My research focuses on many aspects of coral biology and reef ecology, with the majority of my work taking a molecular approach. I investigate the microbial communities of corals, the functional genomics behind adaptation, and gene expression in response to stress and disease.

Most recently, I have been involved in developing and testing local scale reef restoration techniques on the Great Barrier Reef including macroalgae removal (“sea-weeding”) and coral larval enhancement (“coral IVF”) and investigating the ecosystem-wide effects of such techniques. This work is in partnership with Earthwatch Australia and incorporates citizen scientists, which allows a unique opportunity for science education and outreach.

Prior to my science career, I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts and worked for several years in the arts. In addition to my scientific pursuits, I have a passion for creating conceptual scientific illustrations to bridge the gap between science and art, and to communicate complex scientific ideas with beautifully rendered images.

  • Microbial symbioses in marine invertebrates
  • Genomic basis of stress tolerance and adaptation of corals to environmental change
  • Ecological and biological effects and feasibility of reef restoration techniques
  • Reproductive biology of corals
  • 2017 to 2022 - Research Officer, James Cook University (Townsville)
  • 2017 - Environmental Officer, Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (Townsville)
  • 2016 to 2017 - Research Assistant, JCU and ARC CoE for Coral Reef Studies (Townsville)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2017 - JCU Academic Medal
  • 2014 to 2015 - American Australian Association Sir Keith Murdoch Fellow

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
Other research outputs
Current Funding

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

Reef HQ Volunteers Association - Grant

Ecological implications of macroalgal removal for localised inshore reef restoration

Indicative Funding
$5,010 over 1 year
The growing dominance of fleshy macroalgae in many inshore coral reef ecosystems is recognised as a threat to ecosystem functioning and people dependent on coral reefs for their livelihoods. Physically removing macroalgae is proposed as an approach to free up space for coral recovery on algal-dominated reefs. The current state of knowledge surrounding macroalgal removal (reviewed in 2018) highlighted knowledge gaps related to physical and ecological consequences of macroalgal removal. This project aims to improve understanding of the ecosystem-wide impacts of macroalgal removal and determine its potential as a localised restoration strategy for inshore reefs increasingly impacted by anthropogenic threats.
Stella Fulton, David Bourne and Hillary Smith (College of Science & Engineering)
Microalgae; Coral-Algal Interactions; Reef Restoration; Community Composition; Sedimentation; Magnetic Island

Earthwatch Institute Australia - Contract Research

Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef.

Indicative Funding
$371,000 over 3 years
This project investigates the potential for restoration of reef ecosystems around Magnetic Island. Linked with Earthwatch Australia, it is a citizen science-based project that engages volunteers to help remove macroalgae and monitor changes in coral recruitment, sediment dynamics, community composition, algae regrowth rates, and coral biology, with the hopes that removal of algae leads to an increase in coral cover. The project is an extension of a previous project which accumulated 7 years of base line data on demographic recovery dynamics of corals at Orpheus Island.
David Bourne and Hillary Smith (College of Science & Engineering)
Coral Reefs; Citizen Science; Coral Recovery; reef disturbance; Ecosystem Assessment; Coral Restoration

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.

  • Effects of macroalgal removal on inshore coral reef communities and sedimentation dynamics (Masters , External 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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  • 145.312, ATSIP (Townsville campus)
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