Founder of pioneering organization in global ocean conservation to present Vangermeersch conference on November 8 – URI News



KINGSTON, RI – November 5, 2021 – Richard Vevers, Founder and CEO of The Ocean Agency and pioneer in marine conservation, will present the Vangermeersch 2021 lecture at the University of Rhode Island College of Business on Monday, November 8.

The lecture, free and open to the public, will take place at 4 p.m. in the Hope Room at the Robert J. Higgins Welcome Center, 45 Upper College Road, on the Kingston campus. To register, go to the event website.

Vevers’ presentation, “The Business of Saving the Ocean”, will focus on his professional journey from a decade in the advertising industry to founding an international non-profit organization that is a leader in the fight to protect the world’s oceans.

Vevers launched The Ocean Agency in Sydney, Australia, in 2010 with a mission to accelerate ocean science and conservation, using his experience in advertising and a business approach. In just over a decade, the Ocean Agency, now based at URI’s Narragansett Bay campus, has accomplished historic work in the field of ocean and reef conservation.

“Ocean conservation is not working,” said Vevers. “The problems are growing exponentially and conservation efforts have very little significant impact. One of the greatest opportunities we have to turn the tide is to apply a business thinking methodology to solve problems at the scale and speed required. I’ll explain how we’ve proven this with our work, how we’ve inspired powerful brands to get involved, and how it’s helped accelerate ocean science and conservation. “

After working for 10 years in advertising in London, Vevers, on a whim, decided he needed to do something more meaningful. Passionate about underwater photography and art, he opened a studio and gallery at Bondi Beach in Sydney.

“I started working with ocean conservation charities in the region and found that there were so many problems in the ocean that I was completely unaware of and there was very little support. for ocean conservation, ”he said. “I realized that this was largely an advertising problem, so I created The Ocean Agency to see if I could use my advertising and business skills to make an impact. “

In 2012, The Ocean Agency began its mission by working with Google to take its popular Streetview feature underwater, using a 360-degree camera invented by Vevers. From 2013 to 2016, the Seaview survey collaborated with the University of Queensland to explore 1,000 kilometers of coral reefs in 28 countries, taking more than a million images.

“The idea was to give the 99.9% of people who don’t dive access to virtual ocean exploration,” he said. “People don’t care about issues that are out of sight and out of mind. More people dived virtually in the first week of the project than they ever dived in person thanks to the partnership with Google. “

Through his work, Vevers has focused on the plight of coral reefs, which are being destroyed by underwater heat waves caused by climate change.

“Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet, but they are also the most vulnerable to climate change,” he said. “About 20 years ago we reached a tipping point for coral reefs and we started having underwater heat waves causing global mortality events.”

From 2014, the agency documented a global coral reef bleaching event, caused by an underwater heat wave. Vevers said he destroyed 50% of the corals in the Great Barrier Reef, as well as damage to other reef systems. The work was featured in a 2017 Netflix documentary, “Chasing Coral,” which won an Emmy.

The Oceans Agency also launched the 50 Reefs project, developing the world’s first plan to save coral reefs by supporting conservation efforts where they would be most effective. Working with leading scientists, the project identified the 50 reefs least vulnerable to climate change that would have the greatest potential to survive and reseed other reefs.

“We used the algorithm normally used to select portfolios of commercial stocks and applied it to the selection of ‘optimal conservation investments’,” he said. The groundbreaking study led to one of the largest philanthropic donations to save coral reefs – $ 86 million – and is used to select sites by the Global Coral Reef Fund, which is the only global fund dedicated to the safeguarding coral reefs. “

Currently, The Ocean Agency is working on the United Nations Ocean Decade, in collaboration with Adobe; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; and the United Nations Environment Program.

He’s also working with URI’s Dive Safety and Research Program to design and develop a state-of-the-art three-dimensional camera – Hammerhead – which should be ready next year. Designed for the study of shallow-water marine environments, the camera can help researchers looking to discover ways to support healthier oceans by analyzing 3D images of the seabed and fish populations.

“We could have set up our headquarters anywhere in the United States,” Vevers said of the company’s relocation. “But we fell in love with Rhode Island and wanted a scientific partner like the one we had in Australia with the University of Queensland. Being based at the Ocean Technology Center on the Bay Campus is perfect for us.

The Vangermeersch Endowed Lecture was established in 2008 with a donation from URI College of Business alumnus Deborah Ciolfi ’80 in honor of her former professor of accounting, Richard Vangermeersch, who retired in 2004 after 34 years of teaching. The lecture series features prominent role models from the business community to engage and inspire our students.


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