August 2018
Member Spotlight: Susan Gerrish, SECORE International

SECORE International Logo

C4SC member, Susan Gerrish has more than just a passing interest in the oceans and the sea life that inhabit them.  

Gerrish is the Development Director for SECORE International, one of the leading conservation organizations that protect and restore our coral reefs.  They are a global network of scientists, public aquarium professionals and local stakeholders who work together on research and conservation of the world’s coral reefs.

Elkhorn Coral Image - Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio
Elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio

“Coral reefs help break up waves that propel destructive storm surges and protect coastal property, they are home to an abundance of sea life and provide economic benefits in over 100 countries around the world,” Gerrish explained.

As development director, she inspires interest in the restoration work of SECORE by engaging individuals, corporations, other foundations and conservation organizations to become involved to help in the crisis of coral reef degradation.

“At SECORE, our experts perform research and develop technologies to restore endangered coral species and rehabilitate coral reefs around the world,” Gerrish continues. “Helping corals to reproduce quicker than they decline is a formidable task,” she added. “And so, we take a solution-based approach by encouraging sexual reproduction.” 

Corals are highly specialized marine animals. “Important reef-building corals such as elkhorn or staghorn corals only spawn once a year, shortly after a full moon, in warm weather. And, to reproduce, corals must find a mate (an egg or sperm) from a different parent,” explained Gerrish. SECORE scientists help facilitate that process.

SECORE (SExual COral REproduction) was launched in 2002 by Dr. Dirk Petersen at the Rotterdam Zoo (The Netherlands) whose research on coral reproduction led to innovative techniques for reef conservation. Mike Brittsan, M.Sc., of the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium joined the team a couple years later to bring SECORE to the United States.

The organization and its partners are committed to outplanting 1 million corals by 2021 through their Global Coral Restoration Program (GCRP).

According to Gerrish, finding an answer to restoring coral reefs is a big challenge. “Corals are slow-growing animals. The human impact that is causing global warming and contributing to the degradation of coral reefs is happening at a pace that is faster than solutions. SECORE’s goal is to provide education and outreach through workshops and organize collaborative research and restoration impact that is scalable through the Global Coral Restoration Project.”

Collection of coral gametes from spawning elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio
Collection of coral gametes from spawning elkhorn coral. Photo courtesy of Paul Selvaggio

Gerrish implores involvement, because “although most people don’t see coral reefs, they are contributing to all of our lives in many ways.”

She adds that “our coral reefs are home to over 25% of all sea life including thousands of fish species that provide food for island nations and the rest of the world. The health of the ocean affects everyone whether they recognize it or not.”

In the next 5 years, Gerrish believes that “the positive impact of SECORE on coral reef health will benefit not only island nations but the health of our planet.”

SECORE International’s work in coral research and restoration is supported by individuals, foundations, corporations, public aquariums, oceanographic institutes, and universities throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

For more information about SECORE or how you can get involved in coral reef conservation, contact Susan Gerrish at s.gerrish@secore.org, or visit www.secore.org.

The Center for Social Change is proud to have SECORE International as a member of the C4SC community.