North Carolina Native to Lead Coral Reef Alliance

Raleigh resident Heather Starck becomes Executive Director of the global nonprofit dedicated to saving the world’s coral reefs.

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – July 11, 2022 – The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL), a global nonprofit dedicated to saving the world’s coral reefs, announced this week that Raleigh resident Heather Starck has joined the organization as executive director. 

Starck is responsible for leading CORAL through a new strategic planning process and advancing the organization’s efforts to keep coral reefs healthy so they can adapt to climate change. 

“Heather’s passion for conservation and the oceans mixed with her track record of driving successful nonprofit operations will be the perfect addition to CORAL,” says Kirby Ryan, chair of the Board of Directors at CORAL. “Her pragmatic, people- and mission-centered approach will help CORAL further our mission while enhancing our culture.” 

Starck most recently served as the Vice President of Grassroots Capacity Building for the National Audubon Society, in which she led the growth, development and engagement of a network of chapters, volunteers, activists and youth leaders dedicated to bird and wildlife conservation. She also previously held the role of executive director for Audubon North Carolina and sat on the National Audubon Society’s Climate Cabinet, acting as a leader for environmental conservation.

“The underwater world is what led me to conservation,” says Starck about her decision to join CORAL. In addition to more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit conservation management, Starck brings both a background in marine biology and an incredible enthusiasm for CORAL’s mission to save the world’s coral reefs.“Somewhere in the suspended water and time floating along a reef is where I am most at peace. CORAL’s mission, to save the world’s coral reefs, is one that I can bring my entire personal and professional passion and expertise to support.”

Though coral reefs only encompass less than one percent of the earth’s surface, they are one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on our planet. They are home to 25 percent of all marine life and support over 500 million people with food, income and coastal protection. They are also one of the most valuable ecosystems on the planet, contributing more than $375 billion in services each year. 

But the threats to coral reefs continue to mount, and today nearly 75 percent of all coral reefs are threatened by climate change and localized human activities. Scientists predict that 99 percent of coral reefs will be lost by the end of this century without concerted efforts to protect them. 

CORAL works through community partnerships to keep coral reefs healthy throughout Hawaii and the Mesoamerican region, and spearheads global conservation science and collaborations to focus attention on what corals need in order to adapt to future climate conditions. Learn more at 


The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) is committed to saving the world’s coral reefs. The nonprofit organization works at local, regional and global levels to keep coral reefs healthy so they can adapt to climate change and survive for generations to come. As one of the largest global NGOs focused exclusively on protecting coral reefs, CORAL has used cutting-edge science and community engagement for nearly 30 years to reduce direct threats to reefs and to promote scalable and effective solutions for their protection. Learn more about their approach at

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