The Story of MCCR
Making the World a Better Place For All of Us
Meet Geo and Kat – an interview with the brilliant minds behind MCCR!
Marine Conservation Costa Rica (‘MCCR’) was founded by two best friends, Georgia “Geo” King and Katharine “Kat” Evans, in 2019. Their story is highly intriguing. This article based on individual interviews with the duo will enable you to get to know them and the story of MCCR a bit better!
Diving into the brains behind MCCR
Geo and Kat are both originally from the UK and have been living in Costa Rica for 18 and 21 years, respectively. Geo first came to Costa Rica as she was completing her project for her masters degree. She then lived in Honduras for the first couple years after graduating and worked as a dive instructor before moving to Costa Rica and settling there. In 2009 Geo completed her course director program to be able to focus on developing the professional dive area in the country. Since then, she has been working as the manager and director of training of the Oceans Unlimited dive centre and finally took over ownership in November of 2022. Simultaneously, as co-founder of MCCR, Geo runs the dive centre and is responsible for the logistics and business side of things, that include brainstorming new projects, looking for ways to expand and exploring new avenues regarding fundraising.
Kat first came to Costa Rica in 2001 for a six month contract as a translator and project leader for a youth development charity working on environmental and adventure projects throughout Costa Rica and Nicaragua. During that time, she fell in love with Central America and ended up settling in Costa Rica. Kat has a BSc in Environmental Biology and has “worn many hats” throughout her career and has been a scientific officer, adventure guide, dive instructor, and environmental consultant,, before taking on her role as co-founder and lead biologist on the coral restoration project at MCCR. Kat is also takes a lead in community outreach programs and heads up the coral restoration interns and researchers..
The ‘Birth’ of MCCR…
Geo and Kat have known each other long before they founded MCCR together in 2019. They worked together in a dive shop and grew increasingly frustrated with difficulties regarding the implementation of various projects and reef restoration. They wanted to achieve more and came to the realisation that if they wanted to see a serious change and restore the reef and local area, they would need to take matters into their own hands and take a leap of faith by creating the non-profit in Manuel Antonio.
And working together
Both Geo and Kat had little to no concerns at all about starting an organisation together, as, at that point, they had known each other for over 15 years. Of course, they were aware that working with someone can sometimes change or strain a friendship, but the fact that they knew each other so well, knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and went through a multitude of life changing events together such as kids, friendships and loss, already set them up for success. Geo and Kat never strictly defined their roles in the organisation, they just “fell into place” and each co-founder now has different areas of responsibility, where they don’t get “into each other’s pockets”, which is one of the reasons why they think they get on so well.
MCCR is still a very young organisation, especially when taking the pandemic into account. The organisation’s main mission is to foster marine conservation through education and action. Currently, there are two main projects that are being developed.
The coral restoration project is the main focus of MCCR that deals with growing coral fragments in ocean nurseries and later outplanting them into the reef. The local reef remains closely monitored to observe any changes and developments stemming from the coral restoration project, and there are hopes to soon expand into a new permanent reef structure project. The positive impact that the project has already had on increasing the biodiversity and abundance of fish species shows the true importance of keeping it up and running.
Furthermore, MCCR engages in environmental education, focusing on teaching school children in various classes at local schools to increase awareness and knowledge on marine conservation topics and problems. Additionally, the non-profit also runs kids camps, organises regular community education talks and workshops, as well as courses for adults about coral restoration and reef research survey techniques.
MCCR is increasingly welcoming interns and volunteers to help with various aspects of the organisation. Since the organisation is still so young, the help that is provided by the interns is very greatly appreciated and is used to help the organisation grow and expand to be able to create a bigger impact. Kat emphasises that it has been a great experience so far and that they “have had so many amazing passionate students. It’s been fantastic to carry out more research into wider areas on the reef, it’s very exciting”.
Geo notes that one of the aspects that is especially great about being an intern at MCCR is that the interns get housed with local families in the area, all located near each other. The community and friendships that are formed among interns and their host families are priceless and have proven to make for an unforgettable experience for all interns who come to Quepos.
Since MCCR is a non-profit organisation, it relies heavily on funding from running the various courses, the successful “adopt a coral” program and donations from a couple of local companies.
The Effect of the Pandemic.
As with almost everywhere around the globe, the pandemic greatly affected MCCR and “slammed the brakes on everything”. Initially, Geo and Kat were not allowed to take trips out to the coral nurseries to check on their younglings. Even though this caused some rather large worries in the beginning, everything worked out well and all corals were alive and well.
On the other hand, Geo believes the pandemic might have even helped the organisation in some ways. It taught people to think outside the box and many people had the chance to reflect and think about spending their time more meaningfully by giving back. Organisations like MCCR, became more visible and therefore also gained more traction and support. The pandemic also demonstrated even more how people can make a difference, for example with the impact of less traffic and travel.
What the Future could look like.
Geo and Kat are thrilled with what they have been able to achieve so far in the few years since founding MCCR. The projects are gathering momentum and, with the new additions of permanent staff, the duo is very hopeful and excited to expand their organisation. Some goals they have set are to develop an education centre to be able to reach a wider audience, enhance the local volunteer program, set in motion the permanent reef structure project, expand coral nurseries and start growing corals in tanks on land to have even more of an impact.
When asked about their attitude and outlook on climate change and the current state of the environment, both Geo and Kat agreed that even if we might not be able to reverse climate change, we are still able to slow and stop it.
Kat states: “I think we can make a change, if each individual can do just one thing, it will make a difference, we don’t have to be perfect eco-warriors, it’s everyone’s responsibility. The time to make a difference is right now, even the smallest thing can help conserve our beautiful planet.”
Geo has a similar take saying that “everything you do, no matter how small you believe it is, can have a big impact. Watching the reef change for the better here in Manuel Antonio over this short period of time has shown me that.”