Ken Nedimyer, a Florida Keys coral restoration expert, was recently named a CNN Hero for his pioneering efforts to develop techniques to preserve coral reefs and motivate the public to get involved in the cause.
Ken is the founder and president of the Key Largo-based Coral Restoration Foundation — an organization that’s doing remarkable work and providing tremendous hope for the future of coral reefs.
According to CNN officials, CNN Heroes are everyday people changing the world — dedicating their lives to giving back to communities, defending the planet by protecting the environment, helping others overcome obstacles or solving problems in a unique way. And Ken Nedimyer certainly meets those criteria.
More than 10,000 “heroes” are nominated each year from about 100 countries around the world. Approximately 25 to 30 heroes are profiled, and the top 10 are chosen at the end of the year by CNN’s editorial board to appear in a special CNN presentation — with each finalist receiving a $50,000 grant.
One of the honorees, to be voted by fans across the globe in the fall, is to be named CNN Hero of the Year, and will receive an additional $250,000 grant.
Ken’s nomination came from Gary Yoss, a diver from Wellington, Fla., who had seen his coral plantings on Molasses Reef off Key Largo.
“I had to pinch myself; I’m pretty excited,” Ken said after learning about the honor. “It’s a huge endorsement not just for me, but for the foundation — and this really puts us on the radar.”
Now 56 years old, Ken began coral restoration research efforts about 10 years ago after being involved in tropical fish collecting and aquaculture.
The Coral Restoration Foundation’s one-acre coral nursery, located in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo, is possibly the world’s largest. It contains nearly 23,000 coral clippings that range from the length of a knuckle up to 15 inches.
The clippings are eventually transplanted to nearby reefs to grow and become independent structures, serving as habitat for a variety of tropical fish, and to subsequently reproduce to add further reef growth on the ocean floor.
Overall, he has leveraged common-sense techniques and worked with scores of volunteers to succeed in an effort that some scientists thought was impossible.
It’s an effort that dive-certified Keys visitors can assist — by joining Ken’s “workforce” for coral restoration. Several times a year, coral restoration workshops are based at Upper Keys inns and resorts, attracting visitors who learn about coral reefs and participate in working dives to help out at the nursery.
But it’s not just the Keys’ coral reef that can benefit from Ken’s work. His groundbreaking techniques are also likely to have positive impacts for coral reefs in other tropical areas.
“We are developing a concept we can take to other countries as well,” Ken said. “Ours is a message of hope — I’m convinced this is the solution that can work.”
For his passionate conviction, pioneering actions and dedication to saving endangered corals, Ken Nedimyer truly deserves his new title of “hero.”