Public Forum: Coral Reefs in the 21st Century, Townsville

Introduction  |   Symposium Program   |    Presenters   |   Public Forum


paul2Paul McDermott is one of the most popular performing artists in Australia. Best known for hosting the television show, Good News Week and for his role as a member of the musical comedy group the Doug Anthony All Stars, Paul is often described as pure evil, with the voice of an angel. In addition to being a comedian and TV host, Paul is also an accomplished writer, director, singer, actor and artist, with an internationally recognised career across many mediums including TV, film, radio, stage, theatre, music, the visual arts and even opera.


David BellwoodProfessor David Bellwood
Long lost relatives, new feeding habits and prospects for the future
Coral reefs support a staggering diversity of fishes. I explore where reef fishes came from and describe recent breakthroughs in our understanding of the role they play on today’s coral reefs. Reefs have evolved in the presence of these fishes for over 50 million years, yet their relationships are changing. I will examine what these changes mean for the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

Professor David Bellwood is a Professor in Marine and Tropical Biology at James Cook University. David’s interests focus on the evolution and ecology of coral reef fishes. By combining work on fossils, phylogenies and modern fishes he is able to gain unique insights into the role of fishes on coral reefs.  His overarching goal, however, is to understand and to find practical solutions to the challenges facing today’s coral reefs.


Sylvain Foret_imageDr Sylvain Foret
The coral immune system: weapon of mass destruction or musical instrument?
Like all animals, corals have to defend themselves against myriads of microbes and other pathogens.  The decryption of coral genomes gives us unprecedented insights into the immune system of these animals and prompts a rethink of what immunity really means.

Dr Foret’s work gravitates around the area of genomics and bioinformatics, where he has developed both applied and theoretical interests. His theoretical work draws from the fields of statistics and computer science, and is motivated by the analysis of biological sequences, phylogenetic inference and gene expression data analysis. His biological research has been driven by his interest in the evolution of invertebrates. In particular, he has worked on the molecular bases of chemical communication, the evolution of development (evo-devo) and epigenetics, both in insects and corals.


Aurelie Moya_imageDr Aurelie Moya
Climate change is messing with coral skeletons
In recent years declines in coral calcification have been reported around the world, matching the steady rise in carbon emissions to the atmosphere from human activity. My aim is to go back to basics and explore the effect of climate change on every gene in the coral genome. This is an essential first step in apprehending how coral growth is affected by climate change. It has the potential to give us a clearer understanding on how best to protect our coral reefs in a world where enormous changes are taking place at great speed.

Aurelie Moya is a research fellow in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Aurelie completed her PhD at the Scientific Centre of Monaco in 2008, and worked at the University of Nice (France) and the Laboratoire d’Oceanologie de Villefranche-sur-mer (France). Her passion for marine biology took her to Australia in 2009. Aurelie’s research interests focus on understanding how corals build their skeleton and how it is affected by climate change.


John Pandolfi_imageProfessor John Pandolfi
Coral reefs on the move: is there any place to hide from climate change?
Reef response to past climate change often involved wholesale movement to more favourable latitudes, accompanied by a loss of diversity in equatorial regions.  There are increasing signs of living coral reef species moving to higher latitudes.  I will describe these past and ongoing processes in the context of both ongoing climate change and other anthropogenic impacts that will affect the capacity of reefs to thrive in the 21st Century.

John Pandolfi is in the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Queensland and a chief investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. He has published more than 100 scientific articles. He likes hunting for fossils because they help him to uncover the recent past history of living coral reefs.  He is particularly interested in the response of past reefs to earlier episodes of climate change.


Garry Russ_imageProfessor Garry Russ
Do Green Zones work? Countering the coral trout of doubt
The aim of the no-take “Green Zones” of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Marine Park were to protect bioregions . However, these green zones are controversial, since they ban fishing in some areas of the park. A strong perception exists in the fishing community that such zones wastefully “lock up” fish resources. Some scientists counter this claim by suggesting that the green zones will become havens, increasing the numbers of spawning fish like the iconic coral trout. Coral trout cast their larval offspring widely, so that all of this extra spawning in the green zones should then “seed” the fished areas of the park. In 2012 scientists demonstrated this “seeding” process in the Keppel Islands, GBR, a world-first. The evidence counters the argument that the effects of marine parks are all bad for fishing.

Professor Garry Russ is a Professor in Marine Biology at James Cook University. Garry studies the biology of reef fish of commercial and recreational fishing significance. In the Coral Triangle region and Australia, he is undertaking long-term (25 year) studies of reef fish populations inside and outside marine reserves. In 1999, he received a prestigious Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation jointly with his long-time colleague Dr. Angel Alcala.


Comments are closed.