CORAL Welcomes New Leader
|Michael Webster and his son on a trip to Belize|
As we look forward to a new era of conservation impact, we are happy to introduce you to our new executive director, Dr. Michael Webster.
Michael brings to CORAL an impressive mix of science, funding, and management expertise. In his most recent position as a program officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, he developed and managed a portfolio of more than $40 million in grants focused on the conservation, management, and scientific understanding of Pacific aquatic ecosystems. Prior to his work at the foundation, Michael earned his doctorate in coral reef ecology and coordinated scientific activities for the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans at Oregon State University.
Coral reefs have been a source of inspiration for Michael for almost as long as he can remember. Growing up in the flatlands and cornfields of southern Wisconsin, his first introduction to coral reefs was through nature documentaries featuring legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau. The sights and sounds of the underwater world captivated his imagination, and at the tender age of four, he told his family and friends that he knew what he wanted to become when he grew up—a marine biologist.
Fortunately for CORAL, Michael never lost sight of his dream. At age sixteen, he became a certified diver, and after completing high school, he bought a one-way ticket to the Virgin Islands to explore his first coral reef. He spent the next years working at a dive shop in St. Croix and pursuing his divemaster certification.
|Michael conducting research along
the Oregon coast
Michael earned his undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Wisconsin and studied coral reef ecology as a graduate student at Oregon State University. While he was research diving in the Bahamas in 1998, a severe El Niño event pushed temperatures on the reef above ninety degrees, triggering widespread coral bleaching. This experience underscored the urgent need to not only understand the ecology of coral reefs, but also to find ways to ensure their long-term health.
After completing his degree and conducting several years of postdoctoral research, Michael chose to shift his focus to conservation. While at the Moore Foundation, he worked with conservation groups, researchers, and funders to find durable conservation solutions for Pacific aquatic ecosystems. This integral part of his work will prove valuable in his new role of enhancing our community-based conservation initiatives at CORAL.
As our new executive director, Michael joins a remarkable group of leaders who have shaped and molded CORAL into the organization that it is today. His predecessors include founder Stephen Colwell, executive director Brian Huse, and, most recently, interim executive director Rick MacPherson.
"It is exciting to follow in the footsteps of these previous leaders," said Michael. "I am honored to have the opportunity to build on CORAL's solid foundation and continue to improve the effectiveness and scope of coral reef conservation." We are thrilled to welcome him to the CORAL team!