Coral Vita president and co-founder Gator Halpern ’12, who has worked for years to save the world's coral forests, is one of the inaugural recipients of the Earthshot Prize, a global prize for the environment. The prize awarded by Prince William and the Royal Foundation includes £1 million prize money as well as a professional and technical network to scale up environmental solutions to repair our planet.
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.
Based in the Bahamas, Coral Vita plays a major role in expanding coral farming and reef restoration efforts in the face of global warming. By growing coral on land to replant in oceans, they give new life to dying ecosystems. Their methods grow coral up to 50 times faster than traditional methods and improves resilience to the impact of climate change.
As well as restoring reefs, Coral Vita works with local communities, public officials, and private companies to improve education, create new job prospects and build a model to inject more funding into environmental protection. Coral Vita gives new life not just to the ocean but to coastal economies as well.
The five Earthshot Prize winners were chosen for their groundbreaking solutions to major environmental challenges. Halpern’s Coral Vita received the prize in the Revive Our Oceans category. Other categories included winners working on protecting and restoring nature, cleaning our air, building a waste-free world and fixing our climate.
During his time at Pomona, Halpern helped organize a fish-farming project in the Peruvian Amazon for his senior thesis as an environmental analysis major. His work on the project helped distribute millions of fingerlings (baby fish) to villages on three rivers and assessed the socio-economic and environmental effects of fish farming in the local communities.
“Those who studied with Gator will remember his lightning-quick mind and entrepreneurial energy. I was reminded of these qualities—not to say his ambition and drive—when over breakfast in New Haven he outlined what he and Sam had in mind for what has become Coral Vita,” says environmental analysis professor Char Miller, who read Halpern's thesis. “His excitement at the prospect of scaling up coral reef restorations was, and remains, infectious. No wonder Coral Vita snagged an Earthshot Prize!”
Economics Professor Bowman Cutter and Emeritus Professor of environmental analysis and geology Richard Hazlett were the other two readers of Halpern's senior thesis.
Halpern has also been recognized as one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs for 2018. Halpern shared the distinction with Coral Vita co-founder Sam Teicher.
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.
Read more about Halpern in a previous issue of the Pomona College Magazine.