Our Research Themes

System Dynamics

Processes that underlie the ecology of coral reefs occur across multiple scales in space and time, from interactions between individuals that last seconds, to species richness gradients that develop over millennia.

Movement of nutrients through the ecosystem across a range of scales maintains key functions essential to healthy coral reefs. In social systems, people’s actions are shaped by both individual and societal factors; thus, interactions across space and time influence outcomes for people and nature.

To understand how coral reef social-ecological systems operate, we conduct research at a range of scales, and try to understand the linkages and flows among them.

Examples of the projects we are working on in this area include:

Culture, Livelihoods & Governance

Equitable governance and effective management of coral reefs that support diverse livelihoods and cultures, maintains food security, and ensures functioning ecosystems, is a major challenge. Our group tackles these interrelated challenges through research from a range of perspectives.

The critical importance of fish in addressing micronutrient deficiencies and closing food security gaps is an emerging field that we tackle from ecological, societal, and health perspectives. The continuing productivity of fisheries themselves is in jeopardy as reefs decline and societal demand increases. We assess the drivers of fisheries condition including continuing ecosystem function, the management and underlying social factors that lead to sustainability, and the impacts of reef decline on fisheries composition and yields.

Major changes to systems of ocean governance are altering how power, finance, and agency are distributed. We critically evaluate these processes to explore the emergent beneficiaries and outcomes.

Key research areas in this theme include:

Reef Futures

The future of coral reefs and their relationships with people are highly uncertain, yet it is unlikely that many reefs will remain in the stable conditions experienced over recent time.

We investigate the changing structure, composition and functioning of coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and the consequent implications on people of these changes. This includes assessing reef responses to climate change, fishing and nutrients. In particular, coral mortality has knock-on effects for the rest of the ecosystem through altered nutrient flows, food resources and structural complexity.

We also seek to understand and potentially manipulate feedbacks to enhance key processes that aid recovery of degraded reefs.