Like a mermaid on an underwater picnic, she floats gently in the current as slivers of sunlight reveal a garden of corals in the Golfo Dulce, in southern Costa Rica. Holding a basket filled with round, spiked corals, she collects one last specimen, then begins her ascent. As she breaks the surface, Socorro Avila, a research assistant who grew up on this gulf, joins Joanie Kleypas and Tatiana Villalobos – two more mermaids – and they swim towards the boat that idles nearby. The three scientists deliver their bounty, passing round, spiked corals into the waiting boat. Handling each piece requires patience — some trail along a clear fishing line, while others twist into woven strands of a rope. As they untangle each precious item, the corals’ branches jostle, tinkling like porcelain dolls colliding. The team board the boat, doff their scuba gear, and head further into the gulf — one step closer to understanding these mysterious species. For three years, this team that goes by the name of Raising Coral Costa Rica has been snapping off coral pieces from existing reefs to grow them in an underwater nursery. Months later, the team moves the nursery-grown corals and attaches them to skeleton-like structures that once were living, thriving reefs in the Golfo Dulce. Kleypas, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, has spent 30 years spent studying coral reefs, while Villalobos, along with a handful of other researchers involved in the project, are a part of…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer