Pomona College alumnus and Coral Vita co-founder Gator Halpern ’12 has been named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs for 2018. Halpern shares the distinction with Coral Vita co-founder Sam Teicher.
Passionate about developing projects that can help create a better harmony between society and nature, Halpern was heavily influenced by his childhood near the ocean in San Diego, Calif.
While traveling through Central America with some friends from Pomona after graduation, Halpern learned to SCUBA dive and soon became fascinated with the underwater world, particularly coral reefs. He also witnessed how much of these ecosystems have died.
Through Coral Vita, Halpern and Teicher are restoring the world’s dying reefs, which support up to 1 billion people through food, coastal protection and income. Their system quickly grows resilient coral in land-based farms and transplants them into damaged reefs. This also boosts coral's resiliency against the warming and acidifying ocean conditions that threaten their survival.
“I feel like we all have a responsibility to give back to society and to the environment, and particularly those of us who are privileged enough to have received an education at a school like Pomona,” says Halpern. “We each have to find our own way of doing that, and for me, that has been through social entrepreneurship. Starting a mission-driven organization is how I can make a difference in something I care deeply about. Not to mention, it's exciting!”
For his senior thesis as an environmental analysis major at Pomona, Halpern helped organize a fish-farming project in the Peruvian Amazon. His work on the project helped distribute millions of fingerlings (baby fish) to villages on three rivers, and also assessed the socio-economic and environmental effects of fish farming in the local communities.
“Gator is one of the most compelling and unusual students I've ever had; and remarkably entrepreneurial, too,” says Environmental Analysis Professor Char Miller, who taught Halpern’s senior thesis class. “It's with great reason that Forbes tapped him and his partner!”
The former Sagehen soccer athlete co-founded Coral Vita while getting his master's degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he received Yale University's first ever Green Innovation Fellowship. He also previously served as a fellow for the World Wildlife Fund Global Marine Program.