Internships: Danni Storz

Building a Coral Nursery in the Dominican Republic

Before coming to Bren, Danni Storz (MESM 2012) had applied for a number of marine-mammal related internships and had been accepted to none. “They are highly competitive because basically everyone wants to play with dolphins,” she says.  “Regardless of my extensive experience working with marine mammals in various settings, I wasn’t successful in obtaining a single one.”

Danni Storz (left) and a Reef Check colleague plant corals in the new nursery.

For her summer 2011 internship, she applied again, “and with Bren on my resume and the professional training and personal marketing this program has provided, I was accepted for three of the four marine mammal internships I applied for.” But she chose instead to work for Reef Check in the Dominican Republic, she explains, “because I knew I wanted to go international, and even though I had marine mammal opportunities, I thought coral reef restoration would allow me to expand my resume and marketability, as well as explore other opportunities in ocean conservation.”

During her ten-week stay in the DR, she worked with Acropora coral, an important reef habitat provider that is so endangered, a reserve is not enough for it to recover. She wrote a project proposal to the Ministry of Environment, worked on installing the infrastructure for an ocean coral nursery, and gathered and segmented corals from existing gardens and transplanted them into the newly established nursery.

Storz also developed a training program modeled on the protocol of the Eco-diver course that Reef Check International uses to asses reef health, so that the all-volunteer coral garden project would be sustainable. Additionally, she built a protocol for monitoring coral bleaching, so that bleaching-resistant genotypes can be identified and introduced to promote diversity in the restoration garden.

Her “wonderful experience” included a rich infusion of local culture. “It was the Caribbean but richly Latin, complete with meringue, salsa and bachata – the dance in the DR,” she says. “We went out dancing a lot!”

Note to the DR-bound Brennie: prepare to dress up at night. Storz packed for a summer of outdoor living and says, “I looked like a California hippie, while the locals were dressed to the nines. When my fiancé came to visit, I had him bring me some appropriate outfits.”