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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Virginia Chadwick Award Seminar


3.30pm, Friday 20 May 2011

Townsville - Sir George Fisher Building Conference Room #114 (DB32 upstairs)
Vanessa Adams, Joe Pollock, Yui Sato

Where: Townsville – Sir George Fisher Building Conference Room #114 (DB32 upstairs)

Brisbane UQ: GCI Meeting room, Level 7, Gehrmann Labs (Building 60) (video-linked)

Perth UWA: TBA

When: 3.30pm, Friday 20 May 2011

Drinks and nibbles will be offered following the seminar in room 114

The Virginia Chadwick Awards are awarded annually to five ARC Centre of Excellence graduate students for the most outstanding publications in peer-reviewed international journals. The research must be published in Excellence in Research Australia A* or A ranked journals and each attracts a prize of $1,000. Congratulations to the winners for 2010: Vanessa Adams, Pim Bongaerts, Alicia Crawley, Joe Pollock and Yui Sato.

Presentation 1: Opportunity costs: who really pays for conservation?
Vanessa Adams

Designing conservation areas entails costs that, if considered explicitly, can be minimized while still achieving conservation targets. Here we focus on opportunity costs which measure forgone benefits from alternative land uses.  Conservation planning studies often use partial estimates of costs, but the extent to which these result in actual efficiencies has not been demonstrated. Our study partitions land costs into three distinct opportunity costs to smallholder agriculture, soybean agriculture and ranching.  We demonstrate that opportunity costs to single stakeholder groups can be inaccurate measures of true opportunity costs and can inadvertently shift conservation costs to affect groups of stakeholders disproportionately.  Additionally, we examine how spatial correlations between costs as well as target size affect the performance of opportunity costs to single stakeholder groups as surrogate measures of true opportunity costs. We conclude that planning with opportunity costs to single stakeholder groups can result in cost burdens to other groups that could undermine the long-term success of conservation.  Thus, an understanding of the spatial distributions of opportunity costs that are disaggregated to groups of stakeholders is necessary to make informed decisions about priority conservation areas.

Adams, VM, Pressey, RL and Naidoo, R (2010). Opportunity costs: who really pays for conservation? Biological Conservation 143(2): 439-448.


Presentation 2: A novel assay for the detection of the coral pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus
Joe Pollock

Coral diseases represent an emerging threat to Indo-Pacific reefs. To enhance understanding of the impact, spread, and underlying causes of coral disease, rapid and highly sensitive diagnostic tools are required to specifically detect and quantify coral pathogens. Vibrio coralliilyticus has been implicated as the aetiological agent responsible for bleaching and tissue lysis of Pocillopora damicornis in the Indian Ocean and for a number of white syndrome disease epizootics throughout the Indo-Pacific, and therefore represents a good model system for the development of coral pathogen diagnostics. A quantitative PCR (qPCR)-based V. coralliilyticus detection assay has been successfully developed, which targets the dnaJ gene, encoding for heat shock protein 40.  Six out of seven V. coralliilyticus strains isolated from white syndrome infected corals showed positive amplification and no qPCR amplification was observed in 12 related outgroup strains. The assay was highly sensitive, able to detect as little as 1 picogram of V. coralliilyticus DNA and 102 cfu per 20mL reaction and as little as 105 cfu per mL of seawater.  Inhibition of the assay with DNA and cells derived from bacteria other than V. coralliilyticus was minimal, validating the applicability of this assay when targeting the pathogen within the complex coral holobiont. This assay represents a novel approach to coral disease diagnosis and provides a useful tool for coral pathogen detection and accurate diagnosis. The assay will enable monitoring of pathogen loads in individuals and ecosystems and will ultimately be used to identify pathogen sources, vectors, and reservoirs. Accurate detection and diagnosis capabilities will play a vital role in advancing the field of coral disease research and will provide important knowledge to help effectively manage the world’s coral reefs.

Pollock, FJ, Morris, PJ, Willis, BL and Bourne, DG (2010). Detection and quantification of the coral pathogen Vibrio coralliilyticus by real-time PCR with TaqMan fluorescent probes. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 76(15): 5282-5286.


Presentation 3: Successional changes in bacterial communities during the development of black band disease on the reef coral, Montipora hispida
Yui Sato

Black band disease (BBD) consists of a mat-forming microbial consortium that migrates across coral colonies causing rapid tissue loss. Although BBD-associated microbial communities have been well-characterized, little is known about how these complex bacterial consortia develop. This study investigated successional changes in microbial communities leading to the development of BBD. Long-term monitoring of tagged corals throughout outbreaks of BBD in the central Great Barrier Reef documented cyanobacterium-infected lesions, herein termed cyanobacterial patch(es) (CP), which were macroscopically distinct from BBD and preceded the onset of BBD in 19% of cases. Dominant cyanobacteria within CP lesions were morphologically distinct from ones dominating BBD lesions. Clone libraries and T-RFLP analysis confirmed shifts within cyanobacterial assemblages, from Blennothrix sp. affiliated sequences dominating CP lesions, to Oscillatoria sp. affiliated sequences, similar to those retrieved from other BBD samples worldwide, dominating BBD lesions. Bacterial 16S rRNA clone libraries also demonstrated shifts in bacterial ribotypes during transitions from CP to BBD, with Alphaproteobacteria affiliated sequences dominant in CP libraries, whereas Gammaproteobacterial and cyanobacterial ribotypes were more abundant in BBD clone libraries. Sequences affiliated with organisms identified in sulfur cycling were commonly retrieved from lesions exhibiting characteristic field signs of BBD. Since high sulfide concentrations have been implicated in BBD-mediated coral tissue degradation, proliferation of a microbial community actively involved in sulfide cycling potentially contributes to the higher progression rates found for BBD compared to CP lesions. Results demonstrate how microbial colonization of indistinct lesions may facilitate a common coral disease with proven ecological impacts on coral populations.

Sato, Y, Willis, BL and Bourne, DG (2010). Successional changes in bacterial communities during the development of black band disease on the reef coral, Montipora hispida. ISME Journal 4(2): 203-214.


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