Prof Morgan Pratchett has broad interests in population and community ecology of coral reef organisms, especially corals and fishes. His current research focuses on major disturbances that impact coral reef ecosystems, with a view to understanding differential responses and vulnerabilities among coral reef organisms.

Morgan has written many papers describing direct and indirect effects of coral bleaching and outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, considering impacts on both coral assemblages and associated assemblages of coral reef fishes. He has also conducted extensive research on the biology and ecology of coral reef butterflyfishes.

  • BZ3755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 3; TSV)
  • BZ5755: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB3190: Coral Reef Ecology (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5190: Coral Reef Ecology (Level 5; TSV)
  • Impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems
  • Population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish
  • Population dynamics of scleractinian corals
  • Ecological versatility in coral reef fishes
  • Biology and ecology of butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2012 - Queensland Smart Futures Fellowship
  • 2011 - ACU Titular Fellowship, University of Oxford
  • 2008 - Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship, American Australian Association
  • 2008 - Sir John and Laurine Proud Research Fellowship, Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation
  • 2008 - Churchill Fellowship, University of Newcastle, UK
  • Australian Coral Reef Society
  • Fisheries Society of the British Isles
  • Recording Secretary for International Coral Reef Society

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 208+ research outputs authored by Prof Morgan Pratchett from 1999 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

Department of the Environment - National Environmental Science Program (NESP) - Tropical Water Quality Hub (TWQ Hub)

Implementation of the Crown of Thorn Starfish research strategy: regional strategies

Indicative Funding
$85,000 over 3 years (administered by CSIRO)
Crown-of-Thorns starfish (COTS) management requires decisions be made about where to invest control effort in order to achieve regional scale objectives, e.g. to modify COTRS spread or to facilitate coral recovery. However, no objective basis for choosing sites exists, beyond their economic importance, meaning that achieving these important goals is largely left to chance. This project will leverage past and current research to develop a decision support framework to assist in prioritizing reefs for control and for assessing alternative strategies by integrating the full range of ecological and management information available. Field and desktop research will also be conducted to fill critical knowledge gaps and to assess the prospects of new control technologies.
David Westcott and Morgan Pratchett in collaboration with Peter Mumby, Cameron Fletcher, Russ C Babcock, Karlo Hock, Scott Condie, Rebecca Gorton, Eva Plaganyi-Lloyd, Lone Hoj, Maria Byrne, Frederieke Kroon, P Costello, Sven Uthicke, Jason Doyle, Frances Patel, Robin Beaman and Matthew Dunbabin (Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, The University of Queensland, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australian Institute of Marine Science, The University of Sydney, College of Science & Engineering and Queensland University of Technology)
Acanthaster; Great Barrier Reef; Integrated Pest Management; Tagging; Movement; Field surveys

Department of Parks and Wildlife - Western Australia - Contract Research

Abundance, Species Identify and Resilience of Inshore Corals in the Dampier Archipelago

Indicative Funding
$150,000 over 4 years
The study will undertake fisheries-independent assessments of the abundance and composition of corals in near shore environments across the Dampier Archipelago. Importantly, detailed sampling will be combined with genetic sampling and analysis to unequivocally establish the species identity of corals, as required for aligning catch data with scientific information on the vulnerability of different coral species. This project will provide important baseline information on the ecological and economic importance of near shore coral assemblages and contribute to the development of monitoring protocols necessary to ensure on-going harvesting is sustainable, even in the face of climate change.
Morgan Pratchett in collaboration with Vanessa Messmer and Cassandra Thompson (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Corals; Fisheries; Population Deography; Marine Aquarium Industry; Stock Assessment

Australian Museum - Crown-of-Thorns Starfish research grants

Microhabitat preferences and post-settlement demography for juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS)

Indicative Funding
We will document fine-scale (within reef) variation in the abundance of juvenile (0+ year old) CoTS and relate patterns of abundance to specific features of the local habitat (e.g., depth and aspect) and micro-habitat (eg., cover of different coralline algae and corals) to further refine where to find newly settled CoTS. In areas with high settlement of CoTS, we will also quantify early post-settlement growth and mortality for a single cohort of CoTS, by measuring the local abundance and size structure of juvenile CoTS at selected locations through the course of 1 year.
Morgan Pratchett, Jennifer Wilmes, Andrew Hoey and Vanessa Messmer (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Acanthaster; Demography; Settlement; Disturbance; Coral Reefs

Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc - Research Grant

The impact of increasing ocean temperatures on the movement and behaviour of the iconic Indo-Pacific fisheries species, coral trout

Indicative Funding
Ocean warming is the most pervasive aspect of climate change, which impacts directly on the distribution, abundance, and population structure of fishes, as well as the viability and sustainability of fisheries. Tropical marine fishes are particularly vulnerable to ocean warming, because species are already exposed to summer temperatures that may have negative consequences for individual condition and fitness. Coral trout are among the most important tropical marine fisheries species, targeted by commercial and artisanal fishers throughout the Indo-Pacific. This study will explore if, and how coral trout mediate or acclimate to extreme temperatures, with a view to better understand the impacts of climate change on wild stocks of these important fishes.
Morgan Pratchett and Molly Scott in collaboration with Jodie Rummer (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Coral Trout; Fisheries; Behaviour; Plectropomus; Climate Change; Temperature

Department of the Environment - National Environmental Science Program (NESP) - Tropical Water Quality Hub (TWQ Hub)

Integrated pest management of Crown of Thorns Starfish

Indicative Funding
$120,000 over 3 years (administered by CSIRO)
Successful Crown-of Thorns Starfish (CoTS) management will, for the foreseeable future, depend on manual control at specific sites being effective and efficient. This project will develop an Integrated Pest Management approach to site management, based on a detailed understanding of CoTS ecology and management operations, to protect coral and maximise performance of control activities at economically and ecologically important reefs. It will provide an intelligent, field-deployable decision support tool to guide strategic selection of control activities based on site conditions and management constraints. This approach will be underpinned by new, targeted field work focussed on improving management.
David Westcott and Morgan Pratchett in collaboration with Cameron Fletcher, Russ C Babcock, Eva Plaganyi, Vanessa Messmer, Peter Mumby, Karlo Hock, Sven Uthicke, Mike Hall, Frederieke Kroon, Hugh Sweatman and Udo Engelhardt (Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, The University of Queensland, Australian Institute of Marine Science and Reefcare International)
Coral Reefs; disturbances; Management; Ecology; Crown of Thorns Starfish; Decision Support

Fisheries Research & Development Corporation - Annual Competitive Round

Establishing baselines and assessing vulnerability of commercially harvested corals across northern Australia

Indicative Funding
$260,000 over 3 years (administered by Department of Fisheries (WA))
This project is critically important to provide necessary data on the distribution, abundance and biology of commonly harvested corals across northern Australia, both to ensure that current harvest levels and practices are sustainable and address legislative requirements for harvesting and exporting species listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Morgan Pratchett and Vanessa Messmer in collaboration with Stephen Newman (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and WA Department of Fisheries)
Corals; aquarium fishery; Stock Assessment; Population Structure; Vulnerability

Australian Museum - Crown-of-Thorns Starfish research grants

Fine-scale movement and diurnal changes in detectability of crown-of-thorns starfish

Indicative Funding
The purpose of this project is to document key aspects of the biology and behaviour of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) that will inform improvements in direct control of outbreak populations. By explicitly quantifying detectability of COTS, this study will inform the reliability of current survey methods, as well as establishing the effectiveness and feasibility of ongoing control efforts. Information on fine-scale movement will also inform management, by establishing the necessary return times to a given location to limit coral depletion caused by starfish that move into cleared areas from surrounding habitat.
Morgan Pratchett (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Acanthaster; Crown-of-Thorns Starfish; Disturbance; Detection; Management; Movement

Australian Museum - Crown-of-Thorns Starfish research grants

Settlement collectors as an early warning system for outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish

Indicative Funding
The purpose of this project is to quantify patterns of larval settlement using purpose-built settlement collectors. If effective, this will provide an early warning system to forewarn of new or continued outbreaks up to 18 months before increased densities of Acanthaser sp. Are typically detected within reef habitats. This research will not only help to target current control efforts but help to establish when and where COTS actually settle (ie preferred settlement habitats) which will facilitate improved predictions about the distribution and spread of starfish across the Great Barrier Reef.
Morgan Pratchett and Vanessa Messmer (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Acanthaster; Crown-of-Thorns Starfish; Settlement; Disturbance; Management; Genetics

Department of the Environment - Director of National Parks - Contract Research

Updated review of research and monitoring in Australia's Commonwealth Marine Reserves relating to natural values

Indicative Funding
$40,821 over 2 years
Review and summarise all information (including scientific literature, technical reports and other relevant outputs of scientific research and monitoring) relevant to Australia?s Commonwealth Marine Reserves (CMRs). Relevance to CMRs will be assessed on the basis of geographic overlapping with CMR boundaries and adjacent areas and relevance (eg connectivity) to the CMRs'values, including any literature that links uses or pressures to natural values. All information will be incorporated into an updated CMR research database for the Australian Director of National Parks.
Andrew Hoey, Morgan Pratchett and Vanessa Messmer (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Commonwealth Marine Reserves; Tropical Reef; Temperate Reef; Resource Management; Ecosystem Health

Queensland Government - Accelerate Partnerships

Towards Solving COTS on the GBR Through Integrated Pest Management

Indicative Funding
$33,000 (administered by AIMS)
The project will use an innovative pest-management approach that centres around (1) new advanced models of CoTS outbreaks on the GBR and how they are driven by processes on land and in the sea, (2) effective knowledge transfer from cutting-edge science to strategic management and improved industry practices and (3) continued capacity-building in Cots management and effective stakeholder engagement.
Ken Anthony, Aaron MacNeil, Hugh Sweatman, Ainsley Archer, Peter Mumby, Eve McDonald-Madden, Karlo Hock and Morgan Pratchett in collaboration with Jessica Hoey and Roger Beeden (Australian Institute of Marine Science, The University of Queensland, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)
Great Barrier Reef; Coral Reefs; Integrated Pest Management; Acanthaster Planci Outbreaks; Disturbance; Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

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.

  • Neural and Ecological Basis of Pair Bonding in Butterflyfishes (Family Chaetodontidae) (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Environmental Influences on the Reproductive Biology and Early Life History of the Crown-of-thorns Starfish (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • The role of predation in population regulation of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. planci). (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • The Thermal-Dependence of Behaviour: Do Plectropomus Ieopardus have the capacity to cope with increasing temperatures? (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Distribution and Abundance of Juvenile Crown-of-Thorns Starfish on the Great Barrier Reef (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • The Role of Hybridisation in the Evolution of Coral Reef Fishes (PhD, Advsor Mentor)
  • Effects of Coral Loss on Reproductive Biology and Population Viability of Chaetodon Butterflyfish (Masters, Primary Advisor)
  • Spatial Dynamics in the Territories of Stegastes spp. Relative to Coral Growth, Disease and Mortality within Opal Reef (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Reconstructing and Forecasting Outbreaks of Crown-of-thorn starfish (A. planci) on the Great Barrier Reef (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Effects of Habitat Versus Fisheries Management on Spatio-temporal Variation in Fish Assemblages on the Great Barrier Reef. (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Hybridising Butterflyfishes in Space and Time: Likely Causes Consequences and Implications. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Vectors and Environmental Drivers of Coral Disease Dynamics on The Great Barrier Reef;; (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Variation in Structure and Function of Reef Fish Assemblages Among Different Coral Habitats. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Effect of canopy forming macroalgae on key processes on coral reefs. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Adaptive Strategies of Scleractinian Corals. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Environmental Controls Over the Nature of Species-Interactions in Coral Reef Ecosystems. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • The Effect of Temperature on Seaweed-Herbivore Interactions on Tropical Coral Reef Systems (PhD, Secondary Advisor)

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


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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