Current Research Projects

  • Naturally extreme coral environments, specifically mangrove habitats
  • Seawater carbonate chemistry
  • Coral reef restoration at high value sites – Coral Nurture Program
  • Elemental signatures of stress
  • Water quality
  • Coral traits that facilitate survival during thermal stress events
  • Symbiont functional diversity and its role in the stability of the coral symbiosis
  • Coral calcification and skeletal properties
  • Coral physiology

Coral Nurture Program 

The 2019 Rolex Awards for Enterprise

The Coral Nurture Program is a new approach for the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) that is initiated by a partnership between tourism and science. Our unique approach is not about “Reef Restoration” per se, but long term stewardship and adaptation at economically valuable GBR locations; increasing available management tools beyond existing options to include planting corals. This doesn’t just involve out-planting corals in order to boost live coral cover at reefs that have experienced a fall in cover, but also helps ensure reef sites with existing high coral cover that are economically valuable stay healthy. This program is funded through the Australian and Queensland Government Coral Abundance Challenge.

The Coral Nurture Program does not claim to “Save the Reef”. The sheer size and complexity of the reef, as well as the cost of interventions, means that saving the reef is only possible with effective global action on climate change, in addition to continuing the existing management of fishing, runoff and Crown of Thorns starfish. However, continued increases in surface seawater temperatures that drive marine heat waves which cause coral bleaching events are likely to keep occurring, even if climate policy is improved quickly (though much less so than if global climate policy is ineffective). In the meantime, we are trying to develop the know-how to buy time at a scale that helps coral at the most valuable (ecological and economic) locations. Other people are investigating the feasibility of attempting reef-scale intervention and we anticipate that knowledge from this project can contribute to future decisions. Indeed, a focus on site specific management, as demonstrated in this program, is key to success at any scale.

The Coral Nurture Program capitalises on the fact that tourism accounts for 89% of the economic revenue and provides 91% of the jobs created by the GBR. By utilising tourism vessel infrastructure, plus the knowledge, experience and skills of tourism industry personnel, interventions at tourism sites to either help recovery from an impact, or help adaptation to climate change, can be targeted to the exact need at each site, and be undertaken far more cheaply and efficiently than alternative options. In addition, tour operators are uniquely placed to share knowledge with the 1000’s of visitors visiting the GBR each day, enhancing the capacity for increasing public awareness in the activities occurring to aid the GBR. 

Previous Research Projects

  • Coral recruitment into seagrass beds
  • The impact of SCUBA divers on coral reefs
  • Cohabitation of anemonefish when habitat (anemones) are limited
  • Juvenile Nassau grouper habitat selection