Sam Purkis, PhD

Sam Purkis, PhD

Interim Chief Scientist


At a young age I was fortunate enough to stumble on a copy of Jacques Cousteau’s 1953 book “The Silent World”, which piqued my interest in everything underwater. Shortly thereafter, I saw his movie of the same name. I was hooked. At the earliest possible opportunity I learned to SCUBA dive, becoming a diving instructor when I left school and basing myself in the southern Egyptian Red Sea for 1992 and 1993. I then returned to England to train as a marine biologist at the University of Southampton (1994 - 1998), before relocating to the Netherlands to complete a M.Sc. and Ph.D. under the supervision of Wolfgang Schlager and Jeroen Kenter, graduating in 2004. Thereafter, I crossed the Atlantic as a post-doc supervised by Bernhard Riegl, with whom I still work closely, before being promoted to faculty with the National Coral Reef Institute – Nova Southeastern University in 2006. I joined the University of Miami with the rank of Professor in 2016 where I am pursuing the diverse research interests I have developed over the last 20 years or so, and teaching frequently.

Having witnessed the “coral reef crisis” first hand, I also strive to promote big ocean conservation. The scientific consensus is that a third of the ocean must be protected from human pressures, and the bigger the continuous area the better. I take pride in being Co-Founder and Chair of the Chagos Conservation Trust - US, a charitable foundation that, with partners, successfully lobbied for the declaration of Earth’s largest protected area, the Chagos archipelago, that sprawls across >600,000 sq. km of the central Indian Ocean.