ABOUT US

Coral Vita was founded by environmental entrepreneurs driven to solve one of our planet's greatest challenges: saving the reefs that they love. Our team of business, policy, and science leaders all share a deep passion for protecting coastal ecosystems
and communities.

Our Mission

Coral Vita works to restore our world's dying and damaged reefs.
By growing diverse and resilient corals and transplanting them into threatened reefs, we help preserve the ocean's biodiversity while protecting the health and prosperity of communities, nations, and industries that depend on reefs for coastal protection, food, and income.

The Team

Coral Vita’s Founders

Gator Halpern and Sam Teicher met and became friends at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where they both received Master of Environmental Management degrees. Together, they helped launch the Social and Environmental Entrepreneurship Club and were awarded awarded Yale University’s first-ever Green Innovation Fellowship. Their graduate studies and love for the ocean inspired them to launch a company to solve global coral reef degradation. Since founding Coral Vita, they’ve been recognized as Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs, Echoing Green and JMK Innovation Prize Fellows, and WeWork Creator Awards Global Finalists.

SAM TEICHER - CHIEF REEF OFFICER

A lifelong love for the ocean may not be the first thing that comes to mind when meeting someone born and raised in Washington, DC, but it was there that Sam got scuba certified when he was 13-years-old. After graduating from Yale College in 2012, he served as the Chief Operating Officer for ELI Africa, a Mauritius-based non-profit. There, he helped launch a coral farming project in partnership with the Mauritius Oceanography Institute with funding from the United Nations Development Programme Global Environment Facility. He interned for the White House Council on Environmental Quality's Climate Preparedness team, served as a fellow for the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), and was recognized as one of twenty two ‘Climate Trailblazers’ by the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit. Sam is an optimistic DC sports fan, an easy-going rugby player, and a PADI Search & Rescue scuba diver.

GATOR HALPERN - PRESIDENT

Growing up in San Diego, California, Gator spent as much time as possible at the beach as a child, and he’s happy to say that he still does. An entrepreneur and environmental activist at heart, he started his first company in high-school and has been building projects ever since, including international development programs in Brazil, Peru, and South Africa. While studying environmental science at Pomona College, Gator helped organize a fish-farming project in the Peruvian Amazon that distributed millions of fingerlings (baby fish) to remote villages while analyzing deforestation rates. He also previously served as a fellow for the World Wildlife Fund Global Marine Program, and was named a 2018 United Nations Young Champion of the Earth as well as a 2019 Summit Fellow. Gator is an avid Liverpool FC fan, and continues to emulate Steven Gerrard on the soccer pitch.

The Staff

Dr. Katey Lesneski - Director of Restoration Science

While often mistaken as being from lower latitudes, Katey is a true New England native at heart. Escaping the winter at opportune times, Katey has volunteered, studied, and worked in Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Belize, and the Florida Keys. Her time in these communities before college, studying abroad while at Brown, and during her PhD at Boston University led her to appreciate the importance of community involvement, which she gained a deeper understanding of as a 2018 Switzer Environmental Fellow. Katey has enjoyed weaving her knowledge of coral reef conservation and management into lesson plans for when she was a middle school science teacher, a graduate Teaching Fellow, and a divemaster and assistant scuba instructor. Katey is excited to bring her background of marine ecology and genetics as applied to reef restoration projects to Coral Vita. Now that she is done with her PhD she is rediscovering free time, and enjoys freshwater fish husbandry, plant cultivation, reading sci-fi novels, and just about any watersport. She can't wait to adopt her own Bahamian potcake to also bring onto the Coral Vita team.

JOE OLIVER - Director of Restoration Operations

Hailing from Wilmington, North Carolina and being born in the middle of Hurricane Diana, it seems Joe was destined to become a marine biologist. From an early age a fascination with marine organisms and ecosystems drove Joe to pursue a career in marine science that has taken him across the globe. After obtaining his B.S. in Marine Biology from UNCW, Joe began applying his experience as a lifelong aquarist to the study and aquaculture of corals along with research systems and display aquariums at UNCW’s Center for Marine Science. This led him to take a position as the Head of Husbandry for the Curacao Sea Aquarium, where he spearheaded both a policy shift for the facility’s captive husbandry and a major emphasis on education alongside coral and mangrove restoration. He served as the Head of Marine Operations and Live Coral Systems for Underwater World Guam, followed by as Marine Park Ranger for the Saba Conservation Foundation. There, he helped oversee the 2200 square kilometer Saba Bank undersea platform. Although most of Joe’s activities revolve around water, he also has a lifelong love of cooking, jewelry making, gardening, soccer (Vamo River Plate!), and rugby (Hurricanes and Ireland).

Amir Matouk - Director of Aquaculture Operations

With roots in Italy and Egypt, Amir found his love for the ocean and nature through his dad. Since he was a child he was fascinated by things that live in water. At the age of 10 he got his first aquarium as a present and at 15 he started his first coral reef tank. His studies in Milan led to him becoming a laboratory technician in chemistry and biology. His interest in corals rapidly turned into passion and a true love that brought Amir to work and lead a coral farm in Indonesia, manage husbandry systems in Australia, and most recently built public aquariums and residential reef tanks in Dubai. Amir is also passionate about diving, water sports like kitesurfing, reptile terrariums, and cooking.

Alannah Vellacott - Coral Restoration Specialist

A well-known local of Grand Bahama Island, Alannah’s passion for the protection of marine ecosystems stems from her childhood adventures exploring and fishing in a mangrove creek system that bordered her neighborhood. Now with a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences with emphasis in Ecology from SDSU, Alannah is a budding marine ecologist with over 10 years of experience working in marine research, conservation and education in The Bahamas. Having made the rounds working and volunteering for various non-profit research and conservation organizations like the Cape Eleuthera Institute, BREEF, the Bahamas National Trust, Perry Institute for Marine Science and others, Alannah has had a hand in many marine research projects. Shark stress physiology studies and AGRRA coral reef surveys are among her favorite experiences, but the biology of corals has ‘grown on her’ after a yearlong blitz of establishing and maintaining coral nurseries and surveying coral cover throughout The Bahamas and Caribbean. A PADI scuba instructor with 16 years of experience in diving, in her spare time Alannah enjoys racking up scuba certifications, DIY home improvement, and beachcombing with her fur-baby Zephyr The Dog.

Tyriq Forbes - Coral Technician

A jack-of-all-trades, Tyriq is as steady collecting coral fragments underwater as is he is affixing beams on rooftops. A native of Grand Bahama, he was scuba certified in his teens, when he helped install Reef Balls as part of a student project off of Paradise Cove on the island's West End. Tyriq plays for the Freeport Rugby Club alongside his colleagues Nick and Sam.

Nick von Albedyhll - Coral Technician

Nick grew up in Grand Bahama and has a lifelong love for nature and the reefs. He returned to the island following his studies in Germany to become our first hire following Hurricane Dorian. Nick loves to fish, swim, build things with his hands, take photos, model off our swag, and play for the Freeport Rugby Club along with his colleague Sam and Tyriq.

Scientific Advisors

Dr. David Vaughan

Coral Vita is advised by one of the world's leading coral restoration scientists: Dr. David Vaughan. Dave pioneered the microfragmenting farming method used to accelerate coral growth 50x. He’s the President of Plant a Million Corals LLC and formerly the Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory's Coral Restoration Program.

Dr. Ruth Gates

Prior to her tragic death from cancer in 2018, Dr. Ruth Gates served as an advisor and inspiration to Coral Vita. Ruth was the President of the International Coral Reef Society, Principal Investigator at the Gates Coral Lab and pioneer of the assisted evolution method to enhance coral resiliency against climate change threats.

Ruth’s passing is a loss for the entire coral community, yet as she did in life through her brilliance, warmth, and passion, her legacy continues to inspire countless scientists and practitioners to fight to keep reefs alive for future generations.

Business Advisors

TOM CHI

Tom Chi is one of the world’s leading minds in engineering, innovation, and rapid prototyping and is passionate about coral reefs and social entrepreneurship. Formerly the co-founder of Google X, his roles have ranged from astrophysical researcher to Fortune 500 consultant to corporate executive developing new hardware/software products and services.

SETH TEICHER

Seth Teicher is a serial entrepreneur and former investor. While a Principal at GreatPoint Ventures, he co-led investments in nearly twenty companies across enterprise software, healthcare, medtech, advanced manufacturing, and sustainable food. He previously helped launch Atlas Obscura and Roadside Food Projects.

Ultimate Vision

At Coral Vita, we are creating a global network of high-tech coral farms that can sustain our world’s coral reefs despite the threats they face. Our vision is to produce billions of corals from our farms each year in order to maintain these magical ecosystems for generations to come.

As we work to achieve this vision, we also acknowledge that the best thing our society can do for coral reefs is to stop killing them. We strongly urge responsible parties to limit greenhouse gas emissions, reduce pollution and overfishing, and take other meaningful steps to eliminate threats to environmental health – these necessary actions ultimately impacts humanity’s well-being and prosperity. Yet we also recognize that the pace of degradation - coupled with the lack of sufficient positive action - demands scalable adaptation solutions be implemented as mitigation measures continued to be pursued.

That's why we are scaling land-based coral farming methods. Doing so will enable stakeholders around the world to have a ready-to-install supply of corals for all restoration needs. We aim to provide a means to sustain vital resources in spite of the ecological danger our planet faces. Coral Vita improves the livelihoods of those who depend on coral and aspires to enable a new generation to protect these reefs that will sustain their communities and nations well into the future. As a mission-driven company, Coral Vita is committed to reinvesting the majority of our profits into sustaining coral reefs.

Featured Blog Posts

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.