JD Reinbott: The Coral QWEEN

Eco-Conscious Diver is beyond excited to roll out the very first ECD Hall of Fame Diver and what better way to kick of this new tradition, than to honor the Coral QWEEN himself, JD Reinbott. I had the distinct honor of working with JD in the Coral Restoration Foundation nurseries, located in the Florida Keys, and was so impressed by his work with their Dive Programs and general coral enthusiasm that I couldn't help but share a little about this gem with the ECD community.

JD showcasing the length of a robust Elkhorn coral, which is one of the species he has been working with along the Florida Reef.

JD recently accepted an offer as a Marine Instructor and Assistant Coral Program Manager at Marine Conservation Costa Rica in Quepos, Costa Rica. I asked him to give us the skinny on his marine science background and his new job role.

From the man, himself:

"Growing up I have always been obsessed with the ocean. In fact we have a running joke in my family that if there wasn’t an aquarium or beach for me to visit on a proposed vacation I would refuse to go. I can’t really pinpoint where my passion came from or when it first started but I am extremely grateful that my family was supportive (regardless of the countless hours they waited as my eyes were fixated on a set enclosure within an aquarium, the giant piles of ocean related books that took up our shelves and the fact that the DVR was always full due to an endless amounts of documentaries). But then again, they never did have to go far when they were unsure of what animal was looking back at them through the glass because their walking ocean encyclopedia was never too far away.

As I got older I decided to study Marine Science at the University of New England in Biddeford, ME. And while I was happy to be studying within the field I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to focus on for the rest of my life after graduation. Skip ahead to my junior year and I found myself enrolled in a coral biology travel course where the lab aspect involved a trip to Belize to do some in person field work. Admittedly I only really signed up for the course to get out of Maine and the cold and to spend my days posting pictures on Instagram to make those back home jealous. However the moment my professor, Dr. Jeri Fox, opened her mouth I moved to the front of the class and the rest was history. Soon enough I was on a flight to Belize and while everyone around me was excited to see sharks, rays, turtles, etc. all I could think about was getting up close and personal with some coral polyps. The trip itself was amazing and solidified my title as a coral nerd but I was also finding myself limited and frustrated by the length of my snorkel.

So shortly after my trip I became a certified diver and found myself traveling back down to the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef system where I worked with the Sian Ka’an Biosphere collecting metrics on coral population abundance, bleaching, predation and disease. And what struck me the most was how different these reefs looked in comparison to those I saw during my check out dives in Florida. And that really made me want to do something and right after graduation, I became an intern with the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo, FL. The year I spent as an intern helped me grow as an educator, diver and coral conservationist. From giving presentations to numerous school groups to leading tours through the world's largest coral tree nursery to outplanting over 1500 corals on my own I really learned a lot. And I’m excited to be bringing all that knowledge and skill to my upcoming job.

I am currently set to start working with MCCR in early November. The job itself is broken into two separate parts with one focusing more so on the professional side of diving and the other around coral restoration and conservation. Within my first month at this brand new nonprofit organization I will be receiving my PADI Instructor (through Oceans Unlimited Scuba Diving & Go Pro Costa Rica) and starting to certify new divers, bringing them into the amazing underwater world that we all know and love so much. As an instructor I will also help run five different ocean conservation based specialty courses including general marine conservation, Project Aware shark conservation, coral rescue, sponge ecology and juvenile fish ecology. I’m really excited about the specialty side of my instructor because I will be able to combine both my passion for the ocean and for diving and share it will all of my students, not to mention the fact that I may get the chance to write my own conservation speciality for PADI.

When I’m not working within the dive shop itself I am going to be working on helping Marine Conservation Costa Rica further develop their coral program. With them being such a new nonprofit there is so much room for growth and experimentation which has me really excited. There is talk of expanding their nurseries, both in terms of amount of physical in water structures as well as coral genotypes, and playing around with different types of nurseries (tree vs table and so on). I’m also going to help out with both their intern and volunteer programs as well as taking on educational outreach events and social media. We will also be doing a lot of reef surveys to check in on current coral populations and hopefully once things get further down the line start outplanting our corals. It may seem like a lot at the moment and such a big move is slightly daunting but I am beyond excited for this next step in my life!!!"