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UNCW alum’s work to revitalize coral reefs earns him prestigious Earthshot Prize

UNCW alumnus Joe Oliver and his teammates at Coral Vita were awarded a $1.3 million Earthshot Prize for their work to revitalize coral reefs.
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 5:41 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - UNCW alumnus Joe Oliver and his teammates at Coral Vita were awarded a $1.3 million Earthshot Prize for their work to revitalize coral reefs.

The Earthshot Prize was created by Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, to reward and recognize innovative work to address global environmental challenge. The first five winners were announced earlier this month.

“It’s been quite a struggle to get Coral Vita to where we are now but it’s really nice to finally be getting recognition for the hard work that the entire team put in,” Oliver said.

For Oliver, his path to the Earthshot Prize began at UNCW’s Marine Quest program, a marine science outreach program for the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Watson College of Education, and the Center for Marine Science. Oliver participated in the program as a child.

“I am proof that the system works,” he said. “I went to UNCW’s Marine Quest when I was a kid, when I was 10 to 12. I knew I wanted to go into marine biology before that but that sort of sealed the deal and then I went to UNCW as a student.”

During his time as a student, Oliver worked as an instructor for Marine Quest.

Now, as part of Coral Vita, Oliver is working at Coral Vita’s farm in the Grand Bahamas, where he grows resilient corals and transplants them.

“We combine a lot of different strategies and technologies under one roof that allow us to harness a lot of coral’s natural growth mechanisms and augment those so that we are able to produce large volumes of coral in a shorter amount of time and in high density,” he said.

Coral Vita is the first-ever recipient of the Earthshot Prize’s “Revive Our Oceans” award.

Oliver is grateful for the attention Coral Vita is receiving as part of the award.

“The Earthshot Prize is great because it shines a very big, very bright light on not just Coral Vita and what we do but the way we like to say it is we won Earthshot for every other operator, institution and person that is doing reef restoration,” he said.

To learn more about Coral Vita, click here.

To read more about the Earthshot Prize and the other winners, click here.

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