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GATOR HALPERN - Co-Founder & President of Coral Vita - UN Young Champion of the Earth - Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneur
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Coral reefs are the most biodiverse habitat on the planet, despite covering less than 1 percent of the ocean. Over a quarter of all marine life exists in these rain forests of the sea.
Gator Halpern is the Co-founder and President of Coral Vita, a mission-driven company working to restore our world’s dying coral reefs. He is a lifelong entrepreneur who is passionate about starting projects that can help create a better harmony between society and nature. His work has earned him a number of awards including being named a United Nation’s Young Champion of the Earth, a Forbes 30 Under 30 social entrepreneur, and an Echoing Green fellow. Before founding Coral Vita, he worked on development projects in Brazil, Peru, and South Africa. During his career, he has helped distribute millions of baby fish for aquaculture to remote villages in the Amazon, he’s analyzed the environmental effects of land-use change projects on three different continents, and worked for the World Wildlife Fund Global Marine Program. Gator founded Coral Vita during his graduate studies at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and he lives and works in the Bahamas where Coral Vita operates the world’s first commercial land-based coral farm for reef restoration.
“Coral reefs are the most biodiverse habitat on the planet, despite covering less than 1 percent of the ocean area, over a quarter of all marine life exists in these rainforests of the sea. And if you think of a coral reef as a rainforest, the trees are the coral themselves. Which are incredible organisms, so, magic is really the right word to describe them. They're these animals that are one of the original forms of animal life, the second branch of the animal kingdom is actually Cnidaria, which includes coral and jellyfish. So, an ancient animal, but they have a symbiotic relationship with algae, and so inside the animal tissue are these zooxanthellae, these algae that do photosynthesis, like algae do, like plants do. It's able to capture sunlight and convert it into sugars and energy. And so, it's an animal, but it's got plants that live inside it, this algae, and then even more wild - it grows a skeleton that is rock!
So coral skeleton is actually calcium carbonate, which is limestone. And most of the limestone that exists on the earth was grown by these organisms. And so they're animals with plants inside of them that grow rock as skeleton. And the rock skeletons form these incredibly intricate structures that are coral reefs that can grow for thousands of miles and the corals can live for thousands of years to be seen from space and to create these essential ecosystems that are really the cornerstone of all of life in the ocean and, and therefore much of life on Earth.”