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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Ocean conservation: why aren’t we getting there?


Thursday 3 March 2022, 11 AM (AEST)

https://jcu.zoom.us/j/87613995910 Passcode: 552865
Prof. Laurence McCook
Prof. Laurence McCook


The harsh truth is that, despite exciting innovations and increases in activity, ocean conservation is not succeeding, at least not fast enough. This is my conclusion from the last decade or two, including work in the Australian government, national and regional community work in Indonesia, collaborations on southern Chinese coral reefs, and leading a program in Hong Kong, a global center for trade in seafood, shark-fin, and investment, finance and banking. As a scientist, I am forced to consider why this is, and what we need to do about it. In this talk, I’ll share some of my perspectives on some of the conventional wisdoms of conservation, suggesting that we need to engage much more substantively with economics, and with policy and law, at all levels. Environmental damage, in oceans and on land, result from human activity, and the vast majority of human activity is undertaken by, or mediated by, business, yet conservation effort has largely focused on individual action and government-led policy. The business and finance sectors are moving toward more engagement with conservation, but the moves are fraught with greenwashing (a polite term for fraud) and far too limited in scope, scale and rate. I’ll also share some suggestions on recent developments, such as ocean accounting and “bankable nature solutions”, that can provide leverage to drive much greater and more effective change. I’ll aim to illustrate many of the problems, and emerging (I hope) solutions, with the Hong Kong sustainable seafood campaign.


Laurence works in science-based management and conservation of marine ecosystems and is currently Director of Oceans Conservation for WWF Hong Kong. He has a Ph.D. from Dalhousie University, in Canada, and around 35 years’ experience, especially working on coral reefs in Australia, Indonesia and the “Coral Triangle”, the Pacific and Caribbean, as well as temperate ecosystems, and about 75 peer-reviewed, scientific publications. Laurence is an adjunct Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, and Visiting Professor at Hasanuddin University, in Makassar, Indonesia. Laurence’s previous roles include a President’s International Visiting Professorial Fellowship from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Senior Advisor to the Marine Program of Conservation International in Indonesia, more than 12 years at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and 12 years as a coral reef ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science. He has served extensively on high-level advisory boards, and works with government, academic/research, non-government and industry / corporate sectors and international and UN bodies. In 2005, Laurence was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, which focused on enhancing the resilience of coral reefs and marine protected areas to climate change.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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