Bette Willis is a Professor in the School of Marine and Tropical Biology and Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. Her research focusses on questions relating to the biology and ecology of scleractinian corals, particularly on questions relating to the health of reef corals in an era of climate change and increasing anthropogenic impacts. She has published more than 125 peer-reviewed publications, including 5 in Nature, Science and Nature Climate Change, 7 book chapters, and 5 major reviews (e.g. Annual Reviews of Marine Biology, Annual Reviews of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics).  She has supervised 100 postgraduate students, including PhD (39), MSc (35) and Honours (16) students.

Her current research strives to understand inter-kingdom symbiotic partnerships that underpin coral health and factors driving outbreaks of coral disease, both on the Great Barrier Reef and globally.  She is involved in various international working groups and networks aimed at furthering understanding of the ecology of infectious diseases in corals and in raising the profile of coral health issues throughout the Indo-Pacific. By exploring the dynamics of coral-microbial associations and how flexibility in symbiotic partnerships affects tolerance to environmental stressors, Willis and her research group are exploring the potential of corals to acclimatise and adapt to a changing world.


  • MB3210: Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5400: Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals (Level 5; TSV)
  • Ecology of infectious diseases in reef corals
  • Environmental and anthropogenic drivers of coral disease outbreaks
  • Microbial symbioses underpinning coral health
  • Acclimatisation and adaption of coral symbioses to environmental change
  • Reproductive biology and evolutionary ecology of corals
  • 2007 to present - Professor, Personal Chair in Marine Biology, James Cook University
  • 2002 to 2006 - Associate Professor, James Cook University
  • 1993 to 2001 - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University

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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 152+ research outputs authored by Prof Bette Willis from 1984 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Research Council - Centres of Excellence

ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrated Coral Reef Studies

Indicative Funding
$28,000,000 over 7 years
The overarching aim of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Integrated Coral Reef Studies is to provide the scientific knowledge necessary for sustaining ecosystem goods and services of the world's coral reefs, which support the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in the tropics. The Centre will enhance Australia's global leadership in coral reef science through three ambitious research programs addressing the future of coral reefs and their ability to adapt to change. A key outcome of the research will be providing tangible benefits to all Australians by bui8lding bridges between the natural and social sciences, strengthening capacity, and informing and supporting transformative changes in coral reef governance and management.
Terry Hughes, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Malcolm McCulloch, Peter Mumby, Sean Connolly, John Pandolfi, Bob Pressey, Bette Willis, Andrew Baird, David Bellwood, Joshua Cinner, Sophie Dove, Sylvain Foret, Nick Graham, Mia Hoogenboom, Geoff Jones, Mike Kingsford, Ryan Lowe, Mark McCormick, David Miller, Philip Munday, Morgan Pratchett and Garry Russ in collaboration with Neil Andrew, Jeremy Jackson, Janice Lough, Laurence McCook, Stephen Palumbi, Serge Planes and Madeleine van Oppen (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The University of Queensland, The University of Western Australia, College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, WorldFish, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Stanford University and Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)
coral reef ecosystems; Climate Change Adaptation; ecological resilience; biodiversity goods and services; social-ecological dynamics

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Advancing knowledge of microbial symbioses underpinning coral health and reef resilience

Indicative Funding
$310,000 over 3 years
Dynamic symbioses between the host, photosynthetic eukaryotes and diverse prokaryotes are the foundation of coral ecological success. This project will determine the functional roles of microbial members in the multipartite coral symbiosis and the contribution of all members to whole organism resilience under climate change scenarios. Whole-system approaches represent the future of biological research in complex ecosystems. This project will advance Australian expertise through international collaborations and ensure Australia's leading status in coral research by providing training in state-of-art technologies. Research outcomes will unravel the biological and microbial of coral health, which underpins reef sustainability.
Bill Leggat, Bette Willis and Tracy Ainsworth in collaboration with David Bourne and Monica Medina (College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, College of Science & Engineering, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Institute of Marine Science and University of California - Merced)
Symbiosis; Acclimatization; Coral

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.

  • Vectors and Environmental Drivers of Coral Disease Dynamics on The Great Barrier Reef;; (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Coevolution of Marine Invertebrates and their Microbial Communities (PhD , Advsor Mentor)
  • Quantifying the Linkages Between Water Quality and the Thermal Tolerance of Corals on the GBR (PhD , Advsor Mentor)
  • Microbial Indicators for Water Quality and Environmental Stress Assessment of Coral Reef Ecosystems. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Improving coral thermal resilience through experimental evolution in Symbiodinium (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Characterising the Socio-ecological Benefits of Coral Restoration to Develop Best Practice Guidelines Supporting Reef Resilience (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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Similar to me

  1. Dr David Bourne
    College of Science & Engineering
  2. A/Prof Bill Leggat
    College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences
  3. Prof Andrew Baird
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
  4. Dr Tracy Ainsworth
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
  5. Dr Tom Bridge
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies