Exploring New Frontiers in Coral Nurseries: Leveraging 3D Printing Technology to Benefit Coral Growth and Survival

Ofer Berman, Natalie Levy, Haim Parnas, Oren Levy, Ezri Tarazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Coral nurseries and associated techniques are the most common and widespread reef restoration methods worldwide. Due to the rapid decline of coral reefs, coral nurseries need to be eco-friendlier and adapted for effective upscaling to support large restoration projects. We suggest new design and fabrication processes associated with coral gardening and transplantation with 3D printing technology to offer a beneficial solution for growing coral fragments in on-land and underwater nurseries. We describe multiple combinations of building nurseries through the integration of biomimetic substrates and novel solutions for attaching coral fragments. Our methods are supported with supplemental testing of two hybrid substrate designs and coral mounting structures, building upon previous studies in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba (GoE/A), Red Sea. We identified and quantified marine invertebrates colonizing the surfaces of our substrates with environmental DNA (eDNA) by targeting the mitochondrial COI gene. We evaluated our coral fragments with and without our mounting structures to obtain an indication of total protein as a proxy for tissue health. We demonstrate the ability to design hybrid nurseries with custom mounting structures using biomimetic substrates, such as large ceramic artificial reefs, or with an interlocking mesh for holding numerous fragments to maximize out-planting efforts. We propose several methods for both land and underwater nurseries catered to various restoration initiatives for cost-effective up-scaling to meet the demands of global reef restoration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1695
JournalJournal of Marine Science and Engineering
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


Thank you to the staff and students at the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences (IUI) in Eilat for their generosity and assistance with this study. We thank Maya Muchawsky Parnas and Rotem Gruber for their work to fabricate our square biomimetic tiles. Thanks to Haim Zinger for the photos used in A,B, A and A–C; to Shachaf Ben-Ezra for the photos used in C and ; and to Joseane A. Marques for being one of the first testers of our mounting structures. Thanks to Formlabs Inc. and Systematics LTD. for their assistance in producing the universal mounting structures v2 shown in A,B. All the 3D files presented in this research are available to download in Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:6120928 , accessed on 26 August 2023. This study was carried out under Israeli Nature and Parks Authority permits no. 2019/42246, 2020/42549, and 2023/43285. Thank you to the people and facilities of the MaRHE Center for the deployment of our round tiles, specifically Paolo Galli, Simone Montano, and Davide Seveso. Thank you to the members of the Design Tech Lab at the Technion—Israel Institute of Technology and the members of the Laboratory for Molecular Marine Ecology at Bar-Ilan University for their support. Thank you for Noa Simon Blecher and Inbal Ayalon From the Molecular Marine Ecology Lab and the IUI Marine Lab, Eilat Israel. O.B. was supported by the Technion Polack Fund, Zeff Daniel and Fine Fund, The Stern Family Fund, and the Technion Design-Tech Lab for this research. This manuscript represents partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Ph.D. thesis for O.B. at the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. N.L. was supported by the Bar-Ilan University President’s Scholarship, the Israeli Ministry of Integration and Aliyah Scholarship, the Murray Foundation, and the Red Sea Reef Foundation.

FundersFunder number
Israeli Ministry of Integration and Aliyah Scholarship
Murray Foundation
Red Sea Reef Foundation
Technion Design-Tech Lab
Technion Polack Fund
Zeff Daniel and Fine Fund


    • additive manufacturing
    • biomimetic design
    • coral fragmentation
    • coral gardening
    • coral reef restoration
    • coral transplanting
    • hybrid substrates


    Dive into the research topics of 'Exploring New Frontiers in Coral Nurseries: Leveraging 3D Printing Technology to Benefit Coral Growth and Survival'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this