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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Coral Reef Virtual Symposium 2020


7-8 July 2020 (10:30-15:30hrs AEST)


The major objective of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies is to achieve a better understanding of the science, social and natural, that underpins the dynamic changes currently occurring on coral reefs worldwide. Improving the governance and management of natural systems and enhancing the capacity to sustain human and natural capital is central to our research.

The Centre aims is to build human capacity and expertise in coral reef science worldwide. We currently support more than 170 research students across the four nodes of the Centre, >70% of whom are international students and 60% are women. The Centre’s student cohort reflects our multifaceted and transdisciplinary research environment, with >35% of students having multi-disciplinary advisory panels and cross-institutional supervision.

As a result of COVID-19 crisis, the Centre is hosting it’s first virtual symposium. The focus of our Coral Reef Virtual Symposium 2020 will be on the Centre’s postgraduates, with more than 20 presentations by PhD and Masters students. The symposium will also feature daily plenary talks by world leaders in coral reef science.

Who should attend:

The Coral Reef Virtual Symposium 2020 of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies will be held on Tuesday 7th and Wednesday 8th July. Each day will include two sessions: 10:30 – 12:45 hrs  and 13:30 – 15:30 hrs EST.

The Coral Reef Virtual Symposium 2020 is aimed at a general audience of students and scientists in related fields, natural resource managers, conservationists and policy makers. It will be held using Zoom technology and information on how to register for the event will be provided shortly.

You Can Download the Full Program and Abstracts Here. 

Download the Full Program and Abstracts Here. 

Tuesday 7th July
Time Topic Presenter
10.30am Welcome to Country Jeanette Wyles and Uncle Alfred
10.40am Opening of Symposium Graeme Cumming
10.45am Plenary David Bellwood
Reef Futures
11.05am Exposure to elevated carbon dioxide affects the cardiac performance of cobia, Rachycentron canadum Kelly Hannan
11.20am Climate policy implications for coral reef futures on the Great Barrier Reef Jennifer McWhorter
11.35am Differential susceptibility during latest mass coral bleaching in Australia’s Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Deborah Burn
11.50am Morning Break
12.00pm The response of Red Sea coral communities to recent disturbance events vary along a latitudinal gradient Nicholas Hammerman
12.15pm Epaulette sharks as an indicator species for climate change: current knowledge and future directions Carolyn Wheeler
12.30pm Framing climate risk and crisis in World Heritage governance Lucy Holmes McHugh
12.45pm Lunch 
1.30pm Plenary  Georgina Gurney
Ecology and Evolution
1.50pm Measuring hydrodynamics and sediment resuspension in coastal canopies Nery Contti-Neto
2.05pm Coral Reef Fishes of the Genus Trimma: distribution, life history and diet Nisha Goldsworthy
2.20pm Maternal investment in coral species: the trade-off between egg size and fecundity Nataly Gutierrez-Isaza
2.35pm Afternoon Break 
2.45pm Regeneration in Heliofungia Beatriz Diaz-Guijarro
3.00pm From parents to planulae: a review and meta-analysis of trait heritability and additive genetic effects in corals Kevin Bairos-Novak
3.15pm Ecological patterns of distribution and cover of sponges and ascidians on coral reefs in Kimbe Bay Saul Gonzalez-Murcia
3.30pm End


Wednesday 8th July
Time Topic Presenter
10.30am Welcome Alana Grech
10.35am Plenary  Emily Darling
Fish and Fisheries
10.55am Spatiotemporal determinants of seasonal gleaning in dynamic coastal livelihoods Ruby Grantham
11.10am Sprats are reef fish, not vagrant pelagic fish Kynan Hartog-Burnett
11.25am Barramundi, Barramundie, or Barramondi: a century of fisheries narratives of Lates calcarifer Carolina Chong-Montenegro
11.40am Morning Break
11.50am Social inequalities in the co-management of coral reefs: the winners and losers Cristina Ruano-Chamorro
12.05pm Carryover effects of boat noise on the escape response of a coral reef fish Laura Velasquez Jimenez
12.20pm Importance of solitary and structurally complex sponges as shelter and feeding substratum for coral reef fishes Amy Coppock
12.35pm Lunch 
1.25pm Plenary Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
Global Change
1.45pm Geochemistry of large benthic foraminifera Amphisorous hemprichii as a new high-resolution proxy for lead pollution in coastal environments Netramani Sagar
2.00pm A ‘lattice of leadership’ and followership were both critical in the transformative success of the Great Barrier Reef rezoning Jon Day
2.15pm Investigating impact of individual response on landscape level patterns in dynamic social-ecological systems (SES) Sivee Chawla
2.30pm Afternoon Break
2.40pm The neurobiological mechanisms underlying cephalopod behavioural change at elevated CO2 levels Jodi Thomas
2.55pm Understanding microeconomic adaptation feedbacks to enable successful policy design in a climate change context Henry Bartelet
3.10pm Turning rubble to reef: assessing rubble mobilisation and binding dynamics to predict recovery potential of disturbed reefs Tania Kenyon
3.25pm Closing Remarks
3.30pm End

Kevin Bairos-Novak

Kevin is a PhD student in the ARC COE, supervised by Profs. Sean Connolly, Mia Hoogenboom, and Madeleine van Oppen. Kevin’s research aims to understand the evolution of thermotolerance in coral populations using results from micro-evolutionary experiments on coral symbionts combined with mechanistic modelling of coral demography.

Henry Bartelet

Henry is a PhD candidate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, where he combines dynamic systems theory with behavioral economics to contribute to the design of effective incentives to facilitate microeconomic adaptation to climate change. He holds a master degree in System Dynamics from the University of Bergen in Norway. After his master degree, Henry worked in Oslo as an energy system modeler in DNV GL’s Energy Transition Program

Deborah Burn

Debs completed her BSc in Marine Biology at Newcastle University (UK) in 2013. She has since worked in various scientific positions in the Maldives and New Zealand before moving to Townsville to work for Prof. Morgan Pratchett. Debs has been involved in a range of research projects sparking a passion for understanding coral reef organism and ecosystem responses to disturbances. Her past research activities have focussed on microbial communities of coral disease, variation in coral growth, ecology and biology of Crown of Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster planci and A. cf. solaris) and butterflyfish (Chaetodon triangulum), and coral recovery following major disturbances. Debs is currently pursuing an MPhil focussing on vulnerability of coral assemblages to disturbance in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea Marine Parks, supervised by Morgan Pratchett and Andrew Hoey

Sivee Chawla

Sivee is a PhD student working with Prof. Graeme Cumming and Prof. Tiffany Morrison to understand the scale-mismatch and feedback in peri-urban areas using dynamic simulation models to extend SES Theory.  She pursued Computer Science Engineering from Delhi. After working for a year and half with IBM she moved on to pursue her Masters in Geoformation Sciences and Earth Observation, at Twente University (ITC), Netherlands. The topic of the master’s thesis was to “develop sub pixel classification algorithm by exploiting spatial and spectral information in multi-spectral remote sensing images using Markov Random Fields and Possibilistic-C means”. She then worked in India as a GIS modelling engineer and at VITO (Flemish Institute of Technological research) in Belgium for developing fusion models using Remote Sensing for water quality estimation.

Carolina Chong-Montenegro 

Carolina is a marine fisheries ecologist focusing on historical fisheries of rare and threatened fish species. She received her bachelor’s degree in marine biology from ESPOL in Ecuador, where she studied the ecology and biology of endemic grouper from the Galápagos Islands. She then received her master’s degree at the University of Bremen, Germany where she studied the biology and fisheries of the Pacific goliath grouper in Colombia. Overall her work focuses on documenting the impact of fishing on vulnerable fish populations and aims to actively integrate local communities into the research process by applying interdisciplinary approaches for developing sustainable fisheries.

Nery Contti-Neto

Nery was born and raised in an island in southeast Brazil, Nery has always kept contact with the sea. During his BSc in Oceanography, he was able to complete internships in Hawaii and Trindade e Martin Vaz working with sea turtles. He then moved to Sao Paulo to earn his MSc degree, studying longshore beach currents, at the same time completing a specialised study in tides and sea-level measurements. This gave him the opportunity to get a placement within industry, specially dealing with Meteo-Oceanography data analysis. He is now pursuing his PhD studying the current and wave interaction within seagrass and Coral reefs under the supervision of Dr. Ryan Lowe.

Amy Coppock

Amy originally from the UK, Amy completed her BSc(Hons) at Swansea University, UK.  She completed her MSc at James Cook University under the supervision of Prof. Geoff Jones and Dr Naomi Gardiner.  Here she looked at the ability of newly recruited coral reef fishes to orientate toward their preferred micro-habitat type through the use of chemosensory cues.  Amy’s PhD research focuses on fish-sponge associations in Kimbe Bay, Papua New Guinea, specifically how solitary and structurally complex sponge species are important as a source of shelter and/or food for local coral reef fish species.  She is supervised by Professors Geoff Jones and Mike Kingsford.

Jon Day

Between 1975-2014, Jon was a protected area planner, park ranger and natural resource manager.  Jon’s career started in terrestrial national parks (e.g. Grampians, Kakadu) but in 1986, Jon joined GBRMPA to work on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). For 28 years Jon was involved in many aspects of planning and managing the GBR. In 1998, he was appointed as one of the Directors at GBRMPA, and for the next 16 years was variously responsible for biodiversity conservation, park planning, the GBR rezoning, heritage (particularly World Heritage), Indigenous Partnerships, and commencing the first 5-yearly Outlook Report.  Jon retired in 2014 to commence a part-time PhD in the ARC at JCU; being an ‘insider researcher’ was among his many challenges.

Beatriz Diaz-Guijarro

Beatriz completed her BSc in marine vertebrate zoology at the University of Bangor, UK, with the goal of working with marine mammals. During summer breaks she volunteered at Seychelles with Global Vision International (GVI) researching the damage a tsunami had caused on coral reefs. She continued her scuba diving education up to reaching dive instructor certification. After her BSc she moved to Townsville, Australia where she completed an MSc in natural resource management, during which she learned she had a passion for molecular genetics. Beatriz went on to intern and work at the Australian Institute of Science (AIMS) where she continued to develop her skills and passion for molecular genetics. She is currently doing a PhD at James Cook University, Townsville.

Nisha Goldsworthy

Nisha grew up along the Southern coast of New Zealand has driven Nisha to study marine biology and ecology. She completed a Bachelor of Science degree at Victoria University of Wellington, and then ventured to James Cook University in 2019 to pursue a Master of Philosophy under the supervision of Prof. Geoff Jones and Dr Maya Srinivasan.

Nisha’s has always loved all kinds of animals: furry, feathery, slimy or scaly. With the current climate crisis and many ecosystems becoming threatened, she wants to devote her time to helping them in any way she can. Nisha believes that the underappreciated animals that should not be ignored. Her Masters focuses on the ecology of tiny gobies of the genus Trimma. Fishes like these have often been undervalued compared to larger fishes… but they could be more important than originally thought.

Saul Gonzalez-Murcia

Saul was born in the smallest continental country of Latin America, El Salvador. I studied General Biology at the Universidad de El Salvador (University of El Salvador), and conducted my honors research studying zonation patterns in tropical rocky intertidal fishes. After finishing my studies, I worked as Research Assistant at the Universidad de El Salvador (University of El Salvador), UDP Ciencias Neotropicales (UDP Neotropcial Sciences) and University of California, Merced. In 2013 I was awarded with the Australian Awards Scholarship to study my Master’s degree at JCU and returned to El Salvador to work with Fundación Naturaleza El Salvador (Nature of El Salvador Fundation) and the University of California, Merced developing projects of population genetics in insects and intertidal fish. Since 2018 I have been studying regime shifts caused by sponges and ascidians in tropical reefs and their impact on coral reef associated fishes.

Ruby Grantham

Ruby is a PhD candidate at the ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies, working under the supervision of Graeme Cumming, David Mills and Cristian Rojas. My PhD research examines intra-annual dynamics of small-scale fisheries, using multi-disciplinary perspectives to explore how and why the role of fishing in coastal livelihoods varies temporally. Prior to joining the centre, I studied at the University of York, UK as an undergraduate in Environmental Economics followed by an MRes in the economics of inland capture fisheries. I then went on to work as a consultant for international NGOs in Myanmar on projects relating to governance and management in inland fisheries and aquaculture. This background underpins my broader research interest in the contributions of small-scale fisheries to human well-being and therefore how fisheries management can contribute to improved quality of life, particularly for low income groups and those vulnerable to climate change.

Nataly Gutierrez-Isaza

Nataly is a PhD student under the supervision of Professor John Pandolfi at The University of Queensland. Her PhD focuses on the latitudinal patterns of the reproductive traits of coral offspring and larval performance. She received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from La Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia and a Master of Science’s degree in Natural Resources and Rural Development from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Chetumal, Mexico. She is interested in reef dynamics, the competition between hard corals and macroalgae, the causes of coral reef degradation, as well as the functional traits involved in coral species adaptation.

Nickolas Hammerman

Nickolas is a PhD candidate at the UQ within the School of Biological Sciences. My research focuses on paleoecology of reefs within the Saudi Arabian, Red Sea and within Moreton Bay, Southeast Queensland. I employ well-resolved paleoecological techniques such as sediment cores, comparisons of life and death assemblages and highly precise U-series dating to understand reef resilience, possible shifts in dominate coral taxa and ecosystem collapse. By understanding the local history of coral communities following disturbance events, our results provide important clues to identify and predict which regions have the capacity to become climate refugia, remain resilient or are vulnerable to ecosystem collapse in the future. To date, I have developed a wide range of skills during my graduate career and has resulted in nine peer-reviewed journal articles.

Kelly Hannan 

Kelly is currently working on her PhD, supervised by A/Prof. Jodie Rummer and Prof. Munday, examining the effects of ocean acidification on reef fish performance and oxygen transport.


Kynan Hartog-Burnett

Ky completed a Bachelor of Science – Advanced majoring in Marine Biology at JCU in 2014, before joining the Reef and Ocean Ecology laboratory and completing a first class Honours in 2015. His work has focused on tropical clupeiforms over a range of spatial scales. With extensive field experience and a developing molecular tool box, Ky aims to highlight the importance of an understudied but important group of fishes on coral reefs. Ky is a Student Representative on the ASFB Executive Council and is a tenured life member of the JCU Dive Club Committee of Management.

Lucy Holmes-McHugh

Lucy is a political scientist from the remote desert town of Alice Springs. She has a Bachelor of Economics and Social Sciences from Sydney University, a Masters in Politics and Public Policy from Macquarie University and a Masters of Development Practice from JCU. Prior to starting her PhD, she lived in Indonesia, working at the Centre for International Forestry Research in science communications. Her PhD draws together her interests in conservation governance, public policy and communications.

Tania Kenyon

Tania began her PhD at the University of Queensland in 2016, after several years of experience working in environmental impact assessment. She was also an ambassador coordinator and community educator for Reef Check Australia from 2015, continuing in this role until 2019. Tania’s PhD focuses on the recovery of rubble beds on coral reefs following disturbances including storms, trampling and dynamite fishing. She has collected experimental and observational data, from the field in the Maldives, and using a wave flume. Using this data, Tania seeks to describe the rates at which rubble beds can become consolidated by encrusting and binding organisms; how frequently rubble is mobilised on coral reefs; and how coral recruitment is affected by rubble mobilisation.

Jennifer McWhorter

Jennifer joint PhD between the Universities of Queensland and Exeter (QUEX) explores a unique methodology for improving climate projections on coral reef environments. She began her PhD following 8 years of experience in marine spatial planning, ocean observations, and marine policy, most recently from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. Commonly seen in the literature, downscaling General Circulation Models over coral reef environments tend to lack important coastal complexities for climate projections. Jennifer has been developing a unique method using a vertical 1-D physical-biogeochemical model to drive various 21st century climate change projections over the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). By calculating many 1-D individual profiles, the model accounts for key drivers of vertical mixing using local bathymetry, tides, and atmospheric inputs then outputting various water column properties such as surface and bottom temperature, and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). These projections provide a more detailed analysis of the frequency and severity of warming events into the future while using relatively simple computing.

Cristina Ruano-Chamorro

Cristina was trained in biology, marine resource management, and conservation studies. Her research interests cover marine conservation, environmental management, small-scale fisheries, and environmental justice, and she draws on disciplines from natural and social sciences to conduct her research. Most of her work has been focused on coastal marine systems and small-scale fisheries management in Chile, where she did her master thesis and worked as a research assistant at the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. Currently, she is a Ph.D. candidate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Her project focuses on understanding what fishers’ perceptions of equality and equity are, what the drivers of these perceptions are, and how these perceptions influence management and conservation outcomes.

Netramani Sagar

Netra joined the Coral Reef group at the University of Western Australia (UWA) as a PhD candidate in 2017. His research aims to reconstruct anthropogenic signals on the Indian Ocean margins, using geochemistry of scleractinian corals and larger foraminifera. His principal supervisors are Prof. Malcolm McCulloch, Dr. Aleksey Sadekov, and Associate Prof. Matt Kilburn. Netra has completed his Master’s degree in Applied Geology from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, India. Before joining UWA, Netra was working as a Scientist in the Geochronology and Isotope studies division with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-National Geophysical Research Institute (CSIR-NGRI), Hyderabad, India

Jodi Thomas

Jodi is a PhD candidate at James Cook University, Australia, supervised by Prof. Philip Munday and Dr. Sue-Ann Watson. She is investigating the neurobiological mechanisms through which elevated CO2 affects marine invertebrate behaviours, focusing on squid. Jodi completed her Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Neuroscience at the University of Otago, New Zealand. Her honours project, and following work as a research assistant, focused on the neuroendocrine regulatory and molecular mechanisms underlying female-to-male sex change in sequentially hermaphroditic fish. Jodi is interested in the intersection of neuroscience and zoology, and the role of the brain in behaviour and phenotypic plasticity.

Laura Velasquez Jimenez

Laura was born in Bogota, Colombia where she completed her undergraduate degree in ecology in 2013. In 2016, Laura moved to Australia to do a Master of Marine Biology and Ecology at JCU. For her minor project, under the supervision of Mark McCormick and Maria del Mar Palacios, Laura evaluated the effect of mesopredator release on the behaviour of Pseudochromis fuscus.

Laura is currently completing a PhD under the supervision of Geoffrey Jones (JCU), Jennifer Donelson (JCU), Sophie Nedelec (University of Exeter) and Mark McCormick. The aim of her research is to examine the effect of anthropogenic noise on the behaviour and physiology of coral reef fish and evaluate their potential for habituation.

Carolyn Wheeler

Carolyn is a co-tutelle PhD student between the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Carolyn spent the first half of her PhD working with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston studying the effects of temperature on development and physiological performance of epaulette shark embryos and hatchlings. She then received a graduate fellowship through the American Australian Association to continue her research at JCU assessing the impacts of thermal stress on reproduction in adult epaulette sharks.

To be conducted at a later date.


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