Science in the Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef Biodiversity Research


Maintaining the health and biodiversity of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is complicated by the impacts to the system by global stressors associated with a changing climate. These include changes to ocean chemistry, such as temperature and acidity that affect the health and physiology of organisms that in turn affects their ability to recover after disturbance. This is exacerbated by local stressors, including declining water quality and development pressure in the coastal zone.

The research programs seek to understand the long-term cycle of disturbance and recovery of the reef.

Further information and publications from current and past projects in the GBR managed by RRRC are linked below.


NESP 1.1 Establishing the future NESP CoTS research framework including an ecologically-based approach to the management of CoTS at multiple scales David Westcott, CSIRO
NESP 1.2 Developing an approach to evaluate the effectiveness of investments in riparian management in the GBR catchments Rebecca Bartley, CSIRO
NESP 1.9 The establishment of a future NESP dredging research investment framework Britta Schaffelke, AIMS
NESP 2.1 Assessing the cumulative impacts of climatic disturbances on inshore GBR coral reefs, identifying key refuges and testing the viability of manipulative reef restoration Geoff Jones, JCU
NESP 3.1 Seagrass mapping synthesis – A resource for marine park and coastal management Rob Coles, JCU
NESP 3.2 Improving historical estimates of abundance and distribution of dugongs and large green turtles in western and central Torres Strait Helene Marsh, JCU
NESP 3.6 Establishing a research framework for future NESP investment into better understanding of the presence of Box-Jellyfishes (Irukandji) and risks in the Great Barrier Reef Mike Kingsford, JCU
NESP 3.7 Monitoring the effects of zoning on coral reefs and their associated fish communities in the GBR Marine Park Hugh Sweatman, AIMS
NESP 3.9 Indigenous capacity building and increased participation in management of Queensland sea country Melissa George, CSIRO/NAILSMA & Ro Hill, CSIRO
NESP 3.11 Monitoring and adaptively reducing system-wide governance risks facing the GBR Allan Dale, JCU
NESP 3.12 Development of an offset financial contribution calculator for Reef Trust Martine Maron, UQS
NESP 3.13 eAtlas 2015 – NESP data management, Torres Strait NRM plan delivery platform and Torres Strait reef mapping Eric Lawrey, AIMS
NESP 2.1.1 Integrated Pest Management of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish David Westcott, CSIRO
NESP 2.2.3 Early warning systems to minimize the risk of box jellyfish stings by empowering stakeholders Scott Condie, CSIRO
NESP 2.3.5 eAtlas – Data management for environmental research Eric Lawrey, AIMS
NESP 3.1.1 Implementation of the Crown of Thorns research strategy: regional strategies David Westcott, CSIRO
NESP 3.1.8 Innovative economic levers: a system for underwriting risk of practice change in cane-farming Peter Thorburn, CSIRO
NESP 3.2.2 The IMS 2050 Human Dimensions Project: cost-effective Indicators and metrics for key GBRWHA human dimensions Allan Dale, JCU
NESP 3.2.3 Monitoring aesthetic value of the Great Barrier Reef by using artificial intelligence to score photos and videos Susanne Becken, GU
NESP 3.2.4 Defining, assessing and monitoring Great Barrier Reef aesthetics Nadine Marshall, CSIRO
NESP 3.3.3 Defining the values of the ecological systems that influence the GBR and lie outside the marine park and world heritage area boundaries Johanna Johnson, JCU
NESP 4.1 Crown-of-thorns starfish: surveillance and life history David Westcott, CSIRO
NESP 4.3 Best practice coral restoration for the Great Barrier Reef Ian McLeod, JCU
NESP 4.4 The traits of corals that survived recent bleaching events Line Bay, AIMS
NESP 4.5 Guidance system for resilience-based management of the Great Barrier Reef Peter Mumby, UQ
NESP 4.6 Recommendations for maintaining functioning of the Great Barrier Reef Peter Mumby, UQ
NESP 4.7 Indigenous coral reef tourism Henrietta Marrie, CQU
NESP 4.13 Assessing the Gulf of Carpentaria mangrove dieback Norman Duke, JCU
NESP 5.1 Matching the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish Integrated Pest Management to the scale of the new Control Program David Westcott, CSIRO
NESP 5.5 Measuring aesthetic and experience values using Big Data approaches Susanne Becken, GU
NESP 5.6 Designing the Aesthetics Long Term Monitoring Program (ALTMP) Matt Curnock, CSIRO
NESP 5.7 Assessment and communication of the spatial variability in bleaching severity throughout the Great Barrier Reef following back-to-back bleaching events in 2016 & 2017 (FAST TRACK PROJECT) Neal Cantin, AIMS
NESP 5.15 eAtlas extension: Data management for environmental research Eric Lawrey, AIMS


NERP 1.1 Monitoring status and trends of coral reefs of the GBR Hugh Sweatman, AIMS
NERP 1.2 Marine wildlife management in the GBR World Heritage Area Helene Marsh & Mark Hamann, JCU
NERP 1.3 Characterising the cumulative impacts of global, regional and local stressors on the present and past biodiversity of the GBR Jian-Xin Zhao & John Pandolfi, UQ
NERP 4.1 Tracking coastal turbidity over time and demonstrating the effects of river discharge events on regional turbidity in the GBR Katharina Fabricius, AIMS
NERP 4.2 The chronic effects of pesticides and their persistence in tropical waters Andrew Negri, AIMS
NERP 4.3 Ecological Risk Assessment for the GBR Jon Brodie, JCU
NERP 5.1 Understanding diversity of the GBR: spatial and temporal dynamics and environmental drivers Glenn De’ath, AIMS
NERP 5.2 Combined water quality and climate effects on corals and other reef organisms Sven Uthicke, AIMS
NERP 5.3 Vulnerability of seagrass habitats in the GBR to changing coastal environments Catherine Collier, JCU
NERP 6.1 Maximising benefits of mobile predators to GBR ecosystems: the importance of movement, habitat and environment Michelle Heupel, AIMS
NERP 6.2 Drivers of juvenile shark biodiversity and abundance in inshore ecosystems of the GBR Colin Simpfendorfer, JCU
NERP 6.3 Critical seabird foraging locations and trophic relationships for the GBR Brad Congdon, JCU
NERP 8.1 Monitoring of ecological effects of the GBR zoning plan on mid and outer shelf reefs Hugh Sweatman, AIMS
NERP 8.2 Assessing the long term effects of management zoning on inshore reefs of the GBR Garry Russ & David Williamson, JCU
NERP 8.3 Significance of no-take marine protected areas to regional recruitment and population persistence on the GBR Geoff Jones, JCU
NERP 9.1 Dynamic vulnerability maps and decision support tool for the GBR Ken Anthony, AIMS
NERP 9.2 Design and implementation of management strategy evaluation for the GBR Cathy Dichmont, CSIRO
NERP 9.3 Prioritising management actions for GBR islands Bob Pressey, JCU
NERP 9.4 Conservation planning for a changing coastal zone Bob Pressey, JCU
NERP 10.1 Social and economic long-term monitoring program Nadine Marshall, CSIRO
NERP 10.2 Socio-economic systems and reef resilience Natalie Stoeckl, JCU


MTSRF 1.1.1 Identification of indicators and thresholds of concern for ecosystem health on a bioregional scale for the GBR Michelle Waycott, JCU & Hugh Sweatman, AIMS
MTSRF 1.1.2 Condition and trend of the GBR ecosystem: Indicators, thresholds of potential concern and ecological influence of GBR Zoning Plan on mid and outer reefs Hugh Sweatman, AIMS & Marie-Lise Schläppy, Reef Check
MTSRF 1.1.3 Condition, trend and risk in coastal habitats: Seagrass indicators, distribution and thresholds of potential concern Michelle Waycott, JCU & Len McKenzie, QDPI&F
MTSRF 1.1.4 Dating and mapping historical changes in GBR coral communities Jian-Xin Zhao, UQ
MTSRF 1.1.5 The e-Atlas: Risk, Resilience and Response Katharina Fabricius, AIMS
MTSRF 1.4.1 Condition trends and projected futures of marine species of conservation concern Mark Hamann, JCU
MTSRF 1.4.2 Sustainable use of marine species of conservation concern Helene Marsh, JCU
MTSRF 2.5i.1 Hydrodynamics at the whole-of-GBR scale Richard Brinkman, AIMS
MTSRF 2.5i.2 Early warning and assessment system for thermal stress on the GBR Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, UQ
MTSRF 2.5i.3 Resilience to climate change Terry Hughes, JCU & Julian Caley, AIMS
MTSRF 2.5i.4 Tools to support resilience-based management in the face of climate change Scott Wooldridge, AIMS
MTSRF 2.6.1 Understanding threats and impacts of invasive pests in the GBR David Blair, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.1 Resilience and connectivity Terry Hughes, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.2 Influence of the GBR Zoning Plan on inshore habitats and biodiversity, of which fish and corals are indicators Peter Doherty, AIMS & Garry Russ, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.3 Evaluation of the resiliency of key inter-reefal fish species Colin Simpfendorfer, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.4 Evaluation of the impacts from industry and community uses on inshore biodiversity Andrew Tobin, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.5 Incorporating stakeholders and their values, knowledge and aspirations in the care and development of the GBR Marine Park Stephen Sutton, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.6 Analysis of recreational and tourism use and impact on the GBR for managing sustainable tourism Bruce Prideaux, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.7 Forecasting risk of exposure to Irukandji Michael Kingsford, JCU
MTSRF 4.8.8 Investigation of the motivations of commercial and recreational fishers to comply with Great Barrier Reef Marine Park zoning Renae Tobin, JCU