Todd Barber> Anyway....Reef Balls actually
allow for fish to grow in all life stages and therefore produce fish like a
<Todd Barber> Yes Tim, in fact, smaller reefs with
high complexity are at the top of the production end of things....
Birthisel> It is amazing how structure attracts herbivores, which control
macroalgae nicely, as well.
<Todd Barber> Scientists have now
shown that getting fish to 1 inch or so in length is critical...and it is not a
lack of food that
<Todd Barber> does this only shelter from
<Todd Barber> It's all a very very complex
system...and it can be different in every locations....If I have learned
anything it is not to generalize
<Todd Barber> Hi G-menDad, and
<Todd Barber> Where are you two from?
<Todd Barber> Well, we
have Reef Balls in Texas too...have you visited them?
Barber> I was born in Ohio...but I think the closest Reef Balls are in
<Kriss> How many projects do you have around the
<Tim Birthisel> That makes three Buckeyes so
<Todd Barber> Well over 1,000 with well over 50,000 Reef
<Todd Barber> Go Buckeyes!
Birthisel> Why is it we always seem to be in the thick of
<Todd Barber> Do you know that Ohio has more certified
divers than any other state!
<Todd Barber> That fact shocked
<Tim Birthisel> Somehow it doesn't surprise
<Kriss> I don't think so
<Tim Birthisel> I
think it's because of the winters, actually. It's a great state to be from in
<Todd Barber> Yep. Texas and Florida are 3 and
<Todd Barber> Maybe they count the buckeyes like me that moved
south and stayed!
<Kriss> you said that because you don't know
<Tim Birthisel> Anyway, I must say how much I admire
the elegance of the reefball design! Pure genius.
However, when you started with reef ball?
<Todd Barber> Thank
you, but I don't take all the credit...it took 27 of us 5 years to get it
right...and we are still improving it everyday.
A true gift to the planet, hope it helps make up for some of the harm we
<Todd Barber> Welcome Brandee.
thank you :)
<Todd Barber> That is my hope...but since I was
born, we've lost over 30% of all the coral reefs in the world.
Barber> So far, Reef Balls have only added about .02% of that back...we
have a long way to go.
<Todd Barber> Still, that .02% adds up to
over 8 billion pounds of biomass over the next 500 years.
That's a frightening statistic
<brandee> i am moving to south
Florida and care deeply for our oceans....do you have any suggestions for
organizations i might be able to volunteer for?
A great pity..reefs are the most prominent sign of life when the planet is
viewed from space, and they are that important.
Yes it is...and that is why I gave up my job as a management consultant to do
Reef Ball full time for no salary.,
<Todd Barber> And second
only to the rainforests in species diversity...the most precious resource we
have on the planet.
<Mary> Not to mention, if the ocean dies, we
<Todd Barber> Yes Brandee
There are lots of great organizations...it depends on your area of specific
interest, your skills and your amount of time.
Brandee, since Todd is being modest, may I recommend you stay in touch with his
<brandee> forgive me....i have joined late....have
scientists categorized what's killing all of these reefs?
Barber> Yes, I can tell you with my favorite quote.....
Barber> "We know exactly what is wrong with our coral reefs...they are
allergic to man."
<brandee> yes...I'd love to stay in touch ..i
just wasn't' sure where they are based, etc.
Brandee--I think you should join me on a trip to Dominica in April to celebrate
<Kriss> I only can say Thanks for help replace some
of the coral reefs that are being lost every year
Where are you moving Brandee.
<brandee> delray beach
<ENN Chat> Well, we have about 3 minutes left. Feel free to
wrap things up, Todd.
<Todd Barber> Well, if anyone has more
questions....always feel free to e-mail me....I make it a point to answer all
<Kriss> Thanks for help the
<Todd Barber> And everyone...do anything you can...but do
something to help our oceans.
<brandee> i did my undergrad
degree in marine science....what's your e-mail again...sorry
Seeley> For more info about Reef building trips to the Caribbean go to
<Tim Birthisel> This has been great!
Thanks to everyone for not bashing entrepreneurs.
<ENN Chat> Thanks very much for coming to
the chat tonight everyone.
<Ellen Horne> It's very important to
stay positive. Reef ball is doing great work to help reverse the trend. We've
experienced great losses, but with so many people working hard, we are hopeful
that we can keep reefs alive. Keep up the great work, Todd.
Barber> I will be glad to answer you with more specifics brandee
<Mary> Thank you for being here to share the information
with us. And most of all, thank you for caring about the reefs and
<Todd Barber> or firstname.lastname@example.org
Chat> Todd, thanks very much for time tonight.
Barber> Thanks to ENN too for providing us with this
<Sussy> Is so good to heard about this
Barber> Goodnight all.
<Tim Birthisel> Do it
<Jason Seeley> Don't
Chat> Goodnight all - the transcript will be published
<Jason Seeley> goodnight
With a spell checker I hope!
<ENN Chat> Yep.
Chat> Talk to you soon Todd.
<Todd Barber> Thanks.
Copyright 2000, Environmental News Network