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.


Earth Day Every Day: 2nd Installment

To see the first ten, go to my link:

11. I posted  an Arbor Day message for #11  a couple of days ago.  Here is the link:

12. This entry is related to the trees, tangentially. I have a Jade Yoga Mat  and the company has a partnership with Trees for the Future ( Jade Yoga plants a tree for every yoga mat sold.

13. Sierra Club’s magazine called the July/August 2019 issue,”Trash Talk, “claiming that recycling is broken and needs to be reinvented. Before 2019, we sent much of our trash to China, but they banned imports of dirty foreign garbage as part of their own crackdown on their own pollution. (I say, Good for them; we need to find our own solutions.) Here is a link to that excellent article:  (One of the essays within the longer article is” “When recycling Isn’t Worth It” and notes this recycling paradox: “Sometimes the environmental impact of an unrecyclable package is far less than that of a recyclable one.”

14. Nature’s Voice, the magazine of the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), has some interesting information. Here is just one:
The NRDC is challenging Trump’s Do-Nothing Power Plan. This plan would put binding limits on greenhouse omissions from existing power plants, which is the USA’s single, biggest source of climate-destroying pollution. Replaced by the “do-nothing” Affordable Clean Energy Act, it includes extending the life of polluting coal-burning power plants. The NRDC and partners are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reinstate and update the Clean Power Plan, claiming the agency violates the Clean Air Act itself.  Feel free to contact the NRDC at:’s Voice.

15. Plant a backyard garden. (In the first 10 list, I mentioned micro-greens, growing tiny plants on my windowsill, since I only have a patio for herbs. But if you have a yard, a garden would be a great way to celebrate Earth Day, Every Day.) I Googled organic seeds and found about 5 or 6 companies that sell organic seeds, which are better for the environment than those harvested from plants imbued with pesticides. (To help save the bees and butterflies, plant items attract them, listed on the Internet.)

16. Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF): Since I live on the east Coast, I am aware of the importance of the CFB, because, according to their literature, this organization is the Bay’s only advocate to rescuing not only Bay wildlife but also the rivers and streams that feed its 64,000-square mile reach. The information also states: “You can help save the Bay by making simple changes such as not pouring harmful toxins down the drain and planting trees that prevent erosion.” Please go to to learn how you can help protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

17. Low Carbon Diet- I found this book title in my Earth Day folder, on the back of a handout, Global Warming Action Guide ($12.95) published by the Empowerment Institute. The 30 day plan to drop 5,000 pounds of CO2 sounds intriguing and I plan to review it. Will post more details with the review.

18. Environment America ( has three actions that the organization is working on:
1. To allow wildlife and wild places to thrive
2. To breathe clean air and drink clean water
3. To power our lives with 1005 renewable energy.
(Learn more about Environment America and what you can do by going to their website.)

19. Put a water conservation device in your toilet (From Living Green/Columbiana handout): I Googled about this and found on:
I plan to investigate this further and get back to you….

“In some cases, people can retrofit an older toilet (those that use 3.5 gallons of water per flush or more) so that it uses less water each time it flushes. Retrofitting can be accomplished using different methods to reduce the amount of water needed to fill the toilet tank. These methods are not recommended because, while they shrink the tank, they don’t shrink the bowl, leading to the risk of having to flush twice.

Fill Cycle Diverter - used to conserve water in older toilets

If purchasing or installing a new toilet is not an option, one of the easiest retrofits is installing something called a fill cycle diverter. The fill cycle diverter is a simple plastic device that directs more water to the tank and less to the bowl while they refill. This way the tank and bowl finish filling at roughly the same time and water isn’t wasted while one runs water while the other one fills. Once installed, a fill cycle diverter will save about half a gallon of water with each toilet flush. ”


20. Drive a fuel-efficient car. About 5 years ago, we went car shopping at the beginning of the new season for next year’s car and found a Ford Fusion (hybrid) on sale that had been used as a demo car and was the last one for the past season. It was reduced $10,000 and we traded in a Ford, so the cost was only a bit more than a non-hybrid car. We get great mileage and feel we are helping the environment, especially now that we no longer have two cars.

Copyright ©2022 Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson. | Website by Parrish Digital.