Dr Nicholas Murray is Associate Professor in Global Ecology and Conservation at James Cook University. Nick is based in the Marine Biology and Aquaculture group.

Nick's research focuses on delivering the science necessary to inform local-to-global scale environmental management and conservation. He works the interface of ecology, geospatial science and geography, and has ongoing research projects focused around quantifying change in ecosystems and wildlife populations. He has published extensively in the scientific literature on ecosystem dynamics, earth observation, global change, migration ecology and conservation science. Nick travels far and wide to study Earth's changing environments and has a number of projects working on several of the world's most remote ecosystems.

Nick's work has been recognised with awards including the Eureka Prize (as part of a global conservation team), the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management, and the Australian Academy of Science ASPIRE Prize for innovation. He is an active member of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems global team and serves as an Associate Editor for Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation and Remote Sensing.

Nick's lab website (http://www.globalecologylab.org) reports recent newspublications, and open-source datasets and software developed in our group. You can also read profiles on Nick's research in Nature (Ecology's remote-sensing revolution) and Science (Mud on the move).


Nick leads the Global Ecology Lab at JCU. We are an energetic lab group set on delivering the research needed to support the conservation of species and ecosystems at local to global scales. We work at the interface of ecology, remote sensing and conservation biology, and have ongoing research projects focused around ecosystem dynamics and species conservation in terrestrial and marine environments worldwide. For more on our research and activities, please visit the Global Ecology Lab website: www.globalecologylab.org



We currently have no open post-doctoral positions available. If you wish to apply for a competitive research fellowship, such as an ARC DECRA Fellowship, please contact Nick to discuss opportunities for developing this type of fellowship within our group at JCU.

Research assistants

We regularly have casual positions for research assistants to support our global ecosystem remote sensing projects. These positions work closely with the lab group to develop training and validation datasets to support our high-resolution global-scale projects aimed at mapping threatened ecosystems and how they change over time. If you are interested in a research assistant position or placement in our lab, please contact Nick regarding current opportunities.

Prospective students

We have a range of ongoing opportunities to conduct graduate research in our lab. We typically focus on recruiting post-graduate students keen to focus on applied remote sensing, estimating risks to threatened marine, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems, species movement and migration, and status assessments of biodiversity. 

Some brief potential projects that would be suitable to develop in our lab include:

  • Quantitative methods in ecosystem distribution mapping.
  • The use of remote sensing for ecosystem risk assessment.
  • The changing drivers of coastal ecosystem change and new opportunities for conservation. 
  • Advancing global-scale remote sensing to meet conservation needs.
  • Detecting ecosystem degradation from space.
  • Global barriers of tidal inundation.
  • Fine-scale detection of coastal wetland change in South-east Asia.
  • Developing new performance measures of nature-based coastal defenses.
  • Forecasting coastal change: connecting spatial simulations to earth observation.

We also welcome your own ideas for your PhD project. If you are interested in conducting honours, masters or PhD research in our lab, contact Nick with a CV and statement of research interests.

  • Dynamics and conservation of coastal ecosystems
  • Assessing risks to ecosystems at local to global scales
  • Advancing the analysis of earth observation data at the global scale
  • Ecology and conservation of migratory species
  • Geospatial software development to support conservation
  • Developing spatial and time-series datasets to support good conservation decision making
  • 2024 to present - Associate Professor, James Cook University (Townsville)
  • 2022 to 2024 - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University (Townsville)
  • 2019 to 2022 - ARC DECRA Fellow, James Cook University (Townsville)
  • 2016 to 2019 - Senior Research Fellow, University of New South Wales (Sydney)
  • 2016 to 2017 - Senior Research Fellow, University of Queensland (Brisbane)
  • 2014 to 2016 - Research Fellow, University of New South Wales (Sydney)
  • 2014 - Visiting Fellow, University of Cambridge (Cambridge, UK)
  • 2013 to 2014 - Visiting Fellow, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institue (Washington DC, USA)
Research Disciplines
  • 2022 - JCU Award for Excellence in the category of Research
  • 2019 - Australia’s nominee for the APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE Prize)
  • 2019 - Shortlisted (top six) Robert May Prize, best paper by an early career researcher in 2018 in Methods in Ecology and Evolution (https://doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.13043)
  • 2016 - IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management Young Professional Award
  • 2015 - Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Environmental Research. The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Team, UNSW, led by Professor David Keith.
  • 2015 - Future Leader: World Forum on Ecosystem Governance, Beijing China
  • 2014 - Finalist at the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes (Eureka Prize for Environmental Research). The IUCN Red List of Ecosystems Team, UNSW, led by Professor David Keith
  • 2019 to 2022 - Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA), Assessing risks to coastal ecosystems with new earth observation models, $417,000
  • 2012 to 2013 - Queensland - Smithsonian Fellowship
  • 2019 to 2024 - Chief Investigator, ARC Linkage, A global standard for the status of Wetlands of International Importance, $779,000
  • 2019 to 2023 - Chief Investigator, ARC Linkage, Ecosystem risk assessment, $416,000
  • 2019 to 2022 - Chief Investigator, Australian Antarctic Science grant, Risks to Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems, $165,000

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 66+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Nicholas Murray from 2006 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water - Approach to market

Next generation training libraries to support Australia's coastal ecosystem monitoring systems

Indicative Funding
$168,960 over 1 year
The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water is seeking to develop the training data sets necessary to support the development of continuous ocean and coastal ecosystem extent mapping across the Australian continent. The mapping is expected to underpin the ongoing development of the National Ocean Accounts and other environmental-economic accounting activities. This project involves collecting training datasets to support models I have previously developed (Murray et al., 2022), so that these models can be employed by the Commonwealth for improved coastal mapping and monitoring.
Nicholas Murray and Alejandro Navarro Otero (College of Science & Engineering)
Ecosystem science; Conservation; Classification; Earth Observation; Coastal ecosystems; Environmental modelling

Great Barrier Reef Foundation - Reef Trust Partnership

GBRF EOI Island Monitoring

Indicative Funding
$397,435 over 2 years (administered by QLD Department of Environment and Science)
The more than 1000 islands and cays in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) World Heritage Area (GBRMPA spatial data, 2019) support a diverse range of ecological, cultural and economic values. Many are threatened by climate change, but monitoring and management is difficult as many cays are remote and difficult to access. This project will develop and implement an efficient drone-based hierarchical monitoring protocol based on the recognition and use of `natural ground control points? that will enable more rapid and resource efficient capture of reef island status to inform management decisions.
Scott Smithers, Stephanie Duce, Karen Joyce, Nicholas Murray and Jack Koci (College of Science & Engineering)
Drone; Great Barrier Reef; Remote Sensing; Geomorphology; Island Habitat

Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research - Fisheries Program - Small Research Activity

Spatially integrated Portfolio Approach to support a portfolio of livelihoods.

Indicative Funding
$248,458 over 3 years
The Integrated Livelihoods Approach (ILA) provides an approach to diagnose and help navigate interrelated and cumulative impacts, trade-offs and co-benefits of interacting livelihood activities occurring in spatially defined coastal areas. Participatory and interdisciplinary research, integrated governance, negotiation, trust-building, ongoing conflict management, and cross-sectoral and political engagement are central to the ILA. This project will establish the mechanisms for achieving the strengthened networks, integrated governance and policy, and improved planning required to implement an ILA in Western Province, Solomon Islands, with the potential to scale-up to other locations.
Amy Diedrich, Jacqueline Lau, Tiffany Morrison, Nicholas Murray, Stephanie Duce, Claire Holland, Faye Siota and Bethany Smith (College of Science & Engineering, Research Division, College of Business, Law & Governance and WorldFish Solomon Islands)
Sustainable livelihoods; Solomon Islands; Pacific Islands; Participatory research approach; Natural Resource Management

Clean Energy Regulator - Contract Research

Mapping Australia?s saltmarsh ecosystems for the blue carbon method

Indicative Funding
$170,000 over 2 years
This project aims to progress our ability to develop nationwide, highly accurate maps of the distribution of saltmarsh ecosystems. Saltmarshes are important for maintaining biodiversity, nutrient removal, carbon sequestration and storm protection, but there is a severe lack of knowledge regarding their spatial distribution and change in Australia. This project will (i) develop a set of occurrence records that are suitable to deploy as training and validation data in a recently developed Landsat-based classification model of coastal ecosystems (Global Intertidal Change, by CI Murray), (ii) adapt the Global Intertidal Change model developed by CI Murray to Australia?s saltmarsh ecosystems and (iii) consult with a UNSW-based software engineer to port the Global Intertidal Change model to Australia?s national research infrastructure (Digital Earth Australia). Ultimately this work will underpin Australia?s first wall-to-wall to maps of saltmarsh ecosystems. Key benefits to the end-user include convening a community of coastal ecosystem experts to support a sustained national effort to map saltmarshes and compiling disparate information sources on saltmarsh distributions into a single national dataset.
Nicholas Murray (College of Science & Engineering)
Ecosystem science; Earth Observation; Conservation; Coastal ecosystems; Classification; Environmental modelling

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Contract Research

A machine-learning training library of intertidal seagrass ecosystems to support Australia's National Ocean Accounts.

Indicative Funding
The Australian Government, as a member of the High Level Panel for Sustainable Ocean Economy (Ocean Panel), has committed to a range of priority actions, including the development of a complete sequence of national ocean accounts. Seagrass extent and annual change is an integral part of the accounts. Training data on intertidal seagrass extent is needed to support the development of a national intertidal seagrass extent map, which will be a key deliverable of the National Ocean Accounts. This project will therefore conduct the necessary image interpretation tasks to deliver a machine-learning ready training set of Australia?s intertidal seagrass ecosystems.
Nicholas Murray in collaboration with Alejandro Navarro Otero and Mitchell Lyons (College of Science & Engineering and University of New South Wales)
coastal; ecosystems; machine-learning

International Union for the Conservation of Nature - Contract Research

IUCN Situation Analysis ? Asian Coastal Wetlands

Indicative Funding
$10,317 over 1 year
The Yellow Sea ecosystem of intertidal wetlands, associated habitats and the biodiversity that depends on them, encompassed by People?s Republic of China (PRC), the Democratic People?s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (RoK), is among the ecological wonders of the world. It represents the largest area of intertidal flats on the planet. In 2012, the IUCN Species Survival Commission commissioned an independent report ?The IUCN situation analysis on East and Southeast Asian intertidal habitats? that I co-authored. The report was highly influential and led to improved conservation and world heritage listing of tidal flats in the region. Given the impact of the first report, IUCN now wishes the original consultancy team to conduct an update. Therefore, this project is a short contribution to a desktop review and interviews with relevant site managers, government officials, academics, NGO representatives, and other relevant stakeholders to gain a comprehensive understanding of the state of wetlands in the Yellow Sea region. As one of three authors, I will lead the technical analysis of the report.
Nicholas Murray (College of Science & Engineering)
Conservation; Ecosystem science; Environmental modelling

Australian Research Council - Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

Assessing risks to coastal ecosystems with new earth observation models

Indicative Funding
$419,718 over 3 years
This project aims to quantify and diagnose the causes of declines in the world's coastal wetland ecosystems. Unprecedented rates of loss have been reported in many coastal ecosystems, but there is a lack of knowledge regarding their distribution, status and trajectory at the global scale. The projuect will integrate earth observation, machine-learning and ecosystem risk assessment methods to deliver new high-resolution time-series data, quantitative knowledge on the influence of social, economic and environmental factors on ecosystem loss, and predictions of different future states of coastal ecosystems. Key benefits include an improved ability to monitor and manage coastal ecosystems in Australia and globally.
Nicholas Murray (College of Science & Engineering)
Remote Sensing; saltmarsh; coastal ecosystems; Mangroves; ecosystem risk assessment; Ridal mudflats

International Union for the Conservation of Nature - Contract Research

IUCN Maldives Ecosystems.

Indicative Funding
$21,863 over 1 year
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Maldives requires an expert to assist in the development of an ecosystem classification scheme for the terrestrial and marine ecosystems of Maldives. This project will conduct the necessary research and leadership to develop a list of terrestrial and marine ecosystems for Maldives, building on considerable recent work to develop an international Global Ecosystem Typology. The outcomes will support conservation planning, natural resource management and environmental legislation development in the Maldives, and contribute new knowledge about the diversity and distribution of Maldive's ecosystems.
Nicholas Murray (College of Science & Engineering)
Ecosystem science; Earth Observation; Conservation; Coastal ecosystems; Classification; Environmental modelling

Northwest Pacific Action Plan - Contract Research

Mapping of tidal flats and salt marshes in the NOWPAP region.

Indicative Funding
$11,345 over 1 year (administered by Northwest Pacific Action Plan)
The main objective of this activity is to map the distribution of tidal flats/salt marshes in the NOWPAP region with their historical change in the past decades. To map tidal flats/salt marshes in the NOWPAP region, mapping tool developed by Murray et al. (2019), namely Global Intertidal Change (hereinafter referred to as ?GIC?) is used. GIC is the only available tool for regional mapping of tidal flats. However, GIC is developed for the global mapping and there are some limitation for the detection of tidal flats when used at regional scale. Therefore, this project will develop a bespoke regional model of the distribution of tidal flats/salt marshes in the NOWPAP region.
Nicholas Murray (College of Science & Engineering)
Remote sensing; Earth Observation; Conservation; Coastal ecosystems; Space science; Environmental modelling

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.

  • Saving a cryptic tropical species: combining spatial and reproductive sciences to determine the future of the endangered pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Applying vulnerability assessments within social-ecological systems: Developing a dynamic integrated vulnerability assessment (DIVA) in the Solomon Islands (PhD , External Advisor)
  • Demographic and spatial patterns structuring coral populations (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Exploring Fine-Scale Habitat use by Green Turtle (Chelonia Mydas) in Port Curtis with Satellite Telemetry (PhD , Secondary 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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