About

Dr Collier is motivated by the need for robust information on estuarine and marine habitats to support conservation. She leads research projects that fall into three broad themes:

1. where do habitats grow and where could they grow

2. how does habitat condition vary over time and what causes it to change

3. how do ecosystems stay resilient to extreme weather events and other potential impacts

Dr Collier leads habitat mapping in the Great Barrier Reef, Gulf of Carpentaria and Northern Territory. Using habitat suitability modelling to complement this essential knowledge on the distribution and composition of habitats, she examines where habitats could grow and the underpinning environmental conditions that support healthy habitats. Dr Collier contributes to long-term monitoring of the inshore Great Barrier Reef seagrass habitats through the Paddock to Reef Integrated Monitoring, Modelling and Reporting Program.

Working with Indigenous Ranger groups across Northern Australia, Dr Collier utilises consistent and comparable methods to map habitats and establish monitoring programs, delivering training as a key element of this. Research and development to improve efficiency, accuracy and cost-effectiveness is also a substantial and ongoing feature of her mapping and monitoring activities.

Recognising that management and conservation strategies must be adaptive and accommodating of the changing climate, ecological resilience is a strong focus for Dr Collier as it is essential for maintaining healthy habitats under cumulative pressures. Her investigations include unravelling what makes seagrass habitats resilient, pinpointing key aspects that can be measured and monitored and identifying ways to enhance it. Outcomes of these projects include the development of a resilience indicator, water quality targets, light thresholds and thermal optima. She primarily uses in situ environmental monitoring, aquaria experiments and modelling for this research.  

Collaboration lies at the core of Dr Collier’s research and she has built substantial working relationships with distinct teams of scientists and stakeholders including Traditional Owners and environmental managers. She enthusiastically receives enquiries from prospective Honours, Masters and PhD students interested in Marine Biology with a strong track record.   

Experience
  • 2007 to present - Principal Research Officer, James Cook University (Townsville and Cairns)
  • 2006 to 2007 - Project Officer, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (Townsville)
  • 2002 to 2006 - Doctoral candidate, Edith Cowan University (Perth)
  • 1999 to 2002 - Project Officer, Healthy Waterways (Brisbane)
Research Disciplines
Publications

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
Book Chapters
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ResearchOnline@JCU stores 70+ research outputs authored by Dr Catherine Collier from 2007 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - National Environmental Science Program 2 (NESP 2) - Marine and Coastal Hub (NESP MAC Hub)

NESP 3.5: Supporting regional planning in northern Australia: Building knowledge, skills & partnerships for understanding seagrass distribution

Indicative Funding
$988,773 over 3 years (administered by Reef and Rainforest Research Centre)
Summary
Northern Australia has vast development opportunities but limited knowledge of the environment to inform decision making. This region has globally significant seagrass habitat, supporting dugong, green turtle, and commercially important fish and prawns. However, knowledge about seagrass habitats for extensive areas of the coast is limited - data is patchy or not freely available, few large-scale mapping surveys have been conducted, and even fewer seagrass long-term monitoring programs exist. This project will address these problems by: 1. Mapping selected benthic habitats, with a focus on seagrass, using methods consistent with previous and ongoing surveys in northern Australia. 2. Establishing a benchmark of seagrass habitats for Traditional Owners, Indigenous communities, rangers, management agencies, ports, industry, and researchers to assess change. 3. Partnering with management agencies and ranger groups to co-design mapping and monitoring methods in remote areas that use new technology such as drones. 4. Compiling and synthesizing historical seagrass data into a publicly available spatial database to create a permanent record. 5. Interpreting and reporting on survey findings, including providing advice on options for establishing monitoring programs.
Investigators
Alexandra Carter and Catherine Collier (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Benthic Habitat; Spatial data; Northern Australia; Sea Country

Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation - Queensland Indigenous Land and Sea Program

Seagrass Monitoring in Wuthathi Sea Country

Indicative Funding
$132,555 over 2 years
Summary
Wuthathi land and sea country in far northern Cape York extends from Captain Billy landing south to Temple Bay and includes Shelburne Bay and Raine Island. JCU will work with Wuthathi rangers to continue to map coastal seagrass in Wuthathi and establish monitoring sites and methods. A range of techniques will be adopted, including airborne/spaceborne imagery (UAV drone and satellite) and transects for intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats and drop cameras in deeper subtidal waters. Wuthathi rangers will be trained in seagrass mapping and monitoring techniques to facilitate continued monitoring of seagrass habitats in Wuthathi sea country.
Investigators
Catherine Collier, Len McKenzie, Lucas Langlois, Hayley Brien and Louise Johns (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Wuthathi; Great Barrier Reef; Cape York; Monitoring; Shelburne Bay

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water - Contract Research

Benthic monitoring and demersal fish surveys in Limmen Marine Park.

Indicative Funding
$363,027 over 2 years
Summary
This project's requirements are for field work, data analysis and reporting on benthic habitat monitorings and demersal fish communities in, and connected to, Limmen Marine Park, in the South-West Gulf of Carpentaria. The objectives are: 1. Increase understanding of traditional knowledge and collaborate with Indigenous rangers and Traditional Owners to undertake marine park management, such as monitoring, including the development of bilingual maps where possible. 2. Identify any changes/trends in the condition of benthic habitats in the marine park, including seagrass, algal, sponge and coral habitats. 3. Identify demersal fish communities in and adjacent to the marine park, including consideration of key pressures on these communities and any potential management actions for mitigating impacts.
Investigators
Tim Smith, Alexandra Carter and Catherine Collier in collaboration with Christiaan van de Wetering (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Mapping; Intertidal; Benthic Habitats; Gulf of Carpentaria; Fish

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water - Contract Research

Seagrass surveys in the lower Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland

Indicative Funding
$71,818 over 1 year
Summary
The proposed work is for marine habitat mapping in the in the Thuwathu/Bujimulla Indigenous Protected Area (TBIPA). Benthic habitats for this area have not been surveyed for more than 15 years and so it is considered a high priority for a comprehensive survey. This will expand the scope (i.e. coverage) of planned benthic habitat surveys currently funded by Parks Australia for the Gulf of Carpentaria Marine Park (GOCMP) into the adjacent IPA. Therefore, the proposed project is supported by Parks Australia who have confirmed that this work is outside the scope of their funded work, but complements and enhances their work program given the importance of this area for marine turtle and dugong foraging and to the Lardil, Yangkaal, Kaiadilt and Gangalida Peoples. Funding will be used to procure a helicopter for surveying intertidal areas, and for staff time to undertake the surveys, process the data and deliver the outcomes including a `baseline? map on which rangers can continue to monitor benthic habitat condition and to improve their negotiation on resource condition and use with other stakeholders in the region.
Investigators
Alexandra Carter and Catherine Collier in collaboration with Megan Proctor (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Mapping; Intertidal; Benthic Habitat; Gulf of Carpentaria

Charles Darwin University - Contract Research

Mapping Yanyuwa Sea Country - Boat.

Indicative Funding
$191,087 over 2 years
Summary
This project is a collaboration of specialists including the Yanyuwa Traditional Owners and li-Anthawirriyarra Sea Rangers, scientists from James Cook University, Charles Darwin University and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, and Northern Territory Parks. The team will survey the subtidal marine benthic habitats within Yanyuwa sea country. Using data from the survey and other available information, rangers and scientists will work together to determine priority management areas and identify opportunities for broader community engagement in the management of sea country.
Investigators
Catherine Collier and Alexandra Carter in collaboration with Lloyd Shepherd, Luke Hoffmann and Christiaan van de Wetering (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Gulf of Carpentaria; Sea Country; Mapping; Subtidal

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Contract Research

Seagrass thermal stress risk model for the inshore Great Barrier Reef.

Indicative Funding
$390,793 over 2 years
Summary
Seagrass meadows are at risk from decline caused by thermal stress, and this will impact the ecosystems and communities who depend on the goods and benefits they provide. There is currently no spatial and temporal product that indicates seagrass exposure to thermal stress. This proposal outlines a staged project that will deliver a model of thermal stress risk. Working in collaboration with First Nations rangers, temperature loggers will be deployed across thermal exposure gradients in the inshore Reef. These data will be used to calibrate and validate a seagrass thermal stress risk model for the inshore Reef.
Investigators
Catherine Collier, Len McKenzie and Lucas Langlois (TropWater)
Keywords
Thermal Stress; Climate Change; Seagrass; Inshore; First Nations; Monitoring

Northern Land Council - Contract Research

Mapping South East Arnhem Land Sea Country - Intertidal

Indicative Funding
$150,989 over 1 year
Summary
Understanding the location and extent of ecological and cultural values in Sea Country is necessary to support the aspirations of South East Arnhem Land (SEAL) people and further their connection with Sea Country through sustainable resource management. The proposed SEAL Sea Country IPA has high biodiversity values, including extensive habitat for large foraging populations of dugong and turtles which depend on healthy seagrass. Historical seagrass data, dugong aerial surveys (2019), recent surveys in adjacent Marra Sea Country (2021) and the Yanyuwa IPA (2021-22) indicate that extensive areas of seagrass habitat also occur in the SEAL IPA. However, there are no recent maps of seagrass habitat in the IPA. This project will assist the Aboriginal Traditional Owners to protect, maintain and sustainably manage Aboriginal land/ and sea country within the proposed SEAL Marine Indigenous Protected Area by providing base line bilingual maps, GIS and report of seagrass and other benthic habitats.
Investigators
Alexandra Carter and Catherine Collier in collaboration with Carissa Reason (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Mapping; Gulf of Carpentaria; Intertidal; Sea Country

Great Barrier Reef Foundation - Traditional Owner Healing Country Grant

Seagrass Monitoring and Protection in Wuthathi Sea Country

Indicative Funding
$55,834 over 1 year (administered by Wuthathi Aboriginal Corporation)
Summary
Wuthathi land and sea country in far northern Cape York extends from Captain Billy landing south to Temple Bay and includes Shelburne Bay and Raine Island. JCU will work with Wuthathi rangers to map coastal seagrass habitats in Wuthathi. A range of techniques will be adopted, including helicopter surveys and airborne/spaceborne imagery (UAV drone and satellite) for intertidal and shallow subtidal habitats and drop cameras in deeper subtidal waters. Wuthathi rangers will be trained in seagrass mapping and monitoring techniques to facilitate continued monitoring of seagrass habitats in Wuthathi sea country.
Investigators
Catherine Collier, Len McKenzie and Lucas Langlois (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Drone; Remote Sensing; First Nations; Cape York Frog; Great Barrier Reef

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - National Environmental Science Program 2 (NESP 2) - Marine and Coastal Hub (NESP MAC Hub)

Mapping Critical Habitat in Yanyuwa Sea Country

Indicative Funding
$34,850 over 2 years
Summary
Marra and li-Anthawirriyarra rangers seek to build on existing partnerships with CDU and JCU to map the intertidal habitats of the Yanyuwa Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) and coastal areas connected to it, an area of profound importance to these communities and the marine ecosystem of the Gulf of Carpentaria (GoC). Significant co-funding will be provided by the Mabunji Aboriginal Corporation (MAC) and DAWE Migratory Species Section to conduct a large-scale mapping project that will inform Marra and Yanyuwa community decisions that underpin sustainable management and facilitate continued connection with sea country. Co-funding from NESP2 is sought to provide salary for data processing and reporting for these surveys. This project also leverages existing funding allocated to training, capacity building, community consultation and communication products committed to by the rangers, CDU, JCU, the Australian and the NT Governments.
Investigators
Rachel Groom, Alexandra Carter, Catherine Collier, Shaun Evans, David Barret and Stephen Barret (Charles Darwin University, TropWater and Mabunji Aboriginal Resource Centre)
Keywords
Seagrass; yanyuwa; spatial data; Habitat; gulf os carpentaria; Sea Country; marra

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Marine Parks

Mapping Marra Sea Country with a focus on benthic habitats of the Limmen Marine Park

Indicative Funding
$283,720 over 3 years
Summary
Understanding the distribution and composition of benthic habitats in the Limmen Marine Park is necessary to manage the park in accordance with the North Marine Parks Network Management Plan and support the aspirations of the Marra People. Our team will survey the marine benthic habitats within and adjacent to the marine park. Recommendations for the marine park?s co-management will be developed. Project outputs will be relevant to multiple users and made accessible by optimizing media streams, including a short film about the Limmen marine park from the perspective of the Marra people and sea rangers.
Investigators
Catherine Collier, Alexandra Carter, Rachel Groom, Robert Coles and Michael Rasheed in collaboration with Lloyd Shepherd and Paul Leeson (TropWater, Australian Institute of Marine Science and Research Infrastructure)
Keywords
Marine Parks; Co-management; Traditional Owners; Benthic habitats; Seagrass; Monitoring

Charles Darwin University - Contract Research

Mapping Yanyuwa Sea Country - Intertidal

Indicative Funding
$240,794
Summary
This sub-project is a collaboration of specialists from James Cook University and Charles Darwin University. The team will survey the intertidal marine benthic habitats within Yanyuwa sea country. A baseline seagrass survey and ongoing monitoring will provide an opportunity for Traditional Owners to engage in the developing blue carbon economy and empower Yanyuwa people in decision-making in local resource use.
Investigators
Alexandra Carter and Catherine Collier in collaboration with Luke Hoffman (TropWater)
Keywords
Seagrass; Mapping; Gulf of Carpentaria; Intertidal; Sea Country

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - National Environment Science Program (NESP) - Total Water Quality (TWQ)

Improving coral condition through better-informed resilience-based management

Indicative Funding
$8,150 over 1 year (administered by Reef and Rainforest Research Centre)
Summary
Resilience-based management and integrated monitoring and reporting through the Reef Integrated Monitoring and Reporting (RIMRep) program are key initiatives for managing the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) ecosystem. A wide range of NESP TWQ Hub projects have focused on resilience-based management and decision making for maintaining and improving coral reef condition in the GBR. These projects directly contribute to the goals outlined in the Great Barrier Reef Blueprint for Resilience (2017) and support the development of RIMRep. Many of these research investments are in direct response to the 2016-17 mass thermal bleaching events. This synthesis will bring together the learnings of many research projects and initiatives driven by the same goals into a succinct coherent story.
Investigators
Johanna Johnson, Sven Uthicke, Renata Ferrari, Katharina Fabricius, Andrew Negri, Catherine Collier, Peter Mumby, Kenny Wolfe and Amy Desbiens in collaboration with Clive Wilkinson, Rachael Smith, Damien Burrows, Ian McLeod, Morgan Pratchett, Scott Heron, Ross Jones, Russ C Babcock, David Westcott, Craig Steinberg, Line Bay and Frederieke Kroon (Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Australian Institute of Marine Science, TropWater, The University of Queensland, International and Tropical Health and Environment Management, QLD Department of Environment and Science, College of Science & Engineering, Research Division and Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation)
Keywords
Coral reefs; Great Barrier Reef; impact; cumulative; Resilience
Collaboration

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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  • E2.203B, Sir Robert Norman Building (Cairns campus)
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