Add another national honor for Ken Nedimyer, founder and president of the Coral Restoration Foundation in Key Largo. Monday, the St. Louis-based National Garden Clubs Inc., the largest gardening organization in the world, said it gave him a 2015 Award of Excellence — one of just three people so honored nationally. The nonprofit Coral Restoration Foundation grows and replants endangered corals in the Keys and Caribbean. Nedimyer was chosen for his “pioneering work restoring coral reefs, which many have called underwater gardening.” Nedimyer was nominated by the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs.
In 2012, he was honored globally as a CNN Hero. Nedimyer also was recognized in 2014 as a Sea Hero of the Year by SCUBA Diving Magazine, and a Conservation Hero by the Disney Conservation Fund. Nedimyer holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Florida Atlantic University. His foundation grows several different species of threatened and endangered corals in offshore nurseries, including staghorn and elkhorn corals. He and his team have developed, and are implementing, an ambitious five-year plan to grow and transplant 300,000 staghorn and elkhorn colonies throughout the Florida Keys — the largest effort of its kind in Florida and the Caribbean.
Coral reefs in the Keys and Caribbean have experienced a decline since the early 1980s. Multiple stressors including coral and invertebrate diseases, colder water temperatures and degraded water quality have contributed to 98 percent of the coral lost since 1970, Nedimyer says.Because he was an aquarist in the early 1990s, Nedimyer received federal permits to start the first offshore live-rock aquaculture farm while helping his daughter with a project for 4-H in which they experimented with different techniques to reattach staghorn coral. Out of that grew his foundation. The coral nurseries house about 40,000 colonies of stag horn and Elkhorn coral. The process uses the corals’ natural ability to reproduce using fragmentation to replenish the nurseries without having to collect corals from the wild. Nedimyer is a member of the Coral Advisory Panel for the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and chairman of the Sanctuary Advisory Council for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The other two National Garden Clubs winners of 2015 Awards of Excellence are Paul Cappiello, executive director of Yew Dell Botanical Gardens in Crestwood, Ky., and Brian Vogt, chief executive officer of Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado.Founded in 1929, National Garden Clubs Inc. has nearly 179,000 members, 5,600 local clubs, eight regions, 50 state clubs and hundreds of international affiliates. It provides education, resources and national networking opportunities.