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Mars Coral Reef

Five Women Making Waves in Coral Reef Restoration

Celebrating female trailblazers on International Women’s Day!

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we’re taking a moment to celebrate the incredible women who are at the forefront of coral reef restoration and to acknowledge the critical role that women are playing in protecting our planet’s coral reefs. From scientists to business leaders to conservationists, women are making waves in coral reef restoration and inspiring others to take action towards a more sustainable, inclusive future.

Sam West, Global Innovation Acceleration Manager, UK

Sam is the Web3 marketing lead for Mars Pet Nutrition, designing and implementing novel and innovative ways for brands to create meaningful experiences for and with consumers. This includes the SHEBA Hope Grows Collective, which looks to leverage the power of community, combined with technology, to help restore the world’s coral reefs. The Collective is the next phase of the SHEBA Hope Grows Campaign, which Sam has been a driving force of since it’s conception in 2019.

“I will never forget the moment I saw Hope Reef in person, for the first time. It was an incredible feeling that brought to life the passion, energy and magic that is possible to create when such a diverse group of people collaborate towards a common goal. Seeing really is believing” - Sam West

Alicia McArdle, Marine Program Lead, Australia

Over the school holidays, Alicia used to spend her days at local marinas, with her head over the side of the walkway or exploring the marine life on the mud flats. Thanks to her love for the marine world and a career search engine, Alicia joined the MSS team in 2018 to lead the Marine Program in Australia. Since then and building on years of experience restoring reefs, Alicia has become a global MARRS trainer, helping other organizations around the world with degraded reef systems learn about the technique we’ve developed and build their knowledge and expertise to restore their reefs. Witnessing the ‘aha’ moments in people when they realize that we can make a tangible positive difference to the world’s oceans is Alicia’s favorite part of work.

“My inspiration is our partners - the people I get to work with everyday who are so passionate about conserving the marine environment. Those who, despite the constant obstacles, keep striving to make a positive difference” – Alicia McArdle

Lily Damayanti, Marine Program Manager, Indonesia

Lily grew up surrounded by the beauty of coral reefs, on a small island called Tomia, in Indonesia. In 2008, after studying marine science at university and learning how to dive, Lily joined the Mars Sustainable Solutions (MSS) team and was instrumental in supporting and engaging with the local island communities during the initiation of the Mars Coral Reef Restoration program. Fast forward to today and Lily is a rescue diver, leading the community and government liaison for MSS Indonesia whilst supporting the operational management of the program. Lily is a source of inspiration for women everywhere to follow their passion, be confident and to believe in oneself.

“The favorite part of my work is when I see the community on the Island smile and offer their support to Mars for implementing coral reef restoration that can help to protect their Island” – Lily Damayanti

Freda Nicholson, Marine Program Officer, Australia

At only three years old, after a family snorkeling trip to the Great Barrier Reef, Freda had already fallen in love with the ocean. It was this love that landed Freda in Sulawesi, Indonesia to volunteer for a year with the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Program. This experience encouraged Freda to inspire others in the same way and in 2021, she worked with Alicia to bring the MARRS program to Australia. Since then, Freda has been working with partners to instigate reef restoration projects across Australia, train others in the MARRS method and share her passion for this work with others.

“Seeing the way the reefs that I had personally ‘built’ grow and recover throughout that time made me realize that there are so many tangible and practical things that can be done to help coral reefs worldwide if we are motivated enough!” – Freda Nicholson

Philippa Mansell, Marine Program Lead, Indonesia:

Growing up in Guernsey, a small island in the English Channel, Philippa (Pippa) has always been surrounded by the ocean and becoming a marine biologist was all she ever considered as a career. Pippa joined the Mars Coral Reef Restoration Program after running a marine research station for almost 20 years and has since led the restoration of our flagship site in Indonesia, the location where the Reef Star was developed and where HOPE was literally and metaphorically grown. A standout moment for Pippa was witnessing members of the local community being taught to dive and being trained in the MARRS method, so that they could be equipped to restore their own reefs.

“In any career or line of business, women simply bring an alternative view, idea, energy, and mindset to the table. By combining this with all those individuals that are dedicating their lives to this area of research, both men and women, we have an incredible opportunity to make a real difference to the world of ocean science and conservation both today and in the years and decades ahead of us also” – Philippa Mansell

These women, along with countless others, are playing critical roles in protecting and restoring coral reefs around the world. Their work is a testament to the power of women’s leadership and the urgent need for action to safeguard these vital ecosystems for generations to come. On this International Women’s Day, let us celebrate their achievements and commit to supporting and amplifying the voices and work of women in ocean conservation and beyond.