DARPA Reefense

Thanks to DARPA for this:

DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is the Pentagon’s advanced technology lab, their research & development arm.

DARPA is based in Arlington, Virginia and is probably one of the world’s coolest agencies. They get to develop all sorts of prototypes of stealth technologies here.

DARPA is responsible for the development of emerging technologies for use by the military.

DARPA’S Reefense Program

Sea level rise and wave-induced flooding during increasingly frequent storm events threaten sustainability of the more than 1,700 Department of Defense (DoD) managed military installations in coastal areas worldwide. Despite previous efforts to implement storm mitigation solutions, damage due to storm surge and flooding continues to impact military infrastructure.

Current DoD coastal protection measures, including bulkhead and coastal seawalls, may reflect wave energy, exacerbate flooding, create downstream sediment loss, and restrict water exchange. To protect DoD personnel and infrastructure, DARPA has established the Reefense program, which aims to develop novel hybrid biological and engineered reef-mimicking structures to mitigate wave and storm damage and reduce the ecological impact of current coastal protection measures.

As part of the Reefense program, custom wave-attenuating base structures will promote coral or oyster settlement and growth, which will enable the structures to be self-sustaining and address the infrastructure-related impacts of sea level rise over time.

Program performers will employ recent innovations in materials science, hydrodynamic modeling, and adaptive biology to optimize these structures for responding to a changing environment.

DARPA Reefense


“Reefense takes the novel approach of integrating structural engineering, reef health, and adaptive biology to create reef-like ecological systems,” stated Dr. Lori Adornato, Reefense program manager. “These structures will help significantly reduce infrastructure maintenance costs, promote ecosystem health, and strengthen DoD’s ability to maintain its infrastructure and military readiness.”

The 5-year program will be divided into 3 phases, and address three Technical Areas (TA).

TA1 will focus on the base structure and component materials to provide immediate wave attenuation and promote the establishment and growth of marine life. Ultrasonic attenuation is the decay rate of the wave as it propagates.

TA2 efforts will promote rapid recruitment of the non-reef building organisms needed to protect the reef.

TA3 will focus on adaptive biology for coral and oysters to ensure compatibility with a changing environment for greater long-term resilience.

Teams must propose to all three technical areas to develop comprehensive, enduring solutions. Proposers are expected to select from one of two environment/organism combinations for their envisioned Reefense efforts. While exact site locations have yet to be chosen, it is anticipated that sites on the U.S. Gulf Coast, South Florida and/or the Caribbean regions will likely be considered.

“We see a great potential for the Reefense program and performer teams to collaborate with other government and non-governmental organizations that have interest in coastal protection and improved ecosystem health,” added Adornato. “We encourage potential transition partners to engage early in the process.”

Reefense program requirements specifically exclude the use of genome editing.

Under Reefense, custom wave-attenuating base structures will promote calcareous reef organism (coral or oyster) settlement and growth, which will enable the system to self-heal and keep pace with sea level rise over time. A system will be put in place that will also attract non-reef building organisms necessary to help maintain a healthy, growing system. Finally, adaptive biology (other than genetically modified organisms) will enable improved coral and oyster resilience against disease and temperature stress, to ensure compatibility with a changing environment.

DARPA (Arlington, VA)


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