In the world of tropical marine science protecting our skin from damaging sunburns is part of our job description. You'll often see CRF™ team members using clothing to cover up our bodies, and mineral based, reef-safe, sunscreens for those hard to reach spots like our ears and hands!
Our friends and longtime supporters at MyCHELLE Dermaceuticals want you to know that beautiful, healthy skin should never come at the expense of the environment. Catie Wiggy, MyCHELLE's Vice President of Marketing and Product Innovation has over 15 years of experience as a product formulator, brand educator, and Licensed Master Esthetician. Catie is one of the driving forces behind increased natural consumer awareness and the promotion of clean, natural brands.
Catie's connection to coral reefs began when she swam through her first coral reef after her wedding, and her love for the environment has grown as she watched her children grow. Read on to understand what it means to Catie and MyCHELLE Dermaceuticals to support Coral Restoration Foundation™.
Left and Right: Restored staghorn coral on Florida's Coral Reef. Center: MyChelle's Vice President of Marketing and Product Innovation, Catie Wiggy. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
What is your earliest memory of the ocean?
When I was 5 my family took a road trip from Northwest Arkansas to Panama Florida. It was my first time seeing a coastline and I remember the ocean feeling larger than life with majestical magic that inspired me. The soft and squishy sand perfectly blended against the warm, deep blue water left a lasting impression on me as a kid.
What is your favorite marine creature?
I really like large marine creatures, and my favorite is the Bowhead Whale, which can live up to 200 years. How cool is that! Whales have the kindest looking eyes, and I believe deep souls.
Have you experienced a healthy coral reef ecosystem? If so where, and how did it make you feel?
In 2007, my husband and I had a beautiful destination wedding in Negril Jamaica. During our trip, our entire wedding group went on a snorkeling excursion. We saw incredible coral reefs, and an active, lively ecosystem full of vibrant colors, exotic-looking fish, and flourishing reef habitats. The beauty of it all was breathtaking.
Restored staghorn corals on Florida's Coral Reef ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Have you seen a badly degraded reef system? How did that make you feel?
In 2019, my husband and I went back to Negril Jamaica with our two children. We wanted to show them where we got married and let them experience the amazing culture and beauty Jamaica offers. We took a snorkeling excursion with the kids and I was devastated by how much the reefs had changed. What was once a beautiful and flourishing reef system, now looked lifeless, brown, and desolate. There were only a few reefs, and small fish swimming in the area. My heart was broken that over the span of 12 years, this environment I once loved and found so magical had declined so much.
What concerns or scares you the most about climate change?
What concerns me the most is my children’s future, and the generations to come who will need a healthy planet to thrive. It frightens me that there are people who don’t believe climate change is real. We see increased volatile weather, raging fire seasons, and unpredictable environmental resource shortages. Climate change is getting worse, and my concern is that we aren’t doing enough globally to curve the damage being done or educate on the importance of improving global climate change.
Left: A degraded coral reef filled with rubble. Center: Catie Wiggy and her two children. Right: A healthy stand of wild elkhorn coral. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
Why do you, personally, care about coral reefs?
I care about our environment as a whole, and coral reefs are one of the most precious, and delicate eco-systems in the world. I care about the coral reefs because of the crucial impact they have on the health of our oceans, and all the marine life. Developing reef-safe and environmentally friendly products has been a passion of mine for over 10 years.
Why is protecting and restoring coral reefs relevant to your brand?
MyCHELLE prides itself on honesty, transparency, and authenticity, and has also been making reef-safe sun care products that are free of harmful chemicals for over a decade.
MyCHELLE sun care products are designed to be gentle enough for the planet but powerful enough to protect people from the sun's harmful rays. As a brand, we have always prioritized creating products that have a positive impact on humans, and the environment. MyCHELLE was one of the first skincare manufacturers to reject marine-toxic ingredients, including oxybenzone, octinoxate, butylparaben, retinyl palmitate, and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor. Formulated with active minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to offer clean, reef-safe, broad-spectrum defense and help to prevent the signs of aging and damage.
Why should the average person care about coral reefs?
The average person should care because coral reefs contain the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms. If you live near coastlines reefs help protect against the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms. Reefs can also provide a huge economic advantage with safe recreation and commercial fishing on coral reefs which can generate billions of dollars each year for local economies.
In your opinion, what are some of the most powerful tools at our disposal that we can apply to the mission to save coral reefs?
The most powerful tool is PEOPLE and helping them learn about the problem and inspiring them to be part of the solution. Social media, and technology allow us to be more connected and communicative than ever, so education and shared knowledge are powerful tools. Continuing to build a community that advocates for environmental protection and rehabilitation of our reefs is vital. Creating activists to pass along information and dedicate time to helping restore and protect our reefs is important. Spreading awareness about reef-safe products and practices is also essential in saving the reefs.
Top Left: CRF™'s Tavernier Nursery. Top Right: A CRF™ Dive Program presentation. Bottom Left: A CRF diver logging corals into our gene bank. Bottom Right:A CRF™ diver applying medication to diseased corals. ©Coral Restoration Foundation™
What do you think are some of the easiest ways that the average person can join the mission to save coral reefs from extinction?
Start by following the cause on social media, read the blogs, visit the websites. One of the easiest things you can do is simply connect with the mission. Donations are always an impactful way to support the cause, and if time allows, volunteering can make an even bigger impact. As consumers we all have power as well, so buying reef-safe products, and trying to reduce your plastic consumption are also easy ways to make a difference.
Do you think there is hope for our coral reefs? Why?
I absolutely do think there is hope. I have optimism because of the work organizations like CRF™ are doing every day. I see younger generations caring more about our environment, and socially responsible corporations working diligently to manufacture cleaner, safer, environmentally friendly products. I believe in the collective good and am hopeful we can all work together to develop conservation programs and improve our wonderful and majestic planet.
We are thankful to MyChelle for their continued support of our mission and dedication to clean, natural products that are good for your skin and the reef!
Madalen Howard is CRF's Marketing Associate. Madalen comes to CRF™ via a winding road from the Tennessee hills, to the South Carolina low country, ending here in Florida’s Coral Reef. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a Minor in Environmental Studies from the College of Charleston in 2016. Her experience ranges from field research to education, and communications.
Madalen spent the last 4 years as a Field Instructor and Social Media Strategist for MarineLab Environmental Education Center. Here she was able to study and teach marine ecology, while snorkeling through mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs every day. While at MarineLab she combined her education and research background, entered the world of communications, and developed MarineLab’s social media department from the ground up.
Throughout her life Madalen has had a skill connecting people with nature. With CRF™, she is excited to bring people into the world of coral restoration, creating inclusive pathways to scientific discovery.