Underlying Values in Coral Restoration: Responses to the Coral Crisis

Cassandra Wilson, University of Rhode Island


Controversy has long existed among global coral experts over how to solve the coral crisis. This problem extends to the U.S. and its coral reef areas, but research on how this controversy influences restoration efforts in Florida is lacking. This study focused on Florida as an important and accessible case study to gain a closer look at the motivations behind coral conservation efforts taking place in real time. Due to a history of national and local coral legislation and consistent threats to Florida’s coral reef tract, coral restoration has emerged as a legitimate form of coral-care that some reef proponents have chosen to resist the spread of reef decline in Florida. The restoration field formed in the late 1990s and continues to rapidly expand. This case study aims to fill gaps in the social literature on coral restoration, specifically from the standpoint of the study of expertise. Using a social-psychology framework for understanding values, I conducted twenty interviews with experts to explore the ways in which personal values and backgrounds of experts in the Florida coral restoration field have influenced coral-care in Florida. Throughout our interviews, coral restoration experts revealed personal values that motivated them to join the field and shared challenges to coral conservation in the Anthropocene. Values were one factor that impacted decision-making within the field. One value that some experts revealed, pristine wilderness, reflected early western and colonial conservation ideologies. As the field continues to expand, it is important for coral conservationists to reflect on their values and how it impacts the coral-care they provide. More so, to move past the challenges of the Anthropocene, conservationists in all fields must redefine their role to help the world transition into an epoch that removes the perceived divide between humans and nature, allowing us to work collaboratively and provide multispecies care not based solely on capital or investment.

Subject Area

Environmental science|Ecology|Environmental management

Recommended Citation

Cassandra Wilson, "Underlying Values in Coral Restoration: Responses to the Coral Crisis" (2020). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI27962465.