Dr Alastair Birtles grew up in the UK, studied Zoology at Oxford University and obtained a PhD in Marine Biology at James Cook University. He has over forty years of experience in tropical research and teaching including over 10 years of teaching marine biology & zoology in Great Barrier Reef environments including coastal mangroves, continental shelf soft sediment communities, coral reefs and the deep sea.

Following a period as a conservation officer/planner with the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service, he has spent over 20 years teaching & researching on ecotourism, environmental management, integrated coastal zone management and ecologically sustainable tourism.

He is leader of the 20-year Minke Whale Project (conducting field studies since 1996) and other marine wildlife tourism projects (featuring sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, dugongs, groupers and scuba diving); also tourism in protected areas (especially World Heritage Wet Tropics Rainforest and the GBR), visitor management, interpretation and Aboriginal tourism – all aimed at enhancing tourist experiences, minimising impacts and developing more ecologically sustainable management practices.

He has worked extensively in developing countries, supervised over 100 Honours and postgraduates from 25 countries and has produced many publications and natural history films.

  • Sustainable management of tourism in high biodiversity tropical environmentsApplication of science and social science to sustainable management of tourism.
  • Management of marine wildlife tourism (e.g. sharks, whales, dolphins, turtles, dugongs and large fish [e.g. serranids and labrids]).
  • SCUBA diving tourism, Ecotourism, Ecologically sustainable tourism, Aboriginal cultural tourism.
  • Visitor management and interpretation of natural environments.
  • Indigenous involvement in protected area management, natural resource management and 'Caring for Country'.
  • Management of tourism in protected areas, especially national parks and the World Heritage Areas of the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef.
  • Management of tourism impacts at freshwater sites in Wet Tropics streams.
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 1990 - Honorary Research Fellow at the Museum of Tropical Queensland
  • 2009 - Deputy Chair of the Australian World Heritage Advisory Committee
  • 2007 - Director and Deputy Chair of the Board of the Wet Tropics Management Authority
  • 2007 - Chair of the WTMA Tourism Industry Liaison Group (now Tourism Industry Network)
  • 2006 - Member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas
  • 2005 - National Chair, Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN)
  • 1991 - Founder Member of Ecotourism Association of Australia (now Ecotourism Australia)

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Conference Papers

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 47+ research outputs authored by Dr Alastair Birtles from 1996 onwards.


Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Dwarf Minke Whale Morphometrics, Growth Rates and Long-term Behaviour Responses to Human Interactions in the Great Barrier Reef. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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