The journey of MARISSA MYER ’18 from Graceland student to a passionate advocate for ocean conservation has led her to launch The Coral Nursery, a nonprofit organization based in Puerto Rico. Since graduating in 2018, her dedication to her work and her commitment to environmental preservation have made her a rising star in the field.
Marissa decided to attend Graceland because of her family’s deep ties to the university and her affiliation with Community of Christ. Her grandmother, Vicki Ross ’50, served on Graceland’s board of trustees, and she had a long list of family members who had attended Graceland. “The list of my family members that attended Graceland is a long one! For me, it was a no-brainer committing to GU, from a lifetime of hearing of the memories and experience it provided for my family,” Myer said.
Corals provide essential habitat structure and energy in coral reef systems, facilitating the existence of numerous reef associated species. Healthy oceans need healthy corals! Follow @thecoralnursery on Instagram to stay connected!
During her time at Graceland, Marissa’s experiences in the C.H. Sandage School of Business laid the foundation for her current work. While the curriculum provided important knowledge, it was the supportive faculty, personal development opportunities, and multicultural friendships she cultivated that truly prepared her for her professional growth. Engaging with professors who genuinely cared about her success, participating in clubs like Enactus, and forming relationships with peers from around the world broadened her perspectives and nurtured her personal and professional development.
Marissa’s journey in coral restoration began with a fortuitous encounter with Dr. David Vaughn ’75, another Graceland graduate. Her brother, Nathan Myer ’10, informed her of Dr. Vaughn’s groundbreaking work at his organization, the Plant a Million Corals Foundation. Intrigued, Marissa visited Dr. Vaughn’s facility in the Florida Keys while she was traveling the United States. Their meeting sparked a connection and a shared vision for coral restoration. Inspired by Dr. Vaughn’s work and his mentorship, Marissa decided to join forces with him, resulting in the birth of The Coral Nursery of Puerto Rico.
“My passion and love for the ocean has always been a leading force in my life,” Myer said. That passion, combined with her knowledge of the nonprofit sector, were the driving forces behind Marissa’s decision to pursue coral restoration.
Using the innovative microfragmentation method developed by Dr. Vaughn, The Coral Nursery aims to produce 100,000 corals annually, restoring coral reefs at an accelerated rate.
Through their facilities, which include retractable tanks, a miniature laboratory, and temperature-controlled awnings powered by solar energy, The Coral Nursery is poised to become a leader in coral restoration. Additionally, the organization is committed to education, providing internships for local marine biology students, and offering educational programs for K-12 schools and the general public.
For Marissa, the most meaningful aspect of her time at Graceland was the invaluable network she built. The close-knit community fostered strong connections and a collective commitment to each other’s success. These connections not only led to the establishment of The Coral Nursery but also helped her secure her first job in the nonprofit sector as an Americorps Vista in Anchorage, Alaska. Grateful for the support she received, Marissa acknowledges that her experiences at Graceland, such as the house system as a member of Shalom, participation in sports teams, Enactus, and Winter Term travel, all contributed to her personal and professional growth.
Myer’s advice to students centers on her adventurous spirit: “Since Graceland, I’ve lived in many places including Alaska, Wilmington NC, the Outer Banks, Pittsburgh, aboard a houseboat, and traveling around in a van. My advice is to dream big, travel far, and meet as many people as you can!”
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