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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Greg Torda

Greg Torda

Senior Research Fellow (DECRA)

Google Scholar profile: https://scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=-bg_1j8AAAAJ&hl=en&oi=ao
GitHub: github.com/dontorda

James Cook University

+61 (0)7 4781 5241

I grew up in the landlocked country of Hungary, longing for the sea my entire childhood. Working towards a career in marine biology, I completed an MSc degree in Zoology at the Szent Istvan University in Budapest in 2000; then moved on to a postgradual research and coursework program in marine ecology at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain between 2002 and 2004. My early research on behavioural ecology of birds and marine mammals soon led to an interest in spatial ecology and subsequently, a specialization in GIS applications. With a scholarship from the Society for Conservation GIS in 2007, I ventured into landscape ecology, habitat connectivity, and spatial ecological modeling, which set me up for a PhD on ecological connectivity in corals at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University. In my PhD research I learned and employed genetic tools to characterize evolutionary and contemporary connectivity patterns and their temporal stochasticity in coals. Along the winding road of my professional development I worked for government (Ministry of Environment of Hungary, national park directorates); NGOs (BirdLife Hungary) and academic institutions (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, James Cook University) in administrative and research positions.

My current research gravitates around adaptation and acclimatization in reef building corals to rapid changes in their environment, in particular in the framework global climate change. I combine genetic, ecological and evolutionary modeling approaches to better understand the ecological, physiological and genetic bases of resilience of corals to stressors, and predict their future in the Anthropocene.

Google Scholar profile

Research @JCU


Selected Publications

Torda G, Donelson J, Aranda M, Barshis DJ, Bay L, Berumen M, Bourne DG, Cantin N, Foret S, Matz MV, Miller DJ, Moya A, Putnam H, Ravasi T, van Oppen M, Vega-Thurber R, Vidal-Dupiol J, Voolstra CR, Watson SA, Whitelaw E, Munday PL, Willis BL (2017) Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals. Nature Climate Change 7(9), 627–636.

Torda G, Sambrook K, Cross P, Sato Y, Bourne DG, Lukoschek V, Hill T, Torras Jorda G, Moya A, Willis BL (2018) Decadal erosion of coral assemblages by multiple disturbances in the Palm Islands, Central Great Barrier Reef. Scientific Reports, 8(1), 11885.

Smith HA, Epstein HE, Torda G (2017) The molecular basis of differential morphology and bleaching thresholds in two ecomorphs of the coral Pocillopora acuta. Scientific Reports 7(1), 10066.

Hughes TP, Kerry J, Álvarez-Noriega M, Alvarez-Ramero J, Anderson K, Baird A, Babcock R, Beger M, Bellwood D, Berkelmans R, Bridge TC, Cantin N, Kuo CY, Connolly S, Cumming GS, Diaz-Pulido G, Harrison H, Heron S, Hoey A, Hoogenboom M, Kennedy E, Lough J, McWilliam M, Pandolfi JM, Pears R, Pratchett M, Torda G, Wachenfeld D, Willis B, Wilson S (2017) Global warming and recurrent mass bleaching of corals. Nature, 543, 373–377.

Hughes TP, Kerry JT, Baird AH, Connolly SR, Dietzel A, Eakin CM, Heron SF, Hoey A, Hoogenboom M, Liu G, McWilliam M, Pears R, Pratchett M, Skirving W, Stella J, Torda G (2018) Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages. Nature, 556, 492-496.

Hughes TP, Anderson KD, Kerry JT, Baird AH, Baum JK, Berumen ML, Bridge TC, Claar DC, Connolly SR, Eakin CM, Gilmour JP, Graham NAJ, Harrison H, Heron SF, Hobbs JPA, Hoey A, Hoogenboom M, Lough JM, Lowe RJ, McCulloch MT, Pandolfi JM, Pratchett M, Schoepf V, Torda G, Wilson SK (2018) Spatial and temporal patterns of mass bleaching of corals in the Anthropocene. Science, 359, 80-83.

Hughes TP, Kerry JT, Connolly SR, Baird AH, Eakin CM, Heron SF, Hoey AS, Hoogenboom MO, Jacobson M, Liu G, Pratchett MS, Skirving W, Torda G (2019) Ecological memory modifies the cumulative impact of recurrent climate extremes. Nature Climate Change 9, 40-43.

Hughes TP, Kerry JT, Baird AH, Connolly SR, Chase TJ, Dietzel A, Hill T, Hoey AS, Hoogenboom MO, Jacobson M, Kerswell A, Madin JS, Mieog A, Paley AS, Pratchett MS, Torda G, Woods RM (2019) Global warming impairs stock–recruitment dynamics of corals. Nature, 568(7758), 387.

Epstein HE, Smith HA,Torda G, van Oppen MJH (2019) Microbiome engineering: enhancing climate resilience in corals. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 17(2), 100-108.

Epstein HE, Smith HA, Cantin NE, Mocellin VJL, Torda G, van Oppen MJH (2019). Temporal variation in the microbiome of Acropora coral species does not reflect seasonality. Front. Microbiol. 10.

Epstein HE, Torda G, Munday PL, van Oppen MJH (2019) Parental and early life stage environments drive establishment of bacterial and dinoflagellate communities in a common coral. The ISME Journal, 13(6), 1635

Epstein HE, Torda G, van Oppen MJH (2019) Relative stability of the Pocillopora acuta microbiome throughout a thermal stress event. Coral Reefs, 38(2), 373–386

Quigley KM, Roa CA, Torda G, Bourne DG, Willis BL (2019) Co-dynamics of Symbiodiniaceae and bacterial populations during the first year of symbiosis with Acropora tenuis juveniles. MicrobiologyOpen e959. https://doi.org/10.1002/mbo3.959

van Oppen MJH, Cantin N, Cormick C, Crean A, Gates R, Harrison P, Jones T, Lough J, Miller M, Pears R, Putnam H, Raftos D, Torda G, Wachenfeld D, Weeks AR, Blackall L (2017) Shifting paradigms in coral reef restoration. Global Change Biology doi: 10.1111/gcb.13647.

Pollock FJ, Wada N, Torda G, Willis BL, Bourne DG (2016) Repeated sampling of white syndrome-affected corals reveals distinct microbiome at disease lesion fronts. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, AEM.02799-16

Moya A, Howes EL, Lacoue-Labarthe T, Foret S, Hanna B, Medina M, Munday PL, Ong J-S, Teyssie, J-L, Torda G, Watson S-A, Miller DJ, Bijma J, Gattuso J-P (2016) Near future pH conditions severely impact calcification, metabolism and the nervous system in the pteropod Heliconoides inflatus. Global Change Biology, 22, 3888–3900.

Ainsworth TD, Krause L, Bridge T, Torda G, Raina JB, Zakrewski M, Gates RD, Padilla-Gamiño J, Spalding HL, Smith C, Woosley ES, Bourne DG, Bongaerts P, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Leggat W (2015) The coral core microbiome identifies rare bacterial taxa as ubiquitous endosymbionts. The ISME Journal, 9, 2261–2274.

Torda G, Lundgren P, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH (2013) Genetic assignment of recruits reveals short- and long-distance larval dispersal in Pocillopora damicornis on the Great Barrier Reef. Molecular Ecology, 22, 5821–5834.

Torda G, Lundgren P, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH (2013) Revisiting the connectivity puzzle of the common coral Pocillopora damicornis. Molecular Ecology, 22, 5805–5820.

Torda G, Schmidt-Roach S, Peplow LM, Lundgren P, van Oppen MJH (2013) A rapid genetic assay for the identification of the most common Pocillopora damicornis genetic lineages on the Great Barrier Reef. PLoS ONE, 8, e58447.

Lukoschek V, Cross P, Torda G, Zimmerman R, Willis BL (2013) The importance of coral larval recruitment for the recovery of reefs impacted by cyclone Yasi in the central Great Barrier Reef. PLoS ONE, 8, e65363.


Elliott Schmidt – PhD candidate

Hannah Epstein – PhD graduate

Katie Sambrook – MSC graduate

Georgina Torras Jorda – MSC graduate

Virgina Krone – MSC graduate

Peter Cross – MSC graduate



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