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Reef Relief Founder, Craig Quirolo

Craig Quirolo
Reef Relief Founder

Craig Quirolo founded Reef Relief , a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to protecting coral reefs, in 1987.  He led the organization until his retirement in 2009.  Craig was the Director of Marine Projects and International Programs for the organization and created the Bahamas Coral Survey, Reef Mooring Buoy and Coral Nursery Projects, the Coral Photo Monitoring Survey for Reef Relief and the Key West Marine Park Project.  Craig was educated at Chico State University and the San Francisco Art Institute and apprenticed with the Greek artist Jean Varda and philosopher Alan Watts of Sausalito.

He is an experienced blue water sailor who has sailed over 100,000 miles, much of it in the Caribbean.  Craig is an experienced diver and photographer and a well-respected coral reef naturalist.  He led the effort to create Reef Relief’s Reef Mooring Buoy Program patterned after the design by Harold Hudson and John Halas.  It eventually totaled 116 buoys at 7 Key West-area coral reefs, becoming the largest private mooring field in the world. Reef Relief maintained the system for ten years; it is now part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He has designed and trained local teams to install reef mooring buoys to protect the coral reefs of  Negril, Jamaica, Guanaja, Bay Islands, Honduras, the Dry Tortugas and Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas.  His innovations included the U-bolt design for use by larger vessels and the self-cleaning buoy.  Each installation became the first step in the creation of a comprehensive grassroots coral reef conservation program including educational programs, scientific monitoring and support for the creation of marine-protected areas. 

Reef Relief was an early and strong supporter of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  Quirolo was the only environmentalist invited by Florida Senator Bob Graham to speak in support of the sanctuary before a U.S. Senate Committee. 

For over a decade, Reef Relief, led by Craig Quirolo, collaborated with the Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society (NCRPS) to protect the coral reefs of Negril, Jamaica. After installation of mooring buoys to protect the reefs from anchor damage, Drs. Brian Lapointe and James Porter were invited over to begin surveying the reefs, with workshops held to share their results with the public in Negril. Ultimately, the effort led to the creation of the Negril Marine Park, which is established and currently managed by the NCRPS, a private non-profit organization. Park rangers were trained to survey the reefs and educational programs were launched, similar to programs underway in the Florida Keys.

Craig Quirolo surveyed coral reefs in the Key West area and other parts of the Caribbean and Bahamas for over 20 years, beginning with the funds awarded with the first Robert Rodale Environmental Achievement Award.  He created a website at www.reefreliefarchive.org that contains over 10,000 images from his surveys that he continues to manage privately today. 

Craig’s approach was to return to the same coralheads and document change over time on a digital still and video format. Then he would study the images and video transects and identify any anomolies, which he then shared with leading coral reef scientists specializing in coral diseases. Several of these scientists have become Reef Relief Scientific Advisors. His technique is a low impact, non-intrusive methodology that involves obtaining still images of a particular coralhead––top down and all sides, coupled with a video transect of the immediate area of the coral formation including around all sides of the formation. The location of the formation is not marked in any way but is recorded by way of charts and GPS and is randomly selected. Quirolo became familiar with specific coralheads and returned to them over time.  He has studied and documented algal overabundance, storm damage, coral disease, bleaching, boat groundings, anchor damage, snail predation and growth rates with images that are now available to the public via the online archive.

Craig assimilated the data and images of his multi-year Coral Photo Monitoring Survey into a series of educational videos entitled Coral 2000: Volume 1: Coral Stress and Disease and Volume 2: Photomonitoring and the Coral Nursery.  In 2001, he began sharing the results of each survey excursion with Reef Relief’s online community by featuring Web Dives on the Reef Relief website at www.reefrelief.org.   He is considered an expert on observing coral diseases and credited with discovering yellowband disease and first observing white pox disease.  He has extensively monitored aspergillosis on purple sea fans and shares his data freely with researchers and educators around the world.   

Craig was honored with personal presentation of a Point of Light Award from Senior President George Bush at Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada on Earth Day, 1990.  He received the first Robert Rodale Environmental Achievement Award along with a cash prize of $10,000 from Rodale’s Scuba Diving Magazine in 1993, and a Certificate of Appreciation from President Clinton’s Council on Sustainable Development in 1997. A commendation for the efforts of Craig and DeeVon Quirolo  by Congressman Dante Fascell was published in the Congressional Record, 1991. He was awarded Rodale’s Scuba Diving Magazine Diver of the Month for Exceptional Contributions to the Conservation of our Waters in October 1992, the Negril Resort Board/Negril Coral Reef Preservation Society/Negril Area Environmental Protection Trust Award in 1995, Certificate of Appreciation on behalf of the Island of Guanaja, Bay Islands, Honduras from Bayman Bay Club in 1997, three awards from the Cuban SimpoSub in 1997 for video and coral disease work, and numerous local awards from civic organizations in the Florida Keys, beginning with the 1989 Recognition of Significant Contribution Award from the Key West Chamber of Commerce.  He was nominated for a Pew Fellowship in 2000 and won the Shifting Baselines Photo Contest in 2004.

Quirolo is a co-author on the following papers for his field work and expertise on coral disease:
*Coral Diseases, Science 280:499-500. 1999, Cervino, J.M., et. al.
*Emerging Marine Diseases--Climate Links & Anthropogenic Factors, Science 285:1505--1510. 1999. C. D. Harvell, et al.
*Coral Bleaching & Diseases: Contributors to Mass Mortality in Brireum asbestinum, Hydrobiologia 460: 97--104, 2001. Drew Harvell, et al.
* Aspergillosis of Sea Fan Corals: Dynamics in the Florida Keys. The Everglades, Florida Bay and Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys, An Ecosystem Sourcebook. CRC Press 2001.
*Yellow-blotch Disease Outbreak on reefs of the San Blas Islands, Panama. Coral Reefs 1997.
* ““Patterns of Coral Reef Development in the Negril Marine Park: necessity for a Whole-Watershed Management Plan”” by K. G. Porter, D. Porter, K. Thacker, C. Quirolo, D. Marcinek, & P. Dustan.. The Everglades, Florida Bay, and Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys, An Ecosystem Sourcebook, edited by James and Karen Porter. CRC Press 2001. Pp. 917––938
* El Nino associated bleaching in Briareum Asbestinum (Gorgonacea) and Subsequent mortality from disease in the Florida Keys. By Harvell CD, K Kim, C Quirolo, J Weir & Smith GW. In preparation for Hydrobiologia.
* Aspergillosis of Caribbean sea fan corals: spatial and temporal dynamics in the Florida Keys. Kim K, By CD Harvell, J Boyer, C Quirolo. Ecology 2000.
* The Everglades, Florida Bay & Coral Reefs of the Fla. Keys, An Ecosystem Sourcebook, edited by Dr. James & Dr. Karen Porter, CRC Press, 2001. cited as co-author on two chapters on coral disease.
* Reef Health: Measures of Change Scientific Panel Discussion, Reef Relief 2000. Dr. Bill Alevizon, Dr. Brian Lapointe, Craig Quirolo.

Quirolo is credited for photos in the following papers and in numerous magazine and newspaper articles, newsletters, and other publications related to coral reefs:
* The Etiology of White Pox, a lethal disease of the Caribbean elk horn coral, Acropora palmata by K. Patterson, J. Porter, K. Ritchie, S. Polson, E. Mueller, E. Peters, D. Santavy, and G. Smith. UGA press: contact kathrynp@arches.uga.edu. 2002.

Some of Quirolo's most significant publications include:

* Online Coral Photomonitoring Archive, 2004–present at www.reefreliefarchive.org. Craig Quirolo
* Dive Back in Time DVD.  2004.  Reef Relief. Craig Quirolo and Joel Biddle.
* State of the Reef Reports, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001.  Reef Relief Craig Quirolo
* Corals in Crisis: 1997 State of the Reef Address, Reef Relief. 1997. Craig Quirolo.
* Select Images of the Coral Photo Monitoring Survey. Reef Relief 1998. Craig Quirolo
* Final Report on Phase One of the Coral Reef Conservation Program for Abaco, Bahamas. Reef Relief. 2000
* Annual Field Report: Reef Relief No Name Coral Nursery, Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas. Reef Relief. 2003
* An Introduction to the Key West Marine Park. Reef Relief 2000.
* Photographs of Three Coral Reefs in Cuba. Reef Relief 1998.
* Reef Relief's 1998 Cuba Expedition. Reef Relief 1998.
* Coral Nursery Project at Western Sambo Reef, Florida Keys 1998.

Today, Craig and his wife DeeVon sustain their interest in coral reefs from their home in Brooksville, Florida, and in cyberspace through the online coral survey archive at www.reefrelief archive.org  and their website located at www.reefrelieffounders.com

You can contact Craig at cquirolo@gmail.com or by writing to : Craig Quirolo, 222 East Liberty Street, Brooksville, Florida 34601.