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 Triangle Initiative

Coral Triangle Initiative

Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au

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 Laboratory manager

Jenn Tanner: Jenn started out as David’s research assistant and lab manager in 2009 and was a member of the Reef Fish Research Lab for 3 years. Currently: Jenn is on a well earned break in Canada and Ireland.



Sharon Wismer: Sharon started as David’s research assistant in 2007 and was a member of the Reef Fish Research Lab for 2 and a half years. Publications: Wismer S., A.S. Hoey and D.R. Bellwood (2009) Cross-shelf benthic community structure on the Great Barrier Reef: relationships between macroalgal cover and herbivore biomass. Marine Ecology Progress Series 376: 45-54. Currently: Sharon is undertaking her PhD in Switzerland.


PhD candidate

 Cowman, Peter: PhD (2012) Thesis: “Dating the evolutionary origins of coral reef fishes”. Currently: Peter is on a tour of Canada and Ireland, while pursuing post-doctoral opportunties.


Andy HoeyHoey, Andrew: PhD (2011). Thesis: “The ecosystem role of macroalgal browsing fishes on coral reefs”. Currently/Recently: Andrew is pursuing his post-doc the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University with Dr. Morgan Pratchett.


Bonaldo, Roberta: PhD (2010). Thesis: “The ecosystem role of parrotfishes on coral reefs.” Currently/Recently: Roberta is pursuing her Post-doc at Georgia Institute of Technology with Prof. Mark Hay.

Depzczynski, Martial: PhD (2006). Thesis: “Life history of cryptobenthic fishes”. Currently/Recently: Martial is a researcher at AIMS, Western Australia .

Konow, Nicolai: PhD (2005). Thesis: “Ecomorphology of feeding in Chaetodontid fishes (angelfishes and butterflyfishes).”  Currently/Recently: Nicolai is a Post Doctoral Research Associate, Brown University, USA.


Fulton, Chris: PhD (2005). Thesis: “Wave energy and the role of swimming in reef fish ecology.” Currently/Recently: Chris is a Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology at Australian National University, Canberra, Australia


Wilson, Shaun: PhD (2002). Thesis: “An investigation into the trophic nature of small reef fish from the tribe Salariini, family Blenniidae.” Currently/Recently: Shaun is at the Department of Environment and Conservation, Marine Sciences Program, Perth, W.A.


Masters of Applied Science

 Kerry, James (2011) “‘The role of coral morphology in shelter selection by coral reef fishes”. Currently/Recently: James is currently working on his PhD with David.

Brandl, Simon (2011) “Why do fishes pair? A functional evaluation of pair-forming in the rabbitfish Siganus doliatus“. Currently/Recently: Simon is currently working on his PhD with David.


 Kramer, Michael (2011) “The ecology of crustacea in the epilithic algal matrix”. Currently/Recently: Michael is currently working on his PhD with David.

Welsh, Justin (2010) “Evaluation of the home range size, movement patterns and site fidelity of Chlorurus microrhinos through active acoustic tracking ”. Currently/Recently: Justin is currently working on his PhD with David.


Dickens, Luke (2009) “Quantifying diver effects in underwater visual censuses”. Currently/Recently: Luke is a research worker at the University of Melbourne.

Young, Matt (2009) “Sea urchin predation on the Great Barrier Reef”. Currently/Recently: Matt is a research worker at the ARC Centre of Excellence, Towsville, and is also currently working on his PhD with David and Simon Foale.


Bennett, Scott (2009) “Regional scale patterns in reef processes: algal-herbivore interactions on the Great Barrier Reef”. Currently/Recently: Scott was a visiting researcher at the Marine ecology department at CEAB in Blanes, Spain, and is now working on his PhD at the University of Western Australia.


Lefevre, Carine (2008) “Temporal variation in herbivory on the inner GBR .”  Currently/Recently: Carine is currently working on her PhD with David.

Farnsworth, Claire (2007) “The implications of extreme life history traits for phylogenetic and population genetic structures in the genus Eviota“.  Currently/Recently: Claire is currently undertaking a PhD at CSIRO/ANU


Cvitanovic, Chris (2007) “Within reef variability in herbivory on an inshore fringing reef.” Currently/Recently: Chris is with the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra.

Post-doctoral Researchers

 Dr. Morgan Pratchett:

Morgan was an ARC funded Postdoctoral Fellow (APD-I) in the lab from 2004-2006 and investigated the causes and consequences of habitat degradation in coral reef ecosystems. Significant publications from this research include:

Pratchett MS, Wilson SK, Berumen ML, McCormick MI (2004) Sublethal effects of coral bleaching on an obligate coral feeding butterflyfish. Coral Reefs 23:352-356

Pratchett, MS, Wilson, SK and Baird, AH (2006). Declines in the abundance of Chaetodon butterflyfishes following extensive coral depletion. Journal of Fish Biology 69(5): 1269-1280

Currently/Recently: Morgan was awarded an Australian Research fellowship (ARF) (2007-2011) within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.


Dr. Chris Fulton:

Chris worked as an ARC-funded Post-doc in the lab from 2005-2006, where he examined algal community dynamics for a year before leaving to commence a lecturship at ANU. Significant publications from this research include:

Bellwood, DR and Fulton, CJ (2008). Sediment-mediated suppression of herbivory on coral reefs: Decreasing resilience to rising sea levels and climate change? Limnology and Oceanography 53(6): 2695-2701

Fulton, CJ (2007). Swimming speed performance in coral reef fishes: field validations reveal distinct functional groups. Coral Reefs 26(2): 217-228.

Johansen, JL, Bellwood, DR and Fulton, CJ (2008). Coral reef fishes exploit flow refuges in high-flow habitats. Marine Ecology Progress Series 360:219-226.

Currently/Recently: Chris is a Senior Lecturer in Marine Ecology at Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


More PhD candidates

 Marnane, Michael : PhD (2002). Thesis: “The trophic role of cardinalfishes (Family: Apogonidae) on coral reefs.” Currently/Recently: Consulting in environmental sciences in Western Australia.

Fisher, Rebecca: PhD (2002). Thesis: “The functional capabilities of reef fish larvae: implications for dispersal during the larval phase.” Currently/Recently: AIMS, Ocean Sciences Institute, UWA, Perth.

Armsworth, Paul: PhD (2000). Thesis: “Mathematical ecology of dispersal and recruitment in reef fishes.” Currently/Recently: Assistant Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Job, Suresh: PhD (1999). Thesis: “The functional visual capabilities of coral reef fish larvae.” Currently/Recently: Director, Batavia Coast Maritime Institute (BCMI), Western Australia.

Arvedlund, Michael: PhD (1999). Thesis: “A study of possible imprinting in anemonefishes (Family: Pomacentridae).” Currently/Recently: Director of ‘Reef Consultants’, Denmark.

Chen, Li-Shu: PhD (1998). Thesis: Ontogenetic development in post-settlement scarids (Pisces:Scaridae): transition in feeding modes.” Currently/Recently: Research Associate, Academica Sinica, Taiwan.

Stobutzki, Ilona: PhD (1997). Thesis: “Swimming abilities and orientation behaviour of pre-settlement coral reef fishes.” Currently/Recently: Bureau of Natural Resources, Canberra, Australia.

Purcell, Steven: PhD (1997). Thesis: “The role of sediments in epilithic algal communities on coral reefs.” Currently/Recently: National Marine Science Centre, NSW.

Kavanagh, Kathryn: PhD (1996). Thesis : “The early life history of the brooding damselfish Acanthochromis polycanthus : effects of environment and ancestry.” Currently/Recently: Evolution and Development Unit, Institute of Biotechnology, University of Helsinki.

Lekhnim, Vachira: PhD (1995). Thesis: “ Sandy shores and mangroves as fish nursery areas.” Currently/Recently: Faculty, Prince of Songkla University, Thailand.

Grutter, Alexandra: PhD (1994). Thesis : “Parasites in the Cleaning interactionsbetween Labroides dimidiatus and fish.” Currently/Recently: Senior lecturer, University of Queensland .


Masters candidates

Johansen, Jacob (2007). “Flow refuging by coral reef fishes in wave-swept habitats.” Currently/Recently: Studying a PhD with G.P. Jones, C.J. Fulton and D.R. Bellwood.

Boonyanate, Potchana (1992). “The age, growth and reproductive biology of the three-spotted damselfish, Pomacentrus tripunctuatus Cuvier 1830, at Nelly Bay, Magnetic Island, Townsville, North Queensland.”


Honours candidates

Mantyka, Chrystal (2006) “A direct evaluation of macroalgal removal and selectivity by herbivorous reef fishes.”

Fox, Rebecca (2006) “Quantifying the impacts of roving herbivorous fishes across a reef gradient.”

Yaakub, Siti (2005) “Hybridization in Coral Reef Fishes: An example from Thalassoma (Family: Labridae).”

Barnett, Adam (2004) “The trophic and reproductive implications of mouthbrooding in apogonid fishes.”

Barnes, Lachlan (2002) “The role of clear water mangroves in the ecology of reef fishes on the Great Barrier Reef .”

Depzczynski, Martial (2001) “The role of cryptobenthic fishes on coral reefs.”

Fulton , Chris (1999) “The relationship between swimming ability and habitat use in wrasses (Labridae).”

Fisher, Rebecca (1998) “The development of swimming abilities in reef fish larvae.”

Elliott, Jason (1998) “The relationship between gut morphology and diet in reef fishes.”

Ackerman, John (1997) “A description of the reef fish assemblage at Orpheus Island, Great Barrier Reef .”

Klanten, Selma (1997) “Does morphology predict ecology in coral reef fishes?”

Wilson, Shaun (1995) “The cryptic dietary components of territorial damselfishes.”

Hall, Vikki (1995) “Trophic biology of damselfishes: an ecomorphological survey.”

Marnane, Michael (1994-5) “The development of a marker technique for determining gut throughput rates in coral reef fishes.”

Newton , A. (1993-4) “Ranching vs farming by the damselfish Stegastes nigricans.

Ebner, Brendan (1993) “The feeding biology of Istiblennius meleagris (Family Blenniidae).”

Wilkinson, Simon (1993) “The functional significance of phyllodont pharyngeal dentition within the Labridae.”

Hall, Karina (1993) “The histopathological effects of cyanide, stress and starvation on Pomacentrus coelestis, a marine aquarium fish species.”

Fitzpatrick, Sheryl (1992) “Pomacentrid intrafamilial relationships: a cladistic Approach.”

Stobutzki, Ilona (1992) “A methodological approach to estimating the sustained swimming speeds of juvenile reef fishes.”

Galetto, Matthew (1991) “Digestive physiology of Stegastes nigricans and Amphiprion akindynos (family: Pomacentridae).”

Purcell, Steven (1991) “A comparative study of the functional morphology and feeding behaviour of Ctenochaetus striatus and Acanthurus nigrofuscus (family Acanthuridae).”



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Coral Reef Studies

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University Townsville
Queensland 4811 Australia

Phone: 61 7 4781 4000
Email: info@coralcoe.org.au