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
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 245+ 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, 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 (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, 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

Department of the Environment and Energy - Director of National Parks - Tender

Coral Reef Health in the Coral Sea Marine Park

Indicative Funding
$968,346 over 3 years
A number of coral reefs occur in the Australian Marine Parks estate, particularly within the Coral Sea Marine Park (CSMP). In 2016 and 2017, coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and CSMP were impacted by a mass global coral bleaching event. Regular surveys of coral bleaching and associated reef health in the CSMP are needed to inform future marine park management over the next three years to either enable comparisons against historical baselines where bleaching has previously occurred, or set new baselines for areas that aren?t bleached but may be in the future.
Morgan Pratchett, Andrew Hoey, Hugo Harrison, Andrew Baird, Tom Bridge, Daniela Ceccarelli and Jean-Paul Hobbs (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Curtin University of Technology)
Coral Reefs; Monitoring; Coral Bleaching; Coral Sea Marine Park

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

Crown-of-thorns starfish: surveillance and life history

Indicative Funding
$150,000 over 2 years (administered by CSIRO)
This project supports the implementation of the NESP Crown-of-Thorns Starfish Integrated Pest Management Project's management and research strategy by i) describing ecological parameters key to parameterizing the tools underpinning the management strategy, ii) analysing existing data sets to assess management performance and describe the interaction between CoTS and bleaching, and , iii) scoping new technologies and surveillance strategies for detecting and monitoring primary and secondary outbreaks. The work will involve a combination of field ecological research, statistical analysis of existing data, technology and strategy development (the latter through workshops) and inform decision making through incorporation into decision support tools and recommendations.
David Westcott and Morgan Pratchett in collaboration with Cameron Fletcher, Russ C Babcock, Frederieke Kroon, Sven Uthicke, Jason Doyle, Charlotte Johansson, Vanessa Messmer, Peter Mumby and Pascal Craw (Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation, Australian Institute of Marine Science, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and The University of Queensland)
Coral Reefs; Management; Disturbance; Surveillance; Biology; Acanthaster

Department of the Environment and Energy - 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

SeaWorld 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
$38,815 over 2 years
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 and Energy - Director of National Parks - Contract Research

Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs Shallow Reef Monitoring 2018

Indicative Funding
The purpose of this contract is to survey shallow reef environments within the Elizabeth and Middleton reef national Marine Park, to assess the status and trends of reef environments and reef-associated organisms. Surveys will be conducted using methods established during prior surveys, undertaken at Elizabeth and Middleton Reefs in March 2011 and arch 2014.
Morgan Pratchett and Andrew Hoey in collaboration with Katie Sambrook and Sallyann Gudge (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and Lord Howe Island Marine Park Authority)
Coral Reefs; Offshore Platforms & Structures; Sharks; Commonwealth Marine Parks; Monitoring; Fishes

QLD Department of Science, Information, Technology and Innovation - Advance Queensland Knowledge Transfer Partnerships - Contract Research

Research to support sustainable coral harvesting by Australian aquarium industry

Indicative Funding
An Advance Queensland Knowledge Transfer Partnerships grant awarded to Ultra Coral Australia Pty Ltd is being used to part fund the appointment of a PhD graduate from James Cook University, Dr Ciemon Caballes, to undertake research into the improved sustainability of wild coral harvesting on Australia?s Great Barrier Reef. A portion of the grant is awarded directly to JCU to facilitate direct engagement with Ultra Coral Australia Pty Ltd and the recently appointed graduate, further establishing industry links and direct application of ongoing research.
Morgan Pratchett and Ciemon Caballes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Great Barrier Reef; Sustainability; Mariculture; Coral fishery; Wild harvest; Aquarium industry

Morris Family Foundation - Environmental program

Early detection of outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish

Indicative Funding
Currently, there is an inevitable la in responding to outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish, because outbreaks only become apparent when there are large numbers of coral-feeding starfish detected at one or more reefs. The purpose of this project is to develop an effective 'early-warning system' by measuring the number of larval starfish settling to reefs and/or counting the number of very small (<1cm diameter) juvenile starfish with reef habitats, and thereby, ensure control programs and activities are timed to prevent inevitable coral loss caused by high-densities of adult crown-of-thorns starfish.
Morgan Pratchett in collaboration with Vanessa Messmer, Ciemon Caballes and Jennifer Wilmes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Disturbance; Management; Acanthaster; Great Barrier Reef; Recruitment; Rib Reef

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

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

Integrated pest management of Crown of Thorns Starfish

Indicative Funding
$160,000 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

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.

  • Causes and consequences of natural hybridisation among coral reef butterflyfishes (Chaetodon: Chaetodontidae) (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Effect of canopy forming macroalgae on key processes on coral reefs. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Changes in behaviour and sociality of Chaetodon butterflyfish linked to population declines and coral loss (Masters , Primary Advisor)
  • The Role of Hybridisation in the Evolution of Coral Reef Fishes (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Assessing the Role of Food Availability Versus Pathogenesis in Causing Natural Declines in the Abundance of Acanthaster spp (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Resilience of Coral Assemblages in NW Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Thermal-Dependence of Behaviour: Do Plectropomus Ieopardus have the capacity to cope with increasing temperatures? (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Spatial Variation in the Density and Demography of Newly Settled Crown-of-thorns Starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris). (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • The Effect of Temperature on Seaweed-Herbivore Interactions on Tropical Coral Reef Systems (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Physiological and behavioural strategies used by fish to mitigate the effects of ocean warming. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Environmental Controls Over the Nature of Species-Interactions in Coral Reef Ecosystems. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Reconstructing and Forecasting Outbreaks of Crown-of-thorn starfish (A. planci) on the Great Barrier Reef (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)

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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