Coral reefs are literally the foundation for much of the life on Earth. These living cities are made up of animals –coral – which exist in symbiosis with algae.

They are home to thousands of species of fish, as well as important to the lives of as many as a billion people who rely on their production of food, their protection of coastal areas, and their attraction for tourists. They’re ancient, too, and have survived for millions of years.

But now coral reefs are under threat, from pollution, changing temperatures, and disease.  Alizée Zimmermann, executive director of the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund, says she was startled to see one particular disease, stony coral tissue loss disease, kill off 500-year-old corals in the span of a few weeks.

Her organization has started to preserve coral species, maintaining them in a lab to save them for when they might safely be returned to the sea. It’s a complicated project and they are racing against time to save species before they go extinct. It’s too late for some. The United Nations Environment Program estimates that 14 percent of the world’s corals died between 2009 and 2018. To stop stony coral tissue disease from killing off selected colonies in the ocean, Alizée’s team has even had to apply a specially formulated antibiotic to save these creatures and the ecosystem they comprise.

In this episode of One World, One Health, Alizée explains why corals are so important to everyone, and she talks about some of the creative ways she and her colleagues are working to save these animals that are so important to so many.


Woman in blue shirt smiling over white background

Alizée Zimmermann, a native of the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), has a deep-rooted love for the ocean. With a Master’s degree in Literature, she ventured into international language teaching and SCUBA instruction before returning to TCI in 2016. Volunteering with the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund (TCRF) led her to become an AGRRA Benthic trainer, catalyzing her involvement in marine science and environmental assessments. Starting in 2019, she began to spearhead efforts to combat stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD), expanding her role as a regional mentor and eventually becoming TCRF’s executive director in 2021.

Under her leadership, TCRF has established the UK Overseas Territories’ first coral bio-bank and collaborated with universities and organizations to protect TCI’s marine environment. Alizée is dedicated to fostering marine education and access for local youth while focusing on coral genetic connectivity across the region. She advocates for collective action in Caribbean/Atlantic conservation, emphasizing the unity needed to safeguard shared waters.

Alizée’s journey embodies a lifelong commitment to preserving and enhancing the marine ecosystems of TCI and beyond.


Hosted and written by Maggie Fox
Special guest: Alizée Zimmerman
Produced and edited by Samantha Serrano
Music composed and sound edited by Raquel Krügel