A few years ago, I realized that the reefs around Hawaii-where I grew up swimming, sailing and diving-were no longer as full of life as they had been just a few decades before. To ensure that my grandchildren will enjoy what I experienced as a child, I dreamed of restoring some of the local reefs. That dream became a reality, when I met Dr. Susanne Otero and we created a non-profit organization, called the Legacy Reef Foundation. We opened a world-class coral restoration lab at the NELHA marine facility in Kona, Hawaii. Our mission is the restoration and conservation of coral reefs in Hawaii and around the world and to ensure critical food security for future generations.
With the help of our community, we can rebuild coral reefs globally and feed coastal communities for generations to come.
Who we are
Through partnerships with seaside communities, Legacy Reef Foundation exists to create healthy reefs throughout the world; ensuring that coastal residents have a sustainable food source for generations to come.
Coastal communities around the world will be the stewards of their ocean resources, with functional reefs teeming with sea life, with sustainable fishing and ocean management practices that support their economies. They will be active participants in a global network where similar communities share ideas and information with one another.
Bill Coney was born and raised in Kailua, Oahu. Bill grew up on the water and enjoyed sailing, surfing and scuba diving as a young adult. After college in California, Bill returned to Oahu and opened Sensormatic Hawaii. LLC, an industrial security firm that designed and built high level security systems for commercial, state and federal applications throughout the Pacific Rim. Bill’s firm engineered and installed protective systems for banks, airports, prisons and missile bases throughout the Pacific Rim.
Before he sold the business in the mid 90’s, Sensormatic grew into one of the largest industrial security firms in the Pacific. Bill has since started a number of businesses & high-tech firms over the years. Bill moved to the Big Island in 2002 and has since retired, he now works as a business consultant part time. Bill resides on Kohala Coast of the Big Island, has three grown children and three grandchildren.
Dr Susanne Otero
Co-Founder and Project Director
Susanne learned to scuba dive in 2013 here in Hawai’i. It was love at first sight – with both the ocean and the island. As a retired physician, she was looking for ways to still have an impact on people’s health. With her training in public health, she recognised that the coral reefs support all life by being an essential building block of the food chain, a potential source of new medicinal compounds and an invaluable source of oxygen for us all. She met Bill Coney during a beach clean-up in Florida where they realised they shared the same dream of healthy coral reefs teeming with life! Susanne then moved to the Big Island of Hawaii and together they co-founded the Legacy Reef Foundation, Dr. Otero has consulted in projects in the non-profit sector, focusing on establishing, streamlining and improving processes to more efficiently serve the organization’s goals. She merges her experience working in and running surgical operating rooms with training in statistics, epidemiology and public health management.
Senator Russell Ruderman
State Senator, District of Puna
Russell E. Ruderman was elected to the State Senate in 2012, representing all of the district of Puna and
the town of Pahala in Ka‘u. In 1985, he sailed to Hawai‘i from San Francisco on a small wooden boat. A pioneer in the natural foods industry for many years, in 1998, he founded Island Naturals, a group of retail grocery markets on the Big Island with locations in Hilo, Pahoa, and Kailua-Kona. Island Naturals is a strong supporter of local farmers and value-added producers and has been a constant champion of environmental issues like
eliminating plastic bag pollution.
For his work, Russell was named “Small Businessperson of the Year” for the State of Hawai‘i by the SBA in 2015, and also received Hawai‘i County’s first “Keeping it Green” award for his many innovations at Island Naturals.
Russell has served on the Hawai‘i County’s Agriculture Advisory Committee, Solid Waste Advisory
Committee, UH-Hilo Performing Arts Center Advisory Committee and the Hawai‘i County Environmental
Management Commission. In 2014, he was named “Legislator of the Year” by the Friends of the Library
In his free time, Russell enjoys playing katchikatchi music with his band El Leo The Jarican Express and
rock’n roll guitar with Terrapin Station. He has four daughters and two grandchildren;
Nicole Larson is known for her unwavering commitment as a voice for the ocean and its inhabitants. She was introduced to the underwater world when she learned to scuba dive with her high school biology teacher. Little did she know then; her life course was set. She has served as an ambassador for the scientific community for the last 25 years. She holds a Master’s in Coastal Environmental Management from Duke University and a Bachelor’s in Marine Biology from UC Santa Cruz. Nicole worked as a naturalist with the Oceanic Society from 2004-2020, both at the field station in Belize and in the SF Bay Area. In California, she led whale watching trips year-round. She also served on the board of the American Cetacean Society – San Francisco, where she facilitated and implemented an annual Naturalist Training Course. Before moving to Hawai’i, Nicole worked as a Sustainability Consultant in waste reduction programs for San Mateo County, specializing in district and school waste reduction and student action programs. In Hawai’i, Nicole has immersed herself in resource management and coastal issues around Hawaii. Working with Zero Waste Hawai’i Island and Legacy Reef Foundation to forward sustainability and climate resiliency programs for Hawai’i, she offers consulting services to businesses and organizations looking to reduce their carbon footprint. She is a member of the County of Hawai’i Climate Action Plan working group, working on outreach and education programs. She has jumped into the Legacy Reef Foundation as Program Director, helping to build a stronger coalition between businesses and the scientific community, and looks for more opportunities to inspire others to become ocean stewards as she was inspired herself.
Faye La Roche
Based in Hawaii
Faye grew up in Florida, in and around the water; this sparked a passion for marine biology. She then pursued her passion at the University of Maryland, gaining a biology degree. Faye has been an avid diver since the age of 16 and loves the underwater world. When she moved to Seattle, she volunteered at the Seattle aquarium doing education outreach – Now we are lucky enough to have her volunteering at LRF.
Dorothy Norris (Dot)
Based in Hawaii
A retired Marine Biologist and taxonomist, Dot specialized in the identification of benthic invertebrates (mostly polychaete) for community analysis for the City of San Diego and the City and County of San Francisco. She is a very talented microscopic photographer and also a keen SCUBA diver. She was the dive safety officer at the City of San Diego. Dot volunteers out in our lab helping with tank scrubbing, fitler changing, general tank monitoring, and photo-documentation.
Based in Hawaii
Dane is a general all-rounder with experience in farming, construction, tourism, photography/videography, education, and management. His passion lies in the ocean and underwater world, and he worked as a Scuba Instructor and Boat Captain. Dane has been in the ocean industry of Kona for the last 10 years. We are lucky enough to have Dane help out at the lab with general handyman jobs and tank maintenance. He is a key player in our volunteer team.
Based in Hawaii
Ridley Murray, 9, attends Innovations Public Charter School. Ridley was named after the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle, one of the five species of turtles that are present in Hawaiian waters. Ridley moved to the Big Island from Ontario, Canada, when she was three. For the last six years she has grown up snorkeling many times per week and exploring the fantastic reefs in Hawaii. Her favorite marine animal is a stingray, lupe, and although she has seen mantas and spotted eagle rays while snorkeling, she hopes to see a lupe in the wild. Ridley loves to volunteer to help feed and care for the corals at LRF and hopes to continue to help learn more about and protect coral here in Kona.
Based in Hawaii
Jason moved to the Big Island 6 years ago with his wife Rachel and daughter Ridley. Rachel and Jason met on the beaches of Costa Rica, where they ran a sea turtle conservation program, protecting nesting beaches and educating the local community. They managed a successful hatchery and released 47,000 hatchlings into the sea! Jason is a professional photographer, snorkeling many times a week with a camera in hand. Since moving to Hawai’i, he has been volunteering with Reef Teach at Kahalu’u Bay, educating users of the bay about the proper way to snorkel without harming the fragile ecosystem. Jason says he has been enjoying spending time at LRF alongside his daughter Ridley.