About This Cause
Reef Life Foundation is a certified 501(c)(3) nonprofit that funds the research, design, and construction of innovative and culturally enveloped nanotechnology restoration habitats and tourist destinations that mimic the complex, mineral composition of natural ecosystems.
IntelliReefs are reef restoration systems made from our marine substrate series called “Oceanite” for underwater construction and artificial reef manufacturing for restoration. Oceanite is the culmination of breakthroughs in nanotechnology and material science, mimicking established coral reefs to increase biological and economic resilience, biodiversity, and available habitat and build an oceanic infrastructure with improved resistance to climate stressors and diseases.
IntelliReefs are both science and art. They find the most beautiful way to communicate relationships between the objectives and the environment, and the client and the wildlife. Thus, when we design IntelliReefs, we think far beyond the material. We overlay the broader regional context, considering the objectives that you want to produce within, and design correspondingly. Whether by happenstance or design, many of our partners and collaborators share our passion for the intersection between ocean and land, art and science. As a result, we have designed a dramatic organic dive performance space, an elegant swimming path nestled within an existing reef, and many other restoration products building windows between the land and sea. While each IntelliReefs product is as unique as its user, our day is always guided by a reverence for the environment, an understanding that we can only improve a small part within a greater whole, and our commitment for beautiful data-driven design.
We deployed our first IntelliReefs in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten in November 2018. The structures were engineered to mimic established coral reefs and rebuild oceanic infrastructure and coral habitat after Hurricane Irma devastated local reefs in 2017. In January 2020, our scientists found that IntelliReefs increased local biodiversity, fostered wild coral settlement, and accumulated a healthy, early stage coral community in just 14 months in Sint Maarten. They also provide much-needed food for fish communities, with local fish feeding off the structure every 15 seconds or less. This is nearly 4 times higher than feeding rates on other natural and artificial reefs globally. While other artificial reef designs and substrates exist on the market, most fall woefully short of reaching their conservation goals in four main categories: scalability, durability, bio-promotion, cost, and sustainable manufacturing. On November 26, 2020, Reef Life Foundation won a Greening the Islands 2020 award for sustainable tourism in Sint Maarten.
Around the world, we have lost about 50% of our coral reef ecosystems since the 1980’s due to pollution, climate change, and destruction of habitat. At Reef Life, we are working with local communities to bring back as much of the reef as possible through innovative, data driven solutions. We strive to cultivate trust in the communities we work in by inspiring collaborative, ocean-forward partnerships and research projects. We are heavily committed to local ecological education and demonstrate our respect for the environment by ensuring our actions preserve ecosystem integrity and biological complexity for future generations of coral reef guardians. We believe that interdisciplinary conservation and art projects that involve partnering with local conservation organizations, businesses, and governments will be the most successful means of protecting nature and accelerating positive, long-term change.
We believe that the future of marine conservation is everyone’s business. Every second breath we take originated in the ocean. It is 70% of our Earth, and without a healthy, functional ocean, we cannot stay on this planet.
Executive and Programmatic Leadership:
Reef Life Foundation has focused on marine restoration and substrate innovation, scientific research, architectural/sculptural innovation, and education and awareness for the past 5 years. The Reef Life Foundation team has three key branches that work together in concert to meet marine restoration and development needs: conservation science, design & concept development, and business/marketing. The science team consists of advanced nanomaterial scientists, marine biologists and coral restoration specialists, delivering bespoke conservation solutions that address, community identified, local and regional needs. Our design & concept development team are experts in sculptural development, artificial reef design, casting and manufacturing processes, materials testing, and deployment. Our business/marketing team coordinates storytelling, education, and awareness campaigns, manages client relations, bids, project timelines, financial details, and strategies to enhance project ROI.
We work with local partners to conduct scientific monitoring of current Reef Life projects to determine the efficacy and impact of our structures for education and awareness as well as our conservation impact on commercially and biologically important species in each region. Reef Life Co-Founder Guyon Brenna has nearly a decade of experience as an artificial reef concept artist and designer. He is also heavily involved in casting and deployment of the structures, project management, and analysis of structural design post-experiment for further concept development. The core members of the science team are Zac Forsman PhD, Emily Higgins MSc, and Konstantin Sobolev PhD. All three have been involved in Oceanite development and analysis, observation and preliminary fieldwork and experimentation, and product quality testing. Forsman and Higgins will spearhead the experimental design, scientific monitoring, and experimental analysis of Phase 1 research, while Sobolev will assess the physical effects on Oceanite samples following biological analysis. Melody Brenna is Reef Life CEO and co-founder. Ms. Brenna leads the company as we work within the global ocean sustainability community, bringing our products forward. Ms Brenna has presented and shared her business expertise at UN and global ocean summits.
Organization’s Current Program and Activities:
We are currently forging ahead to complete the next phase of the research project in Sint Maarten’s Man of War Shoal Marine Park near Philipsburg. This involves “boots on the ground, fins in the water” initiatives with the Nature Foundation Sint Maarten to design experimental and artistic collaborative structures and monitoring regimes for our deployment. Our ongoing collaboration involves the deployment of 20 large Oceanite coral reef restoration sculptures in the marine park in the shape of Hawksbill sea turtles. Reef Life has already been granted a permit for additional reef habitat deployments by the Nature Foundation. The artistic and scientific objectives addressed by Reef Life and local partners will rebuild coral reef communities following the destruction of Hurricane Irma and raise awareness for endangered Hawksbill turtle populations in Sint Maarten. Working with the Nature Foundation, the overarching long-term goal is to build support amongst public and ocean stakeholders for MPAs by creating awareness of their value for the provision of ecosystem services, ocean risk mitigation, food security, ecotourism, moderation of climate change, and improving resilience to impacts of other global stressors. Underwriting the Man of War Shoal Marine Park Restoration Initiative is a social media advocacy and awareness campaign called “Ocean Impact”, which hopes to help advance protection of the oceans around Sint Maarten through MPAs – 10% by 2020 and 30% strongly protected by 2030.
We view ourselves and our clients as stewards of the reef and the ocean. Using research, material science, collaboration, and an eye for potential, we respond to the site to create a living environment for generations of co-habitation. From small-scale dive attraction to regional restoration, we interweave present needs with future capability into every project, finding solutions that integrate complexity within nature. We find that our best work comes from collaborating with our clients, everyone’s feet on the same sand. Our clients are entrepreneurs, property owners, local governments, concerned citizens, NGOs, and people who demand exceptional design and have a vision for net positive human participation within nature. Our grounded collaborative and iterative process is constructed to capture our clients’ needs and desires, so that together, we can create experiences and products that inspire and regenerate.
Understanding and promoting healthy coral reefs for island communities is vital to increase awareness of restoration efforts and integrate local economic entities and anti-poverty groups into landscape management plans and environmental justice initiatives. Improving the health of reefs will improve the livelihoods and health of local populations who rely on reefs for food security, storm protection, and economic stability. We are currently in the early stages of producing an ongoing coral reef online educational outreach curriculum that aims to increase awareness and protection of coral reefs, environmental justice for local island populations and developing nations, and improve literacy and ongoing education for women and girls (SDG 5). We plan to work with the educational outreach coordinator at the Nature Foundation St Maarten to provide this curriculum for free to local schools.