Prof David Bellwood's research interests encompass the evolution and ecology of reef fishes. The central theme of his research is to understand the role that fishes play on coral reefs; from the origins of herbivory in the Cenozoic to the role of fishes in maintaining reef resilience. The approach is largely based on ecology, although it encompasses functional morphology, molecular phylogenetics, and palaeontology.

At larger scales, David's interests include global biogeography and the conservation of coral reefs, particularly the role of biodiversity in ecosystem processes.

  • EA3120: The Fossil Record: Dinosaurs and Vertebrates Through Time (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB2050: Functional Biology of Marine Organisms (Level 2; TSV)
  • MB2070: Marine Biogeography (Level 2; TSV)
  • MB3160: Evolution and Ecology of Reef Fishes (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5070: Marine Biogeography (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB5160: Evolution and Ecology of Reef Fishes (Level 5; TSV)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives

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 352+ research outputs authored by Prof David Bellwood from 1999 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Lizard Island Research Station - Doctoral Fellowship

Water flow ecology: How reef structure and water flow shape the world of fishes

Indicative Funding
$26,400 over 2 years
This project aims to understand how coral reef fishes interact with their whole environment. Currently, we have some understanding of how fishes interact with the 3D reef, but not the water which flows around it. I will explore how water flow changes around a complex reef and how fishes use this flow. This project will quantify water flow on a biologically relevant scale, a scale which is often overlooked. It will provide a crucial stepping stone to further ecological research on coral reefs.
Casey Bowden, Robert Streit and David Bellwood (College of Science & Engineering)
Water Flow; Coral reef fish; Reef structural complexity; Ecosystem function; Ecology; Planktivorous fish

International Coral Reef Society - Graduate Fellowship

Impacts of extreme coral dynamics on ecosystem functioning

Indicative Funding
$3,762 over 1 year
As benthic structures continue to transition under anthropogenic climate change, understanding the impacts of these dynamic processes on ecosystem functioning will be pivotal for the effective conservation of reefs in the Anthropocene. In this fellowship, I am proposing to assess the changes in the productivity of reef assemblages in response to the boom-and-bust dynamics of Acropora corals. To do so, I will assess the fine scale productivity of fishes by conducting standardised underwater visual censuses of reef fishes using belt transects. I will also survey small, benthic fishes using clove oil stations.
Helen Yan and David Bellwood (College of Science & Engineering)
Acropora; Ecosystem function; Bleaching; Coral reefs; Productivity

Lizard Island Research Station - Doctoral Fellowship

Coral recovery dynamics on post-bleach coral reefs

Indicative Funding
$22,000 over 2 years
I will use a long-term data to investigate what determines patterns of coral settlement and survival in Lizard Island. 1) Investigate the fate of juvenile corals settled after the back-to-back bleaching events in the Island. 2) I will deploy current meters to provide hydrodynamic data to determine whether currents are able to explain the uneven distribution of recruits. 3) These current data will be combined with detailed 3D photogrammetry to generate small-scale digital photomosaic to estimate if and, to what extent multi-scale topographical details may interact with currents to determine the distribution, fate and growth of recruited corals.
Juliano Morais and David Bellwood (College of Science & Engineering)
Population Dynamics; Coral Demography; Coral Recovery; Coral Ecology; Demographic Traits; Coral Bleaching

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Australian Laureate Fellowships

A new functional approach to coral reefs

Indicative Funding
$3,130,000 over 5 years
Around the world coral reefs are changing fast, challenging traditional scientific, management, and governance approaches. This project will address this challenge by implementing a new function, approach exploiting a unique combination of evolution ary and ecological methodologies. Expected outcomes include a global overview of ecosystem function and an in-depth understanding of how ecosystems change. This is likely to result in specific, and practical, management objectives by identifying crucial ecosystem functions that support reefs and the people who rely on them.
David Bellwood (College of Science & Engineering)
Ecology; Fish; Marine; Biodiversity; Coral Reef; Evolution

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.
Graeme Cumming, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Malcolm McCulloch, Peter Mumby, Sean Connolly, John Pandolfi, Bob Pressey, Andrew Baird, David Bellwood, Joshua Cinner, Sophie Dove, Maja Adamska, Mia Hoogenboom, Geoff Jones, Mike Kingsford, Ryan Lowe, Mark McCormick, David Miller, Philip Munday, Morgan Pratchett, Garry Russ and Tiffany Morrison in collaboration with Janice Lough, David Wachenfeld, Stephen Palumbi, Serge Planes and Philippa Cohen (Research Division, The University of Queensland, University of Western Australia, College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, College of Public Health, Medical & Vet Sciences, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Stanford University, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and WorldFish)
coral reef ecosystems; Climate Change Adaptation; ecological resilience; biodiversity goods and services; social-ecological dynamics

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.

  • Water flow ecology: How reef structure and water flow shape the world of fishes (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • The functional diversity, utilisation and size structure of fish in mangrove habitats in Queensland, Australia (Masters , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Planktivorous fishes on coral reefs: A trophic exploration (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Fish-coral associations: inter-relationships across time and space (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Coral reef communities through space and time (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Assessing the movement, habits, and functional roles of nocturnal fishes (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Temporal dynamics driving reef fish biodiversity: Combining community ecology, phylogenetics and species traits (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The evolution of diet, habitat, and morphology in reef fishes (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit Research Data Australia.


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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  • 28.113, Marine & Tropical Biology 2 (Townsville campus)
  • 28.120, Marine & Tropical Biology 2 (Townsville campus)
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