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:
- The protection of coral reefs through adaptively managing for ecological (and social) resilience, especially on the Great Barrier Reef, in Indonesia and China;
- The role of marine reserves in the conservation of tropical marine ecosystems;
- The presentation of scientific rigour, uncertainty, and the burden of proof, and shifting baselines, and
- The interface between environmental and economic values, as a mechanism to better engage business/corporate and finance sectors in conservation
- The synthesis and integration of diverse, multidisciplinary scientific information for its interpretation in, and application to management, policy, assessment and general issues of public interest
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.
KEY POSITIONS HELD
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
Manager, Research & Monitoring Coordination (Natural Sciences) and Manager, Ecosystem Health and Resilience, Australia
Acting roles as Director, Parliamentary and Ministerial Liaison, Director, Science Coordination, and Director, Climate Change Program
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
KEY AWARDS & HONORS
2006: Pew Fellows Program in Marine Conservation
1985-1989: I. W. Killam Memorial Doctoral Fellowship
- Woo KY, Chan CYS, Chan KK, Chan TT, Char YT, Gui D, Ho YWD, Huang X, Karczmarski L,, Lam YH, Leung KMY, Li S, Lin W, Liu W, Luo Y, McCook L J, Ng W C, Olson D, Porter L, Wong W H, Wang D, Wang K, Wang Z, Wu H, Wu Y, Yeung CW, Yu W, Zhang W, Zheng R, Zhu Q. (Contributors). (2020). Emergency Action Plan for the Pearl River Delta Population of the Chinese White Dolphin (Sousa chinensis) 2020. WWF-China, WWF-Hong Kong, Shenzhen & Hong Kong SAR. 45 pp.
- Leonard ND, Lepore ML, Zhao J‐X, Rodriguez‐Ramirez A, Butler IR, Clark TR, Roff G, McCook LJ, Nguyen AD, Feng Y, Pandolfi JM. (2020). “Re-evaluating mid-Holocene reef “turn-off” on the inshore Southern Great Barrier Reef.” Quaternary Science Reviews 244: 106518
- Leonard ND, Lepore ML, Zhao J‐X, Rodriguez‐Ramirez A, Butler IR, Clark TR, Roff G, McCook LJ, Nguyen AD, Feng Y, Pandolfi JM. (2020). A U‐Th dating approach to understanding past coral reef dynamics and geomorphological constraints on future reef growth potential; Mazie Bay, Southern Great Barrier Reef. Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 35.
- McCook LJ, Lian J-S, Lei XM, Chen Z, Xue G, Zhang X, Ang PO, Huang H. 2019. MPAs in southern China: Upgrading conservation effectiveness in the “Eco-civilisation” era. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 29: 33–43.
- Lei XM, Huang H, Lian JS, McCook, LJ. 2019. ‘中国珊瑚藻的多样性及分布研究现状 (The diversity and distribution of coralline algae in China: state of knowledge and research; in Chinese)’. 热带海洋学报 (Journal of tropical oceanography, Chinese language journal) 38: 30-40.
- Jiang L, Guo Y-J, Zhang F, Zhang Y-Y, McCook LJ, Yuan X, Lei X-M, Zhou G-W, Guo M-L, Cai L, Lian J-S, Qian P-Y, Huang H (2019) Diurnally fluctuating pCO2 modifies the physiological responses of coral recruits under ocean acidification. Frontiers in Physiology.
- Chen T, Roff, G, McCook LJ, Zhao J, Li S. Recolonization of marginal coral reef flats in response to recent sea-level rise. J. Geophysical Research-Oceans 123: 7618-7628.
- Zhang Y, Huang H, McCook LJ, Jiang L, Miao GP, Lian JS, Shu Li. 2018. An outbreak of invasive sea-cucumbers hindered coral recruitment. Coral Reefs 37: 321-326.
- Jiang L, Sun YF, Zhang YY, Zhou GW, Li XB, McCook LJ, Lian JS, Lei XM, Liu S, Cai L, Qian PY, Huang H. 2017 Impact of diurnal temperature fluctuations on larval settlement and growth of the reef coral Pocillopora damicornis. Biogeosciences 14: 5741-5752.
- Giakoumi S, Jennifer McGowan J, Mills M, Beger M, Bustamante RH, Charles A, Christie P, Fox M, Garcia Borboroglu P, Gelcich S, Guidetti P, Mackelworth P, Maina JM, McCook LJ, Micheli F, Morgan L, Peter J. Mumby PJ, Reyes LM, White A, Grorud-Colvert K, Possingham HP. 2018 Revisiting “success” and “failure” of Marine Protected Areas: A conservation scientist perspective. Frontiers in Marine Science: 5:223
- Clark TR, Roff G, Zhao JX, Feng Y, Done TJ, McCook LJ, Pandolfi JM. 2017. U-Th dating reveals regional scale decline of branching Acropora corals on the Great Barrier Reef over the past century. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 114: 10350-10355.
- McCook LJ, Lian JS, Lei XM, Chen Z, Chen S, Xue G, Cao L, Ang P, Huang H. 2017. Towards Best Practice Management of Coral Reefs and Marine Protected Areas in the South China Sea: Challenges and Opportunities… The Law of the Sea and Emerging Issues, ed. by G. (Julia) Xue & J. Zheng, China Democracy and Legal System Publishing House, Beijing, China.
- Hughes TP, Cameron DS, Chin A, Connolly SR, Day JC, Jones GP, McCook LJ, McGinnity P, Mumby PJ, Pears RJ, Pressey RL, Russ GR, Tanzer J, Tobin A, Young MAL. 2016. A critique of claims for negative impacts of Marine Protected Areas on fisheries. Ecological Applications 26: 637-641
- Clark TR, Leonard N, Zhao J, Brodie J, McCook LJ, Wachenfeld D, Nguyen AD, Markham H, Pandolfi JM. 2016. Historical photographs revisited: A case study for dating and characterizing recent loss of coral cover on the inshore Great Barrier Reef. Nature Scientific Reports 6: 19285
- Aswani S, Mumby PJ, Baker AC, Christie P, McCook LJ, Kaufman L, Palumbi S, Steneck RS, Richmond R. 2015. Scientific frontiers in the management of coral reefs. Frontiers in Marine Science 2: 50.
- Day J, Laffoley D, Zischka K, Gilliland P, Gjerde K, Jones P, Knott J, McCook LJ, Mumby PJ, Wilhelm A. 2015. Chapter 21- Marine Protected Area Management, In: Worboys et al. Protected areas: Governance and Management, IUCN WCPA
- Hastings J, Thomas S, Burgener V, Gjerde K, Laffoley D, Salm R, McCook LJ, Pet-Soede L, Eichbaum B, Drijver C, Bottema M, Hemley G, Tanzer J, Roberts C, Govan H, Fox H. 2012. Safeguarding the blue planet: Six strategies for accelerating ocean protection. Parks Magazine 18: 9-20.
- Halpern BS, Diamond J, Gaines S, Gelcich S, Gleason M, Jennings S, Lester S, Mace A, McCook LJ, McLeod K, Napoli N, Rawson K, Rice J, Rosenberg A, Ruckelshaus M, Saier B, Sandifer P, Sholtz A, Zivian A. 2012. Near-term priorities for the science, policy and practice of Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (CMSP). Marine Policy 36: 198-205
- Ban NC, Cinner J, Adams V, Mills M, Almany G, Ban S, McCook LJ, White A. 2012 Recasting shortfalls of marine protected areas as opportunities through adaptive management. Aquatic Conservation 22: 262-271
- Roff G, Clark TR, Reymond CE, Zhao J, Feng Y, McCook LJ, Done TJ, Pandolfi JM. 2012. Palaeoecological evidence of a historical collapse of corals at Pelorus Island, inshore Great Barrier Reef, following European settlement. Proceedings of The Royal Society B 20122100
- Dobbs K, Day J, Skeat H, Baldwin J, Molloy F, McCook L, Johnson M, Elliot B, Skeat A, Vohland K, Wachenfeld D, Kenchington R. 2011. Developing a long-term outlook for the Great Barrier Reef, Australia: a framework for adaptive management reporting underpinning an ecosystem based management approach. Marine Policy 35: 233-240.
- Venera-Ponton DE, Diaz-Pulido G, McCook LJ, Rangel-Campo A. 2011. Macroalgae reduce growth of juvenile corals but protect them from parrotfish damage. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 421: 109-115
- Ceccarelli DM, Jones GP, McCook LJ. 2011. “Interactions between herbivorous fish guilds and their influence on algal succession on a coastal coral reef”. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 399: 60-67
- Ban NC, Adams V, Almany G, Ban S, Cinner J, McCook LJ, Mills M, Pressey RL, White A. 2011 Designing, implementing and managing marine protected areas: Emerging trends and opportunities for coral reef nations: emerging trends and opportunities for coral reef nations. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 408: 21-31
- McCook LJ, Ayling T, Cappo M, Choat JH, Evans RD, Freitas DM De, Heupel M, Hughes TP, Jones GP, Mapstone B, Marsh H, Mills M, Molloy F, Pitcher CR, Pressey RL, Russ GR, Sutton S, Sweatman H, Tobin R,Wachenfeld DR, Williamson DH. 2010. Adaptive management of the Great Barrier Reef: a globally significant demonstration of the benefits of networks of marine reserves. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107: 18278–18285
- Diaz-Pulido G, Harii S, McCook LJ & Hoegh-Guldberg O. 2010. The impact of benthic algae on the settlement of a reef-building coral. Coral Reefs 29:203-208
- McCook LJ, Almany GR, Berumen M, Day J, Green A, Jones GP, Leis JM, Planes S, Russ G, Sale PF, Thorrold S 2009. Management under uncertainty: guide-lines for incorporating connectivity into the protection of coral reefs Coral Reefs 28: 353-366
- Almany GR, Connolly SR, Heath DD, Hogan JD, Jones GP, McCook LJ, Mills M, Pressey RL, Williamson DH 2009 Connectivity, biodiversity conservation and the design of marine reserve networks for coral reefs Coral Reefs 28: 339-351
- Steneck R, Alban M, Alcala A, Arnold SN, Butler M, McCook, LJ, Paris C, Russ G, Sale P 2009. Thinking and Managing Outside the Box: Coalescing connectivity networks to build region-wide resilience in coral reef ecosystems. Coral Reefs 28: 367-378
- Diaz-Pulido G, McCook LJ, Dove S, Berkelmans R, Roff J, Kline DI, Weeks S, Evans RD, Williamson DH, Hoegh-Guldberg O (2009) Doom and boom on a resilient reef: Climate change, algal overgrowth and coral recovery. PLoS ONE 4: e5239: 1-9
- Birrell, C.L., McCook, L.J., Willis, B. & Harrington, L. 2008. Allelochemical effects of macroalgae on larval settlement of the coral Acropora millepora. Mar. Ecol. Progr. Ser. 362:129-137
- Birrell, C.L., McCook L.J., Willis, B.L., Diaz-Pulido, G.A. (2008) The effects of benthic algae on the replenishment of corals and the implications for the resilience of coral reefs. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev. 46, 25-64
- Diaz-Pulido G, McCook LJ (2008) Environmental Status of the Great Barrier Reef: Macroalgae (Seaweeds). In: Chin A (State of the Great Barrier Reef Report). GBRMPA, pp 44
- McCook LJ, Folke C, Hughes TP, Nyström M, Obura D, Salm R (2007) Ecological resilience, climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. In: Johnson J, Marshall P: Climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. p. 75-96
- Diaz-Pulido G, McCook LJ, Larkum AWD, Lotze HK, Raven John A., Schaffelke B, Smith JE, Steneck RS (2007) Vulnerability of macroalgae of the Great Barrier Reef to climate change. In: Johnson J, Marshall P: Climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. p 153-192
- Fabricius KE, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Johnson J, McCook LJ, Lough J (2007) The vulnerability of coral reef ecosystems of the Great Barrier Reef to climate change. In: Johnson J, Marshall P: Climate change and the Great Barrier Reef. p. 515-554.
- Hughes TP, Rodrigues MJ, Bellwood DR, Ceccarelli D, Hoegh-Guldburg O, McCook LJ, Moltschaniwskyj N, Pratchett MS, Steneck RS, Willis B (2007) Phase shifts, herbivory, and the resilience of coral reefs to climate change. Current Biology 17:1-6
- Hughes TP, Bellwood DR, Folke CS, McCook LJ, Pandolfi JM (2007) No-take areas, herbivory and coral reef resilience. Trends Ecol. Evol. 22:1-3
- Hutchings, P., Haynes, D., Goudkamp, K. McCook, LJ. 2005. Water quality issues in the Great Barrier Reef region: An overview of papers. Mar. Poll. Bulletin 51: 3-8
- Wolanski E, Richmond, R, McCook LJ, Sweatman, H. 2003. Mud, marine snow and coral reefs: The survival of coral reefs requires integrated watershed-based management activities and marine conservation. American Scientist 91:44-51.
- Ceccarelli D., Jones, G.P. & McCook L.J. 2001 Territorial damselfishes as determinants of benthic community structure on coral reefs. Oceanogr Mar Biol Annu Rev. 39: 355-389
- McCook, L.J., Jompa, J. & Diaz-Pulido, G. D. 2001 Competition between corals and algae on coral reefs: a review of evidence and mechanisms. Coral Reefs 19: Special Issue on Algal Dynamics on Coral Reefs: 400-417.
- McCook, L.J. 1999. Macroalgae and phase shifts on coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef and other regions: A perspective on scientific issues and management consequences. Coral Reefs, Special Issue on Reef Management. 18: 357-367.
- McCook, L.J. 1994. Understanding ecological community succession: causal models and theories, a review. Vegetatio 110: 115-147.