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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Laurence McCook

Laurence McCook

Adjunct Professorial Research Fellow; President's International Visiting Professorial Fellow; Director, Oceans Conservation WWF Hong Kong

1984: B.Sc., Australian National University, Canberra; 1992: Ph.D., Dalhousie University

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies; Chinese Academy of Sciences; WWF Hong Kong

+61 408 804765 (Australia)

Laurence McCook, Ph.D., works in science-based management of marine ecosystems, especially coral reefs. He is currently Director of Oceans Conservation for WWF Hong Kong. He was recently a President’s International Visiting Professorial Fellow at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, South China Sea Institute of Oceanology, and Senior Advisor to the Marine Program of Conservation International in Indonesia. He is also Professorial Research Fellow at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Visiting Professor at Hasanuddin University, Makassar, Indonesia. He has more than 35 years’ experience, including coral reefs and temperate ecosystems in Australia, China Indonesia and the “Coral Triangle”, the Pacific and the Caribbean, and has worked with government, academic, non-government and industry sectors.

In 2005, Laurence was awarded an international Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. His project focused on management and policy initiatives to protect the resilience of coral reefs under climate change. This included developing and delivering a series of workshops on coral reef management across Indonesia and in Malaysia, and a range of major accomplishments incorporating existing scientific understanding into the practical, real‐world management of coral reefs to enhance their resilience.

Laurence worked at the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority from 2003 to 2014, where he had a range of responsibilities for the strategic coordination of the scientific information needed to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef system. Prior to that, he spent 12 years at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, researching the ecology of coral reef resilience and degradation, the effects of water pollution, climate change and over-use. He has a Ph.D. in marine ecology and resilience from Dalhousie University, Canada, where he researched ecological recovery after large-scale disturbance to rocky seashores.

McCook has experience in providing high-level advice to government and parliament and as an advocate for science-based marine management with community and interest groups. His scientific publications include numerous reviews applying scientific research to coral reef management. He developed and ran a series of workshops on coral reef management for reef managers and communities across Indonesia. In 2014-15, Laurence led a large, trans-disciplinary multi-authored project to synthesize the effects of dredging and spoil disposal on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. More recently, he has worked as an invited advisor and speaker in Indonesia and China, and delivering capacity-building workshops in marine management.

Laurence’s work in China focused on developing stronger scientific connections for adaptive management of China’s threatened coral reefs. In particular, he worked with Chinese managers, scientists and economic and legal experts to improve management of marine reserves such as Sanya Bay, in Hainan province, and to develop a pilot accounting for ocean ecosystem services in Guanxi province With WWF Hong Kong, he and his team integrate community and policy approaches to protecting local marine biodiversity, including the spectacular Chinese white dolphins, with market-based approaches to fisheries sustainability and preventing plastic pollution by fostering a circular economy.

McCook’s expertise centres on the application of science to environmental management, including:

He is committed to the explicit and specific application of research outcomes to management issues including marine protected area planning, recommendations for management actions and the coordination and synthesis of scientific information as the basis for better public information and stewardship.


2019–present: Director, Oceans Conservation, WWF Hong Kong

2016–2019: President’s International Visiting Professorial Fellow, Chinese Academy of Sciences: South China Sea Institute of Oceanology

2018: Senior Advisor, Indonesia Marine Program, Conservation International

2012–2014: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)
 Director, Climate Change and Science

2003–2014: GBRMPA
 Manager, Research & Monitoring Coordination (Natural Sciences) and Manager, Ecosystem Health and Resilience, Australia

2005–2007: GBRMPA
 Acting roles as Director, Parliamentary and Ministerial Liaison, Director, Science Coordination, and Director, Climate Change Program

2002–2003: GBRMPA
 Manager / Project Manager, Water Quality Science Liaison, and Water Quality Policy and Extension.

1994–2003: Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and CRC Reef Research Centre
 Research Scientist, Coral Reef Ecology, Australia


2006: Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation

1985-1989: I. W. Killam Memorial Doctoral Fellowship




Australian Research Council Pandora

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