Coral Gardening with Dr. Margaux Hein: Saving the Coral Reefs

During the summer my husband and I watched a compelling documentary on the bleaching (dying) of the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo from and

Photo Credit: Chris Jones

According to Wikipedia, The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia.

From this documentary we learned a great deal about the importance of this reef (and other reefs in the southern hemisphere), and how many of them are dying. The project involved taking healthy pieces of coral and hybridizing them with ones that were bleaching to create a new coral that would withstand climate change and other issues with our oceans.

I mentioned the documentary to my daughter and daughter-in-law, who live about 10 minutes from me, and learned that their downstairs neighbors, Margo Hein, PhD* and her fiancé Tory, an environmental scientist, who teaches Environmental Science at nearby Villanova University and Margaux operates is an official consultant with the United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Coral Reef Initiative.

I could not pass up an opportunity to interview Margaux, to which she readily agreed, so a few days ago I went to her apartment and chatted with her for about one hour, learning a great deal more about coral reefs. Margaux sent me a link to her website, (Margaux is a native of Monaco, where French is commonly spoken, although there is actually a Monacon language.) The word “mer” means sea or ocean in French, and Margaux uses these letters for her website, with the three letters also standing for an acronym that Margaux created: Marine Ecosystem Restoration.

I asked her what can we do to save the reefs and she sent me this reply via email, since we did not address this questions directly. Here is what Margaux wrote (direct quote):

The short quick answer is addressing climate change and cutting carbon emissions, which involves individual behavioural changes such as switching to a more vegetarian diet, flying and driving less… but most importantly vote for the people who are really ready to commit to a transition towards clean energy. Because coral reefs are one of these “canary in the coal mine” type of ecosystems, carbon targets to save coral reefs (below 1.5 degrees C) would benefit virtually all the other ecosystems on the planet. 

I like to think of coral reefs as a patients on life support. But they’re special patients that we need to keep alive because they support the livelihoods of about 1 billion people through a range of ecosystem services, from food to coastal protection. We know the treatment- curbing CO2 emissions, but the economic and societal costs are apparently too high for world leaders to finance that treatment.

So instead, and in parallel, we’re doing everything we can to keep them alive with active interventions such as restoration, waste-water management, and marine protected areas. We won’t be able to save the reefs this way, but we’re at least keeping them alive and helping them adapt so they can support the livelihoods of dependent communities in the hopes that carbon emissions will eventually be dealt with. 

Margaux “working” in the Great Coral Reef
Photo by Chris Jones

The website ( has wonderful videos to watch and Margaux also sent me a report that she wrote that is very informative. I may post part of it in another posting, but in the meantime, feel free to go to the website and look at the photos and information to become better informed about this important ecological issue.

Thank you Margaux for your commitment to the coral reefs and all your work as a consultant for the UN, plus your own research. You are an inspiration to those of us concerned about the environment and your work is crucial to saving the planet!

*Margaux Hein, PhD with fiance Tory (Her photo is on the website): (

Dr. Margaux Hein is a marine biologist and the Lead Consultant of MER Research and Consulting. Originally from the Principality of Monaco, she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science at the University of Queensland and her Masters and Doctorate at James Cook University in Australia. Her research focuses on the social and ecological characteristics of coral restoration success. With projects around the world since 2012, she is currently acting as an official consultant with the United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Coral Reef Initiative.

(Click on these last two links above for more videos and reports.)

Here is a photo of Margaux and Tory’s cat, Cousteau, named after Jacques Cousteau*, a pioneer in ocean/sea conservation.

*Jacques Cousteau

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jacques-Yves Cousteau, AC (/kuːˈstoʊ/, also UK: /ˈkuːstoʊ/, French: [ʒak iv kusto]; 11 June 1910 – 25 June 1997)[1] was a French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life in water. He co-developed the Aqua-Lung, pioneered marine conservation and was a member of the Académie Française.

Cousteau described his underwater world research in a series of books, perhaps the most successful being his first book, The Silent World: A Story of Undersea Discovery and Adventure, published in 1953. Cousteau also directed films, most notably The Silent World, the documentary adaptation of his book, which won a Palme d’or at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival. He remained the only person to win a Palme d’Or for a documentary film until Michael Moore won the award in 2004 for Fahrenheit 9/11.


Botanical Images: Exhibit at North Star Orchard (PA)

NOTE: Last month I featured Diane Mattis’ lovely botanical images on postcards and note cards. If you live in Eastern PA, you might want to attend the barn art gallery happening noted below her photo.


Diane’s photography, matted and framed pieces, as well as photo note cards,will be exhibited and for sale in the barn art gallery at the North Star Orchard in Cochranville, PA, for three weekends in  August.

Address: 3232 Limestone Road, Cochranville, PA 19330      Phone: 484-502-7360


Dates and Hours: Thursdays through Sundays, 10AM to 5PM

August 5-6-7-8       August 12-13-14-15        August 19-20-21-22

Or use this link for more information:

Free Admission, but please note there is a flight of stairs to climb in order to see the art.

Example of one of Diane’s beautiful botanical images on a note card.

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