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)

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Controlling outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish to support the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef


Thursday 14 April 2022, 11:30 AM (AEST)

https://jcu.zoom.us/j/82677715882 (Passcode: 878381) and Bldg 19 - Room 106 at James Cook University, Townsville
Dr. David Williamson
Dr. David Williamson


Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are a major driver of coral decline across the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and compound upon the impacts of increasingly frequent and severe coral bleaching events and cyclones. The primary objective of the COTS Control Program is to suppress outbreaks and protect coral at focal reefs and across regions through strategic management action. The Program was established in 2012 following the initiation of the current outbreak and it has progressively improved and expanded over the past decade to effectively and efficiently manage COTS outbreaks and protect coral across entire reefs and regions. The Program is underpinned by data-driven decision support tools and the bestavailable knowledge, to prioritise and target reefs for COTS management, and to optimally deploy surveillance and cull effort. It is the largest-scale intervention program on the GBR today and it builds upon and strengthens foundational management actions, including Marine Park Zoning. The Control Program actively partners with the research community and key stakeholders, to continuously improve and achieve greater outcomes for the health and resilience of the Great Barrier Reef. In this presentation we will highlight Program insights, outcomes and knowledge gaps from a management perspective.


David is a marine scientist with expertise in coral reef ecology, fisheries biology, marine conservation research and management. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from James Cook University (JCU) in 1996 and spent the next decade working on government, academic and industry sector research projects in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Pacific Islands. He later returned to JCU and spent several years investigating the ecological effects of no-take marine reserves on coral reefs, before graduating with a PhD in 2009. David went on to continue his research during a post-doctoral fellowship at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies between 2010 and 2015, where he designed and coordinated research projects focused on marine reserves, biodiversity conservation, fisheries management and larval connectivity. After several years back in the private sector, David is currently working with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority where he is the Assistant Director of the Crown-of-thorns Starfish Control Program. He has authored over 80 scientific publications and reports and delivered presentations at numerous academic, government, industry and stakeholder conferences in Australia and internationally.


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