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

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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A half-day Zoom webinar was held on Thursday 14th October 2021, with three plenaries and two panel discussions featuring leading coral reef researchers and the Centre’s postgraduate students. The symposium was aimed at researchers in related fields, natural resource managers, industry, conservationists and policy makers.

Let’s Dive Into the Deep for National Science Week with an Our Marine Parks Round 2 Initiative! In Feb 2021 a team from CoralCoE at James Cook University led by Prof. Andrew Hoey (& in collaboration with Australian Marine Parks and Parks Australia) set out 2 explore the deep reefs (deeper than 30m) of the Coral Sea Marine Park!

It’s been a busy year at Coral CoE! Here are some of our favourite highlights from 2020!

f the world fails to reach net zero emissions by 2050, Australia could face potentially insurmountable challenges to its cities, ecosystems, industries and food and health systems. Read our media release: https://www.science.org.au/news-and-e… Read the report now: https://science.org.au/warmerworld

In a ground-breaking new study, scientists used innovative molecular techniques to explain how corals on the east coast of Australia survived previous tough conditions—enabling the Great Barrier Reef to become the vast reef it is today.
RESEARCH INSIGHTS: https://www.coralcoe.org.au/blog/genes-unlock-clues-to-the-evolution-survival-of-the-great-barrier-reef
PAPER I. Cooke, H. Ying, S. Forêt, P. Bongaerts, J. M. Strugnell, O. Simakov, J. Zhang, M. A. Field, M. Rodriguez-Lanetty, S. C. Bell, D. G. Bourne, M. J. van Oppen, M. A. Ragan, D. J. Miller. ‘Genomic signatures in the coral holobiont reveal host adaptations driven by Holocene climate change and reef specific symbionts’. Sci. Adv. 6, eabc6318 (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc6318

Nery Contti Neto explains his research on the effects of seagrass and corals reefs on sediment transport

Ecological surveys of Tonga’s coral reefs by PhD student Patrick Smallhorn-West in 2018

Hear from Associate Professor Jodie Rummer from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies on how she ended up as a marine biologist with us and JCU!

Connections with friends and family are key to helping communities adapt to the devastating impact of climate change on their homes and livelihoods, a new study shows.
The research found people are more empowered to respond when they see others doing the same.
Scientists analysed how an island community in Papua New Guinea of around 700 people coped with the impact of encroaching sea-levels and dwindling fish stocks. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, examined the actions households took to deal with these impacts.
Lead author Dr Michele Barnes, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University (Coral CoE at JCU), said: “We found their actions were related to their social networks, the ways they are connected to other people within the community.”
“To cope with the impacts of climate change, existing practices or behaviours can be tweaked—this is adaptation. However, in some cases this won’t be enough, and people need to enact more fundamental changes—transformation.”
“In our case, adaptation included things like building sea walls to protect existing land use,” said co-author Dr Jacqueline Lau, from Coral CoE and WorldFish. “And transformation involved developing alternative food and income sources away from fish and fishing-related activities.”
Essentially both sets of actions are necessary to combat the impacts of climate change.
Dr Barnes says influence within social networks is what encouraged both sets of actions. The team found the households more socially connected to others taking action were more likely to do the same.
“It may be a situation of ‘like-attracts-like’ where households with particular mindsets are more socially connected to similar households,” Dr Barnes said. “Another explanation is that households were influencing each other’s actions. It’s likely a combination of the two,” she said.
The authors also found household connections with the marine environment played an important role in determining the responses to climate impacts.
“Climate change and other human impacts rapidly degrade coral reef ecosystems and alter the composition of reef fish communities,” said co-author Professor Nick Graham, of Lancaster University in the UK.
“The adaptation of coastal communities is becoming essential. Our research highlights that interacting with and learning from the marine environment is one mechanism through which this adaptation can be achieved,” he said.
Dr Barnes says the policies and programs seeking to reduce vulnerability to climate change often focus on building up material assets or creating infrastructure.
“Our research emphasises a broader set of factors can play an important part in the actions communities end up taking,” she said.
PAPER Barnes M, Wang P, Cinner J, Graham N, Guerrero A, Jasny L, Lau J, Sutcliffe S, Zamborain-Mason J. (2020). ‘Social determinants of adaptive and transformative responses to climate change’. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/s41558-020-0871-4

To Watch The Video Translated Into Tok Pisin

Video by the Australian Academy on Sciences on our media release “Global warming disrupts recovery of coral reefs.

The damage caused to the Great Barrier Reef by global warming has compromised the capacity of its corals to recover, according to new research published today in Nature.

Happy International Women’s Day! Today we celebrate IWD2019 by profiling incredible CoralCoE & affiliated Women In STEM and Social Sciences at James Cook University, University of Queensland, Australian National University and University of Western Australia. Balance for Better!

A new video series by Prof. Joshua Cinner in collaboration with WorldFish, to assist early career researchers to navigate through the peer-review process.

View the whole series on Josh’s research group page or on WorldFish’s official Youtube channel.

Congratulations to Tessa Hill for her Visualise Your Thesis presentation, entitled ‘The impact of ocean acidification on ecological processes that structure coral communities’. Tessa was 2018 JCU’s overall winner and her presentation can be found in the Online National Showcase for Visualise Your Thesis here: https://goo.gl/SwH1qR

Music by Ben Sounds

Dr Alana Grech, the Assistant Director of Coral CoE, was one of the speakers at the 2018 Public Forum held in conjunction with this year’s Coral Reef Futures Symposium.

Prof Josh Cinner led a massive study of nearly 1,800 tropical coral reefs around the world, and found that marine reserves near heavily populated areas struggle to do their job – but are a vast improvement over having no protection at all. Read more: http://ow.ly/ETN530kvCgr

Credit: Dean Miller

Corals growing in high-latitude reefs in Western Australia can regulate their internal chemistry to promote growth under cooler temperatures, according to new research at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at The University of Western Australia by Claire Ross.
Read more here.
Credit: University of Western Australia Media Team

Professor Cinner’s research aims to help solve the global problem of unsustainable coral reef fisheries by locating and learning from ‘bright spots’– reefs with more fish than expected, based on their exposure to pressures such as human population, poverty and unfavourable environmental conditions.

Read more here
Video by Cinematic Science

The world’s reefs are under siege from global warming, according to a novel study published today in the prestigious journal Science.

For the first time, an international team of researchers has measured the escalating rate of coral bleaching at locations throughout the tropics over the past four decades. The study documents a dramatic shortening of the gap between pairs of bleaching events, threatening the future existence of these iconic ecosystems and the livelihoods of many millions of people.

Video courtesy of Australian Academy of Science.

Media release here.

New research suggests an urgent need to find out why sea snakes are disappearing from known habitats, after it was discovered some seemingly identical sea snake populations are actually genetically distinct from each other and can’t simply repopulate if one group dies out.

Video produced by Australian Academy of Science

Media Release here


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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