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.

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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

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Patrick Smallhorn-West

Patrick Smallhorn-West

Research Fellow

Postdoctoral fellowship in Governing for resilience and equity in small-scale fisheries (2020-2021)

PhD (2020), BSc with with 1st Class Honours (2014)

James Cook University

I am a coral reef scientist with the CoE for Coral Reef Studies and WorldFish and a National Geographic Early Career Leader. My research focuses primarily on the balance between food security and conservation with respect to small scale fisheries, which account for 90% of all fishers and 50% of global fisheries yields. In particular, I use impact evaluation and counterfactual framing to understand how various marine management strategies, including both modern no-take reserves and traditional fishing grounds, can be used to maximize benefits for both people and the environment. Impact framing has also led me to investigate how spatial configurations of marine conservation and management actions are best situated in order to maximize the difference they will make, and under what instances management is instead residual. Locally managed, collaborative, and other bottom-up approaches to marine management are of particular interest to me, since resources are most effectively managed when resource users are actively involved in the process. Most of my research has focused on coral reef management in the South Pacific region (in particular Solomon Islands and Tonga).

Previously, I completed my PhD through James Cook University with a focus on the coral reef ecosystems of the Kingdom of Tonga. From 2016-2019, I collaborated with the Tongan government and Ministry of Fisheries to design and implement a national reef monitoring program to understand the current ecological status of the countries coral reefs and reef fish fishery. In addition, my PhD research focused on assessing the impacts of their approach to community based fisheries management, the Special Management Area program. This involved using impact evaluation techniques to look back at the difference made by existing management areas, as well as using a predictive approach to assess potential future impacts of management. My PhD research was supervised by Professor Geoff Jones, Dr. Tom Bridge, Professor Bob Pressey and Dr. Georgina Gurney.

Working in collaboration with NASA, I also led research examining the resilience of coral reef ecosystems after a massive submarine volcanic eruption created the newest landmass on Earth, located in the remote outer waters of Tonga.


Google Scholar

FAO (2021) Characteristics and performance of fisheries co-management in Asia: Synthesis of knowledge and case studies: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. 116pp

Bongaerts, P., Cooke, I. R., Ying, H., Wels, D., den Haan, S., Hernandez-Agreda, A., … & Hoegh-Guldberg, O. (2021). Morphological stasis masks ecologically divergent coral species on tropical reefsCurrent Biology.

Gordon, S. E., Wingfield, M., Smallhorn-West, P., Malimali, S., Halafihi, T. I., Schoeman, D. S., & Southgate, P. C. (2021). Spatio-temporal variation in growth performance and condition of the winged pearl oyster Pteria penguin. Frontiers in Marine Science.

Smallhorn-West P., Sheehan J., Rodriguez-Troncoso A., Malimali S., Halafihi T., Mailau S., Le’ota A., Ceccarelli D., Stone K., Pressey B., Jones G. (2020) Kingdom of Tonga Special Management Area report 2020. 86 p. http://purl.org/spc/digilib/doc/iwyna

Smallhorn-West P, Stone K, Ceccarelli D, Malimali S, Halafihi H, Wyatt M, Bridge T, Pressey B, Jones G (2020) Biophysical and anthropogenic influences on the status of Tonga’s coral reefs and reef fish fishery. Plos One

Smallhorn-West P, Sheehan J, Stone K, Ceccarelli D, Malimali S, Halafihi H, Bridge T, Pressey B, Jones G (2020) Community management yields positive impacts for coastal fisheries resources and biodiversity conservation. Conservation Letters

Smallhorn-West, P., Sheehan J, Stone K, Malimali S, Halafihi H, Bridge T, Pressey B, Jones G (2020) Incentivizing co-management for impact: mechanisms driving the successful national expansion of Tonga’s Special Management Area program. Conservation Letters e12742

Smallhorn-West, P., Gordon S, Dempsey A, Purkis S, Malimali S, Halafihi T, Southgate P, Bridge T, Pressey B, Jones G (2020) Tongan socio-environmental spatial layers for marine ecosystem management. Pacific conservation biology 

Smallhorn-West P, Garvin J, Slayback D, DeCarlo T, Gordon S, Fitzgerald S, Halafihi T, Jones G, Bridge T (2019) Coral reef annihilation, persistence and recovery at Earth’s youngest volcanic island. Coral reefs

Smallhorn-West P, Weeks R, Gurney G, Pressey B (2019) Ecological and socioeconomic impacts of marine protected areas in the South Pacific: assessing the evidence base. Biodiversity and conservation

Smallhorn-West, P, (2019) Progress towards conserving Tonga’s coral reefs. SPC Fisheries Bulletin

Darling et al. (2019) Socio-environmental drivers inform strategic management of coral reefs in the Anthropocene. Nature ecology and evolution.

Smallhorn-West P, Bridge T, Malimali S, Pressey R, Jones G. (2019) Predicting impact to determine the efficacy of community-based marine reserve design. Conservation letters. DOI: 10.1111/conl.12602

Smallhorn-West P, Govan H (2018) Towards reducing misrepresentation of national achievements in marine protected area targets. Marine policy 97, 127-129

Smallhorn-West, P., Bridge, T., Munday, P. & Jones, G (2017) Habitat quality constrains the depth-distribution and growth rate of a coral-associated reef fish. Marine Ecological Progress Series.

Smallhorn-West, P., Bridge, T., Munday, P. & Jones, G (2016) Depth distribution and abundance of a coral-associated reef fish: roles of recruitment and post-recruitment processes. Coral Reefs. DOI 10.1007/s00338-016-1509-x



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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