Helene Marsh is Emeritus Professor in Environmental Science and a Professorial Fellow  at James Cook University.  Her qualifications include BSc (Queensland) and PhD (JCU).  


Helene is currently the Lead for the Threatened and Migratory Species and Threatened Ecological Communities Mission for the National Environmental Science Program based in the Resilient Landscapes Hub.


Helene is a Fellow of both the Australian Academies of Science and Technological Sciences and Engineering and has received international and national awards for her research. She chaired the national Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2011-2023 and was a Vice-President and Secretary Biological Sciences of the Australian Academy of Science 2019-23. She became an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2021.


The focus of her research is dugong conservation biology.  Committed to informing interdisciplinary solutions to conservation problems Helene has collaborated widely with colleagues in other disciplines as varied as Anatomy, Economics, Geography, Law and Psychology.


Throughout the course of her academic career, Helene has supervised 62 PhDs and 21 Master’s candidates to successful completions and has a several more candidates in the pipeline.


Helene became Director of Graduate Studies at JCU in 1997 and was the foundation Dean when the Graduate Research School was established in 2003 until March 2018. Helene has been “Top DDOG” (chair of the Australian Council of Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies) on two separate occasions. 



  • ED5306: Advising Higher Degree Research Candidates (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB5204: Conserving Marine Wildlife: Sea Mammals, Birds, Reptiles (Level 5; TSV)
  • Marine conservation biology
  • Marine natural resource management
  • Indigenous marine resource management
  • Methodological problems associated with environmental monitoring
  • Establishing priorities for conservation intervention
  • Marine wildlife population ecology, especially life history, reproductive ecology, population dynamics, diet, distribution, abundance and movements of dugongs and coastal dolphins
  • Committed to informing interdisciplinary solutions to conservation problems and has collaborated widely with colleagues in other disciplines including Anatomy, Anthropology, Botany, Biochemistry, Genetics, Geography, GIS, Law, Psychology, Sociology and Statistics
  • Policy outcomes include significant contributions to the science base for the Dugong Sanctuary established in Torres Strait; dugong management in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, especially the Dugong Protected Areas and no-take areas to protect dugongs in various zoning plans; and the establishment of a Commonwealth Ministerial Taskforce to Investigate the Sustainability of Indigenous Hunting of Dugongs and Turtles
  • Provided science base for review of the global status of dugongs by the IUCN, 2006
  • Research has formed a conceptual basis for the ‘Back on Track’ Program conducted by the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
  • Interactions between people and their environments, particularly in tropical regions such as the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait regions
  • Briefed the Global Conference on Oceans and Coasts (UNESCO, Paris 2001) on 'The challenge of conserving marine mammals' in preparation for the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg
  • Provided science base for development of Dugong Memorandum of Understanding under the International Convention of Migratory Species, 2005-2007
Research Disciplines
  • 2021 - Officer Order of Australia
  • 2019 - Jublilee Award, Australian Marine Science Association
  • 2018 - Alumnus of the Year Univeristy of Qld
  • 2009 - Aldo Leopald Award, American Society of Mammalogy
  • 2008 - Distinguished Service Award, Society of Conservation Biology
  • 2001 - Award for Contribution to Sirenian Research, Society of Marine Mammalogy
  • 2019 - Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
  • 2015 - Fellowship of Australian Academy of Science
  • 1998 - Fellowship in Marine Conservation, Pew Charitable Trust
  • Past President, International Society for Marine Mammalogy
  • 2018 to 2021 - Natural Heritage expert, Austraian delegation to World Heritage Committee
  • 2011 to 2022 - Chair, Threatened Species Scientific Committee which reports to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment

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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 175+ research outputs authored by Empro Helene Marsh from 1983 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) - Resilient Landscapes Hub

Mission Research ? Threatened and migratory species and threatened ecological communities

Indicative Funding
$300,000 over 6 years (administered by University of Western Australia)
This project will provide the research foundation for the `Threatened and Migratory Species and Threatened Ecological Communities? functional Mission to support policy development, program management and regulatory processes to protect Australia?s environmental assets in terrestrial, Ramsar and marine environments. It will also facilitate the Resilient Landscapes (RL)Hub?s contribution to the three other Missions. It will identify prospective research projects through scoping, reviews and workshops and will support the co-design process with research users and researchers. Outputs include a review and priority co-designed project proposals for submission in subsequent research plans of all four Hubs and an overall research plan for this Mission.
Helene Marsh, Stephen Williams, Andrew Krockenberger and Damien Burrows (TropWater, College of Science & Engineering and Research Infrastructure)
threatened species; threatened ecological communities; migratory species; extreme events; development concern

Great Barrier Reef Foundation - Reef Trust Partnership

Monitoring the distribution and abundance of dugongs (and in-water, large marine turtles) within the GBRWHA using a combined aerial observer and imagery approach

Indicative Funding
$895,529 over 2 years
This project aims to: (1) to monitor the trends in the abundance and distribution of dugongs within the GBRWHA and (2) contribute to the transition to the use of novel imagery survey technologies to enhance survey methods and accuracy in abundance estimates. The project will be conducted in five main stages which will include: the development of a Traditional Owners engagement strategy and the drafting and submitting regulatory permit applications (stage 1), the development of the survey design and data collection protocols and undertake observer training (stage 2), conduct the dugong observer surveys and imagery experimental work within the GBRWHA (stage 3) and the production of a final report including summary of all survey report findings and advice about the implications of the findings for the conservation and management of dugongs and large marine turtles within the GBRWHA (stage 4).
Christophe Cleguer, Helene Marsh, Amanda Hodgson, Robert Rankin and Mike Swaine (TropWater, Research Division, Murdoch University, Thomson Reuters - Canada and Aeroglobe)
Dugong (Dugong dugon); Aerial surveys; Conservation and management; Aerial imagery; Indigenous engagement

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

Hub Mission Leader

Indicative Funding
$252,299 over 3 years (administered by University of Western Australia)
Delivering the Hub Mission focused on threatened and migratory species and threatened ecological communities. As stated in the Resilient Landscapes Hub research scope, the Activity Outcomes related to the cross-cutting Mission includes: i Delivering tools and advice to support the conservation of habitat important for priority threatened species, threatened ecological communities and migratory species; ii Updating the National list of threatened ecological communities and species; iii Improving detection of cryptic, `difficult? and other data deficient species; and iv Monitoring and supporting the management of species / community recovery post extreme events. Service to be provided by Professor Helene Marsh, a researcher of international repute able to drive multidisciplinary outcomes, deliver outputs into national information repositories and guide relevant investment across the four research hubs.
Helene Marsh (College of Science & Engineering)
threatened species; threatened ecological communities; migratory species; extreme events; development concern

Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals - Contract Research

Global assessment of dugong status and trends

Indicative Funding
This desktop project contributes to the Conservation and Management Plan for the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs (Dugong dugon) and their Habitats throughout their range (CMS Dugong MOU) by determining the distribution and abundance of dugong populations to provide a base for future conservation efforts and actions.
Helene Marsh (Research Division)
Dugong; Population; Status; Trends

Ecological Society of Australia - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment

Investigating the behavioural ecology of diving and feeding in a cryptic marine mammal: the Dugong

Indicative Funding
$5,920 over 1 year
As air-breathing, bottom-feeding marine mammals, dugongs must dive to survive and thrive. Quantifying the diving and feeding behaviours of dugongs in three dimensions is a missing link in the science basis for the conservation of this Vulnerable species. This project will use advanced sensing technology to understand how seagrass biomass and dugong activity and energetics influence their diving and feeding behaviors. The resultant improved fine-scale understanding of these behaviors will provide important new information about their risk from vessel strike and the potential energetic consequences of habitat loss associated with extreme weather events and human disturbance.
Renae Lambourne, Helene Marsh, Christophe Cleguer and Mark Hamann (College of Science & Engineering, Research Division and TropWater)
Dugong dugon; Movement behaviour; Diving behaviour; biologging

Department of the Environment and Energy - Australian World Heritage Grant

Providing natural heritage technical advice on World Heritage

Indicative Funding
$77,527 over 4 years
To ensure that Australia meets its obligations as a world Heritage committee member by conducting technical natural heritage research and analysis on the sites that are subject to World Heritage inscription and state of conservation decisions in 2018 by: 1) reviewing world Heritage Centre documents that relate to the site inscription nominations and state of conservation assessments; and 2) providing expert natural heritage technical advice to the Australian Government at the 42nd World Heritage Committee Session in Bahrain.
Helene Marsh (College of Science & Engineering)
World Heritage; natural heritage

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi - Consultancy

Development of a Stranding Protocol for marine mega-fauna for Abu Dhabi SW Arabian Gulf, UAE

Indicative Funding
Stage 1 a) Review existing data provided by EAD, including strandings data, aerial survey data and anecdotal sightings of dugongs; existing stranding protocols for marine mammals (dugongs and cetaceans) and marine turtles; and existing handling and hand rearing protocols and field notes for live dugong calves b) Prepare detailed proposal for the delivery of the three projects including timelines and budget.
Helene Marsh and Susan Curnock (College of Science & Engineering and TropWater)
Dugong; Stranding

Port of Townsville Ltd - Contract Research

Aerial survey of marine megafauna in Cleveland Bay

Indicative Funding
$111,628 over 2 years
An assessment of the distribution and abundance of dugongs and in-water marine turtles in Bowling Green, Cleveland and southern Halifax Bays in winter (June) and summer (November) 2019 prior to the start of the capital dredging for the Channel Upgrade (CU) project of Port of Townsville Limited in the context of: (1) the 30 year time series of similar surveys and(2) the information on the status of seagrasses in the survey region. This project will provide a baseline for the Marine Megafauna Monitoring Program for the CU Project and the 30 year Port Expansion Project.
Helene Marsh in collaboration with Alana Grech, Kym Reeve, Rachel Miller, Daniel Gonzales Perez, Leah Carr and Nao Nakamura (TropWater, Research Division and Academy)
Dugongs; Marine Turtles; Cleveland Bay; Port; Aerial Survey

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Contract Research

An assessment of the distribution and abundance of dugong and in-water large marine turtles along the Queensland coast from Cape York to Hinchinbrook Island

Indicative Funding
$422,516 over 4 years
This project will meet the requirements outlined in the Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan to provide information to inform the management of dugongs in the Northern Great Barrier Reef region (NGBR) by continuing the time series of standardised aerial surveys conducted since the late 1980s. The project will provide an assessment of the distribution and abundance of dugongs and in-water large marine turtles in the NGBR and contribute to the 30 year time series for temporal comparisons using the latest advances in distribution and abundance analyses.
Helene Marsh, Susan Sobtzick and Alana Grech (Academy, TropWater and Research Division)
Dugong; Aerial Survey; Abundance; Marine Turtles; Distribution; Long-term Monitoring

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.

  • Impacts of plastic ingestion on green turtles (Chelonia mydas) in Uruguayan waters (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Investigating the fine-scale behavioural ecology of dugongs (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • The Impact of Fisheries Interactions on the Foraging Behaviour of Indian Ocean Humpback Dolphins (Sousa plumbea) along the Sindhudurg Coast of Maharashtra, India (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Re-thinking the assessment and monitoring of large-scale coastal developments for improved marine megafauna outcomes (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Best practice and cultural appropriateness: Governance of the Torres Strait fisheries into the future (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

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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