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How One Scientist Is Using Construction Waste to Restore Coral Reefs

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How One Scientist Is Using Construction Waste to Restore Coral Reefs

Dr. Taryn Foster is using manufacturing strategies from the construction industry to mass produce coral "skeletons" made from construction waste 

June 16, 2023
Scuba diver inspecting coral reef
Image: константин константи / stock.adobe.com

Coral scientist Taryn Foster grew up with a family business that mass-produced construction materials, and as she explored solutions for coral restoration, she decided to borrow some of the same manufacturing strategies her family uses to make blocks for walls. Foster's startup, Coral Maker, has developed an automated system that allows her to produce coral “skeletons” at a large scale.

Each skeleton is made from construction waste and has six small spaces where fragments of coral can be attached, as well as a handle on top so divers can easily place the structures in the ocean to restore and rehab damaged reefs, Fortune reports.

Over time, the coral will grow and fuse together into one piece. Planting corals on this type of structure means that they can become established much more quickly (depending on the type of coral, it could happen in months rather than years). “You bypass a lot of that skeletal growth that they would have to do otherwise if you just planted one little individual,” Foster says.

She had originally considered using 3D printing, which can create coral skeletons in much more complex and natural-looking shapes. But a 3D printer can take hours to produce one of the structures; the construction manufacturing equipment can make 10,000 in a day. It can also use waste materials from local construction to form the skeletons.

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