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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Tessa Hempson

Tessa Hempson

PhD graduate

PhD candidate, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University (2013 - present)
MSc., Conservation Biology, University of Cape Town (2007-2008)
BSc. Hons, Zoology, University of Cape Town (2006)
BSc., Botany & Zoology, University of Cape Town (2003-2005)

James Cook University, Townsville

+61 467 445 967

Tessa grew up on a farm in the savannas and escarpment forests of South Africa, an environment that instilled in her a passion for ecology from a young age. After a year in Tasmania as a Rotary Scholar, she began her undergraduate studies via correspondence with the University of South Africa (UNISA) while travelling and working in SCUBA diving. In 2003 she returned to South Africa to complete her BSc. in Botany and Zoology at the University of Cape Town (UCT), followed by a BSc. Hons in Zoology, a field course in the Kruger National Park with the Organisation for Tropical Studies (OTS) and a MSc. in Conservation Biology from the same university. Her study subjects ranged from the impacts of elephants on savanna vegetation and bat community ecology to upwelling system dynamics, crinoid symbionts and the effects of dynamite fishing on coral reefs in Tanzania. Since graduating she has worked as a conservation manager for the Sustainable Seas Trust (SST), sailed the South American coast, volunteered as a researcher on the Aldabra Atoll World Heritage Site in the Seychelles and managed diving and marine logistics on Vamizi Island in the Quirimbas Archipelago of Mozambique, before deciding it was time to fulfill a lifetime aspiration of pursuing a PhD in coral reef ecology at James Cook University. The focus of her current research is on how the trophic ecology of coral reef ecosystems is affected by habitat degradation, with a particular interest in the implications for predators associated with the reefs. Through sharing her research findings via not only academic publications, but also teaching, tourism and media, Tessa hopes to inspire others with her passion for the marine environment.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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Coral Reef Studies