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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The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies commenced operations in 2005 with the award of $23 million from the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centres of Excellence program. In 2014, the Australian Research Council awarded the ARC Centre an additional $28 million to continue its world-best integrated research for sustainable use and management of coral reefs. It ceased operations in late 2022.

The mission of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was to provide knowledge that fostered the sustainable use, adaptive governance and effective management of the world’s coral reefs to enhance human wellbeing. We achieved this through innovative, collaborative and transdisciplinary research that achieved a better understanding of the science, both social and natural, of the dynamic changes currently occurring on coral reefs worldwide; and built coalitions to communicate and implement scientific recommendations.

The ARC Centre was headquartered at James Cook University, in Townsville and was a partnership of James Cook University (JCU), The Australian National University (ANU), The University of Queensland (UQ) and The University of Western Australia (UWA). Our national and international partner institutions included the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), WorldFish (Malaysia), Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University (USA), and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France).

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies cemented Australia’s leading contribution to coral reef sciences, and fostered stronger collaborative links between the major partners and 100s of institutions across the world. Collectively, the ARC Centre created the world’s largest concentration of coral reef scientists. The Centre Directors were Professor Terry Hughes (2005-20, JCU) and Professor Graeme Cumming (2020-22, JCU).  Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg (UQ) and Professor Malcolm McCulloch (UWA) were the Deputy Directors. 

The ARC Centre of Excellence focused on 3 research programs, each one under the stewardship of Program Leaders from James Cook University, The University of Western Australia, the Australian National University and The University of Queensland. People and Ecosystems program was led by Joshua Cinner (JCU),  Tiffany Morrison (JCU) and Bob Pressey (JCU) Ecosystem Dynamics: Past, Present and Future program was led by Graeme Cumming (JCU),  Alana Grech (JCU) and John Pandolfi (UQ) Responding to a Changing World program was led by Maja Adamska (ANU), Mia Hoogenboom (JCU) and Ryan Lowe (UWA).


In 2021, we developed a series of short films to showcase the achievements, impact and legacy of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Coral Reefs in a Warming World provides insight on our globally significant research on the effects of climate change on global coral reefs. The Transformational Research of Marine Reserves provides insight on the global impact of our research on coral reef fish and fisheries. Creating Impact through Partnerships provides insight on our engagement with partners and communities to generate knowledge and build resilience. Training the Next Generation of Global Leaders


Corals in a warming world

The transformational research of marine reserves

Creating impact through partnerships

Training the next generation of global leaders


Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

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Coral Reef Studies