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Marine Biologist | Keen Diver | Promoting sustainable coral reefs for you and me through Science, Education, Rehabilitation, and Participation.

About Me


Phanor H Montoya-Maya

Marine Biologist, Ph.D.

I believe in a society that is committed to sustainable coral reefs. We can achieve this if we let our inner scientist, explorer, leader and superhero emerge. I provide opportunities for people to do so. I am Marine Biologist (Ph.D.) and SCUBA Diving Instructor specialized in coral reef ecology, connectivity and rehabilitation. After 10 years living abroad, I am now in my Colombia to continue working on my goal. I am determined to capitalise on the expertise and knowledge gained till now, loyal to my idea of connecting reef users and scientists in order to enhance coral reef conservation in Colombia and abroad. I hope you join me in this new journey.

  • Coral reef rehabilitation
    I study science-based solutions that lead to sustainable coral reefs, focusing on coral gardening as a Marine Protected Area management tool.
  • Conservation strategies and tools
    Following a multidisciplinary approach and through networking, communication and research I pursue leading solutions to preserve marine ecosystem services.
  • Capacity building
    For people dependent on natural resources, to develop educational opportunities that empowers them to independently improve their livelihood security.
  • Meaningful Diving
    I practice and promote SCUBA diving with a purpose, diving that goes beyond fun and training, diving that makes a difference.

Educational Value

Universidad de Bogotá Jorge Tadeo Lozano

B.Sc. in Marine Biology

1996 – 2001
Rhodes University

M.Sc. in Ichthyology

2006 - 2009
University of KwaZulu-Natal

Ph.D. in Biology

2009 - 2014

Extended Education

  • Economic Tools for Conservation Strategy Conservation Fund. University of California, Berkeley, CA. July 2018.
  • III International Course on Marine Preservation and Conservation for the Training of Scientific Divers FEDECAS - CMAS. San Andrés Island, Colombia. May 23 - 28 2018.
  • Workshop to Advance the Science and Practice of Coral Restoration NOAA. Fort Lauderdale, USA. November 15 - 17 2016.
  • Introduction to meta-analysis as a restoration monitoring tool. III Congreso Colombiano de Restauración Ecológica, Rionegro – Colombia. October 2016.
  • PADI Instructor Development Course. Arrecifes del Pacifico, Cali – Colombia. March 2016.
  • What´s Your Big Idea. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill via January 2016.
  • SSI Divemaster Instructor Development Course. ScubaXcursion, Scottburgh - South Africa. September 2013.
  • Quantitative PCR for Coral Biologists Workshop 2010. Mote Tropical Research Laboratory. Florida Keys - USA. August 10-20, 2010.
  • Commercial Diver Course. Department of Labour, Durban – South Africa. May 2009.
  • Benthic Marine Invertebrate Workshop. Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology – University of the Western Cape, Cape Town – South Africa. January 2007.
  • Statistics for Biologists. INVEMAR, Santa Marta-Colombia. August 2002.
  • Marine Invertebrate Biology Course. Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory, Discovery Bay-Jamaica. July 2002.
  • NAUI Instructor Training Programme. Santa Marta – Colombia. June 2002.


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Nature Viewing
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Scuba Diving
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2016 - CURRENT Corales de Paz

Leading the application of innovative strategies for coral reef protection and restoration. Promoting the active participation of the dive tourism in coral reef conservation. Pioneering large-scale restoration of Colombia´s coral reefs.

2016 - CURRENT Nature Seychelles
Research Associate

I provide support to Nature Seychelles´ research and work on reef restoration and other marine conservation related issues.

2014 - 2015 Nature Seychelles
Technical & Scientific Officer - Reef Rescuers Project

I assisted in the design of the 2nd phase of the Reef Rescuers Project and we raised US250K from USAID, which allowed us to assess the effectiveness of coral transplantation as a tool to enhance coral reef resilience and resistance to bleaching – Proof of Concept. I developed and lectured the 2015 Reef Rescuers Training Program, the first professional development program in large-scale coral reef restoration using the coral gardening concept.

2003 - 2006 Fundación Bucea Colombia
Executive Director

I promoted the support of national and international coral reef conservation strategies by pioneering the first dive volunteering organization in Colombia. I designed, organized, conducted and fundraised for Reef Checks, beach and underwater clean-ups, mooring buoy installations and coral spawning expeditions. I hired, trained, supervised and motivated a small team of administrative and volunteer staff members. I developed collaborations between artisanal fishermen, scientists and recreational divers to launch conservation strategies for the National Natural Tayrona Park, Colombia.

Additional Experience

  • 2016 - present. Onboard Expert/Expedition Staff. Noble Caledonia, UK.
  • 2014 – 2015. Co-Investigator. Implementing the first stage of an Indian Ocean Global Warming Observatory based in Seychelles. USAID/NASA/SERVIR Program and Nature Seychelles, Seychelles.
  • 2014. Coral Specialist. Pristine Seas Expedition to Southern Mozambique, National Geographic Society, USA.
  • 2013. Scientific Diver. Reef Rescuers Project, Nature Seychelles, Republic of Seychelles.
  • 2012 - 2013. Safety Diver/Shark Guide. Blue Wilderness Expeditions, South Africa.
  • 2007 – 2009. House Warden. Botha House, Rhodes University, South Africa.
  • 2006 – 2009. Education Officer. East Coast Fish Watch Project, South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity (SAIAB). Grahamstown, South Africa.
  • 2006 - 2007. Research Assistant. Doctor Phil Heemstra, South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, South Africa.
  • 2003. Research Diver. Coralina/Ocean Conservancy 2003 Northern Cays Expedition, Archipelago de San Andrés, Providencia y Santa Catalina, Colombia.
  • 2002 – Present. SCUBA Diving Instructor. NAUI, SSI and PADI.
  • 2001 - 2002. Research Assistant. Marine and Costal Research Institute "José Benito Vives de Andreis" - INVEMAR, Colombia.
  • 1996. Volunteer Park Ranger. Gorgona Island and Utria National Natural Parks. Colombia.

My Skills Values

Technical Skills



  • Coral Reef Ecology
  • Seagrass Ecology
  • Estuarine Ecology
  • Invertebrate Zoology
  • Reef connectivity
  • Molecular Biology Techniques
  • Reef Restoration
  • Marine Conservation
  • Biodiversity Assessments
  • Environmental Education
  • Citizen Science
  • Biostatistics
  • Photography
  • Web Development

Language Skills


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