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Restoring Life Under the Sea

By Tim Brown

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Elizabeth Moore International Center for Coral Reef Research & Restoration is committed to the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans. Leaders of the facility believe those who work here must be passionate about sea life and say Coral Reef Research and Restoration Assistant Clayton Pelkey has a huge love for the ocean.

Pelkey works full time at the lab in coral restoration, helping with general maintenance and husbandry of nursery grown corals. Mote Marine Laboratory scientists have so far restored 100,000 corals to Florida’s Coral Reef.

“I clean the tanks, I clean racks we put corals on, and rinse tools. I’m given a wide variety of tasks. I enjoy helping in any way that I can,” Pelkey said. “I love diving. It’s like being in another world.”

Pelkey trained at the College of the Florida Keys and began volunteering at Mote Marine while still in school. He also received on the job training at Mote Marine before being hired permanently at the research center. His supervisor and coworkers love having him on the team. They say Pelkey is punctual, diligent, detail oriented, reliable, and always trying to take on more responsibility.

“Clayton is a jack of all trades. He’s always trying to help with every task and wants to be involved with each project,” Mote Marine Staff Biologist Zachary Craig said. “He will maintain the racks we have the corals grow on, assists with the micro fragmentation and husbandry of the corals, and ensures general cleanliness around the lab. He is a joy to work with.”

Pelkey lives independently with the use of in-home supports. His parents say their message is to focus on abilities, raise the bar high, and find out what an individual is good at.

“I never dreamed Clayton would have the opportunity of independence,” said his mother, Reilly Pelkey. “But as a parent, you want that opportunity for them. He’s living his best life. What more can a parent want than their child to live their best life.”

In his spare time, Pelkey loves to cook and bake goodies for his coworkers. He also has an interest in dolphins, his favorite sea animals.

“We all need to take better care of the environment. We human beings need to start learning from our mistakes and try to fix what we can of this once beautiful world,” Pelkey said.

Click here to view Clayton Pelkey’s video story.

Clayton Pelkey loads tanks at Mote Marine Laboratory in Summerland Key, Florida.