We are a local nonprofit, our purpose is to promote the protection of the environment, the preservation and restoration of the ecological balance, and to advocate and raise consciousness in order to prevent and regulate the pollution of water, soil, and air in the community.
Our mission at Cozumel Ocean Research is to nurture sustainable futures for marine and human families by inspiring passion for our oceans, empowering communities (both locals and visitors) with the knowledge to engage in the common stewardship of natural resources, and informing conservation policy through the collaborative scientific effort of accurate data collection and research.
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The CAF International Validated Organization Badge is awarded to organizations that are structured and operated as nonprofit entities. This is confirmed by a validation process that goes far beyond a simple reliance on a foreign government database. The CAF International validation process includes a review of an organization’s key operational elements such as their governance structure, registration status, annual financial statements, online and media presence, and their board members and senior staff.
This validation process ensures that all funds sent to the organization will be used charitably, and it allows CAF International and their donors to mitigate the risk of fraud, money laundering, and other criminal activities.
What we do
To safeguard and conserve our environment by promoting knowledge and recognition of the value that it has in our lives. Detailed knowledge will allow us to show the impact of threats, the pressure on the environment and help us mold a sustainable future for the island. With data collected and solid evidence, we will use research results to design effective conservation and educational campaigns for the protection of threatened species and their habitats, teaching awareness and by consequence, see short and long-term social benefits to the present and future generations of Cozumeleños.
We run various scientific research projects, some of which are centered around emblematic species that inhabit or migrate to the island, others focus on pollution concerns and industry pressure to this same environment. Our projects are dedicated to the collection of valuable data through which we may supply proposals that support the conservation of specific species and habitats.
Education and Public Initiatives
To safeguard and conserve our environment by promoting knowledge and recognition of the value that it has in our lives.
Detailed knowledge will allow us to show the impact of threats, the pressure on the environment and help us mold a sustainable future for the island. With data collected and solid evidence, we will use research results to design effective conservation and educational campaigns for the protection of threatened species and their habitats, teaching awareness and by consequence, see short and long-term social benefits to the present and future generations of Cozumeleños.
Over the years, we have seen firsthand, the consequence development has had on the island. The National protected areas, the Marine Park, and other organizations have also created campaigns for conservation and various projects on the island. We work in collaboration with these and provide mutual support, in order to create a strong society through which we can make thoughtful recommendations to safeguard what we love.
Cozumel Ocean Research Team
Project Manager and
PADI Course Director
Born and raised in NYC, she decided to pursue her passion, the world underwater, transforming her life and devoting it to the sea on a continuing basis. Choosing Cozumel for its world-class reefs and nearness to family stateside, she has been working in this Paradise Isle since 2006.
Her belief in furthering knowledge and education has since, led her to reach the level of PADI Course Director, and her thirst for development continues.
Watching the behavior of all UW creatures, even everyday creatures like lobsters having a showdown, has fueled her curiosity (why are some nudibranch only abundant at certain times of the year?) and has for years, compelled her to try and find out more.
Spotted Eagle Rays, the iconic and majestic fish that are seasonal here in Cozumel have always been one of the biggest mysteries. Where do they go? Why do they come here? How to find out more? She was not alone, and through a marine biologist, was put in touch with oceanographer and fellow SCUBA Instructor Ernesto, and Cozumel Ocean Research was founded!
Working as a dive professional she has created scuba training career programs for international gap year students, with a focus on leadership, communication, environment, safety and service training. In addition, she organizes and directs the Veterhands Scuba College Internship program, a non-profit organization dedicated to training, certification and job assistance for veterans.
Ernesto Hevia del Puerto
Born in Mexico City in 1972, since childhood Ernesto has been a lover of nature and has had a great curiosity to understand it. His first diving experience was at the age of 12, and since then has remained amazed by the feeling of being in a quiet, peaceful atmosphere and the harmony of the marine environment fascinated him, it was then that he decided to dedicate his life to the aquatic world, explore, understand and protect it; so he started on his way in 1989 getting certified as an open water diver, went on to Divemaster, completed studies in Oceanography, and in 1997 became a recreational and technical diving instructor.
He has worked as a scientific diver and commercial diver, in exploration and Oceanographic studies in England, Finland and the Mediterranean Sea.
From his years of study and to date, he has made hundreds of dives monitoring and identifying marine species as well as documentation and photo identification of humpback whales.
He currently lives in Cozumel and works as a Recreational/Technical dive instructor and collaborates with the local Hyperbaric Centres and participates actively with some NGOs as a volunteer in programs and conservation campaigns.
From his first encounter with Spotted Eagle Rays he has been fascinated by their beauty and majesty. Because of his nature and hunger for knowledge, he undertook this project to understand more about their ecology, search methods and scientific support to preserve their existence as an essential part of the marine ecosystem.
COR photographer and
Steve began diving in 1972. Childhood weekends were spent in a lake in north Texas, diving in low visibility with his dad and brother. Adulthood and a career in the Irving PD led him to photography. Looking for a better way to take pictures through the tinted window of a van, he was sent to photography school in Austin. His interest piqued.
He bought a camera the moment he got back home. During this period, his time on the water was spent fishing and he would often swim with a mask to just see the fish under the floating mats of seaweed.
He refreshed his diving skills in 1996 and started diving around the Caribbean, returning often to Cozumel. A few years ago, an opportunity opened up to stay and spend his time doing what he loves, diving.
He says; not just eagle rays, but everything about the ocean is amazing. What appears to be nothing but sand, never is. There is more going on than we’ll ever see or probably comprehend.
Steve enjoys working on developing and improving his dive equipment, whether it is sewing a keeper for his long hose or a thigh pocket.
Laura Espejel Cordoba
Chief Marketing Officer,
Monitoring Team Member and
Originally from Mexico City, she’s been an animal and nature lover since she was little. Laura studied photography in 1999 and moved to Cozumel island in 2002 where she became a certified diver and became passionate about the ocean and marine life, especially eagle rays.
She started working in the Cozumel Pearl Farm doing research with the Pinctada radiata oysters, and later started working as a commercial diver specializing in sustainable anchoring systems for artificial reefs for coral restoration, coastal erosion, and fish refugee projects.
Looking to facilitate a sustainable lifestyle she co-founded Basicos Mercadito Zero, the first Zero Waste- Bulk store on the island to help reduce the amount of waste that is generated daily at the same time supporting local producers, social and environmental projects, and organizations on the island such as COR. Inspired by her love for eagle rays she started volunteering with COR getting involved in the monitoring and research, managing our social media, communication, and volunteer recruitment. She’s been a full-time member of the COR staff team since 2021.
Dr. Pilar Blanco
Meet Dr. Maria del Pilar Blanco, a marine biologist from the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogotá, Colombia. With a Master's and PhD from the Institute of Marine Sciences and Limnology of UNAM,
Dr. Blanco has over 20 years of experience researching the ecology, fisheries, and biology of sharks, rays, and bony fish.
Her work has led to more than 25 scientific publications, where she has served as first author or co-author.Dr. Blanco is a member of the Southeast Coastal Resources Knowledge Network and serves as an expert advisor for shark specialists in the Western Central Atlantic of the IUCN group.
In 2021, she was appointed as Mexico's representative for the group of shark experts in the Central American and Caribbean region. Her projects focus on expanding knowledge about the biodiversity, use, and conservation of elasmobranchs in the Mexican Caribbean.
Currently, Dr. Blanco works as a researcher for the CONACyT Researchers for Mexico's program commissioned to the UQROO Campus Chetumal, and she advises the International Foundation for Nature and Sustainability A.C. She is also a member of the National System of Researchers at level 1, Since 2021.
Dr. Blanco has collaborated with Cozumel Ocean Research on research, and now she joins the team as a Scientific Advisor. Her goal is to expand COR's current Spotted Eagle Ray monitoring efforts to include regional shark species around the insular platform of Cozumel. COR is excited to have Dr. Blanco on board and looks forward to the insights she will bring to the team.