Smithsonian Global

Healthy Reefs for Healthy People

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Researcher in dive gear surveys a coral reef



Power to Convene
Science & Conservation

Smithsonian scientist Melanie McField leads Healthy Reefs for Healthy People (HR4HP), a multi-institutional effort to support conservation of the Mesoamerican Reef by tracking its health and making recommendations to policymakers in order to effect real, positive change for the health of the reef.

The Mesoamerican Reef (MAR) stretches almost 700 miles along the coasts of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize, and includes the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. With nearly 2 million people across these countries depending on the reef for their livelihoods, the MAR’s health is directly connected to the health of local communities. HR4HP uses a “Report Card” to score the reef’s health every two years and then gives the reef health a grade. After giving the four MAR countries recommendations based on the report card, the program then issues an “eco-audit” to see how the countries are applying the recommendations to help the reef. For example, the report card may recommend increasing a no-fishing zone’s size by 5%, and the eco-audit will measure if the country took steps to make this happen.

Healthy Reefs for Healthy People is a Smithsonian partnership with more than 64 organizations, including the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund, to successfully improve the health of the Mesoamerican Reef over time and improve the lives of those who depend on it.


Melanie McField  

Smithsonian scientist Melanie McField is the Founder and Director of the Healthy Reefs for Healthy People program at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.