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

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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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Qualitative Modelling of Complex Systems


Tuesday, 6 July 2010 2.00pm - 3.00pm

New ARC CoE Conference Room, Sir George Fisher building (DB32, room 114), JCU
Jeffrey Dambacher, CSIRO Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics, Hobart Tasmania

Jeff’s background was originally in the ecology of stream fishes and watersheds. His desire to understand the complex relationships of fish communities, rivers and watersheds lead him to the method of qualitative mathematics as a tool to understand the dynamics of complex systems. These research goals have now been broadened to seek general solutions to natural resource problems embedded in diverse ecological and socioeconomic systems. His work with the CSIRO Division of Mathematics, Informatics and Statistics provides a diverse array of challenges in which to carry out this work.


Understanding the dynamics of complex systems is often approached in modelling frameworks that attempt to provide precise predictions to guide research programs and management interventions. In meeting the goal of precision, however, the focus quickly turns to addressing uncertainty in model parameters, and the importance of uncertainty in the structure of the model itself is often overlooked. In qualitative modelling the focus is instead on understanding the influence of model structure on system feedback, and how this feedback affects the dynamics and behaviour of a system. Qualitative modelling allows one to include unmeasurable yet important variables, and it supports conceptual syntheses across disciplines and a diversity of stakeholders. This talk will provide an overview of qualitative modelling and demonstrate its relevancy to research and management programs through examples including the identification of ecological indicators for Australia’s exclusive economic zone and the qualitative dynamics of urchin barrens in Tasmanian rocky reefs.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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