People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image Menu Image

Coral CoE Tall Poppies

Aug 2020

Posted By

ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies

Two of our researchers were recently recognised by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science 2020 Queensland Tall Poppy awards: Dr Michele Barnes and Dr Peter Cowman.

Dr Michele Barnes draws on network science, sociology, and economics to move beyond a predominantly biological focus on coral reefs to a broader understanding of the links between healthy coral reef ecosystems and the wellbeing of human societies.

“You’ve probably heard the saying ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. What this gets at is that social networks matter.”

“My team is investigating how social networks matter for environmental sustainability.”

“To achieve sustainable use and governance of environmental resources, we need to better understand people and group dynamics, across different cultures.”

Dr Barnes’ current projects span the divide between the developed and developing world, with field sites in coastal Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Australia, and Hawaii.

“Coral reefs support the livelihoods of millions of people across the globe, yet they are facing significant threats to their long-term viability, such as overfishing, pollution, and climate change,” she said.

“Historically efforts to sustain reefs and other environmental systems have largely relied on biological or ecological information—yet understanding people and their interactions with the environment is just as critical.”

“Thanks to Tall Poppies for highlighting the importance of the social sciences in achieving a sustainable future.”

Dr Peter Cowman is a leading authority on the evolutionary history of coral reef-associated fish and their relationships with tropical reef habitats.

“Coral reefs support over one third of all marine fish species. That’s impressive considering coral reefs make up less than 0.1% of the ocean – so where did all those species come from?”

“My research answers this question by giving fishes their own version of ancestry.com.”

“Using fish DNA and fossils, I build family-trees for different groups of fishes, to trace their ancestry over millions of years. This can tell me how fast species are produced and how quickly they disappear.”

Dr Cowman’s research has shown that coral reefs have provided a safe haven for fish lineages that have survived past periods of climate change, while also acting as a cradle where new species are produced.

“Today, coral reefs and their fishes face many challenges under a changing climate. This award will help highlight how despite recent changes on coral reefs, understanding their past can help protect their future.”

Last year, A/Prof Jodie Rummer won Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year. Our Assistant Director Dr Alana Grech won in 2018 and Dr Sue-Ann Watson won in 2014.

The annual Queensland Young Tall Poppy Science Awards are hosted by the Australian Institute of Policy and Science in partnership with the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist.


Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

Partner Partner Partner Partner
Coral Reef Studies