I am a coral reef scientist with the CoE for Coral Reef Studies and WorldFish and a National Geographic Early Career Leader. My research focuses primarily on the balance between food security and conservation with respect to small scale fisheries, which account for 90% of all fishers and 50% of global fisheries yields. In particular, I use impact evaluation and counterfactual framing to understand how various marine management strategies, including both modern no-take reserves and traditional fishing grounds, can be used to maximize benefits for both people and the environment. Impact framing has also led me to investigate how spatial configurations of marine conservation and management actions are best situated in order to maximize the difference they will make, and under what instances management is instead residual. Locally managed, collaborative, and other bottom-up approaches to marine management are of particular interest to me, since resources are most effectively managed when resource users are actively involved in the process. Most of my research has focused on coral reef management in the South Pacific region (in particular Solomon Islands and Tonga).

Previously, I completed my PhD through James Cook University with a focus on the coral reef ecosystems of the Kingdom of Tonga. From 2016-2019, I collaborated with the Tongan government and Ministry of Fisheries to design and implement a national reef monitoring program to understand the current ecological status of the countries coral reefs and reef fish fishery. In addition, my PhD research focused on assessing the impacts of their approach to community based fisheries management, the Special Management Area program. This involved using impact evaluation techniques to look back at the difference made by existing management areas, as well as using a predictive approach to assess potential future impacts of management. My PhD research was supervised by Professor Geoff Jones, Dr. Tom Bridge, Professor Bob Pressey and Dr. Georgina Gurney.

Working in collaboration with NASA, I also led research examining the resilience of coral reef ecosystems after a massive submarine volcanic eruption created the newest landmass on Earth, located in the remote outer waters of Tonga.


  • Measuring marine management outcomes. Monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of conservation planning and on-ground actions to contribute to policy and adaptive learning.
  • People and conservation. Conservation planning incorporating socio-economic factors and livelihood and governance considerations into spatial prioritization.
  • The productivity and resilience of small-scale fisheries. 90% of fishers and 50% of global catch falls within this sector, making them the largest group of ocean users - a group larger than all other marine sectors combined
  • The impact of coral reef co-management; community-based marine management; locally managed marine areas
  • Coral reef ecology. Using underwater visual surveys and experiments to address ecological questions on coral reefs.
  • 2020 to present - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, WorldFish (Townsville, Australia)
Research Disciplines

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Journal Articles
Current Funding

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

Crawford Fund - Research Grant

What can locally managed marine areas do for you?

Indicative Funding
$12,000 over 1 year
Locally-managed marine areas (LMMA) regulate when, how, and by whom harvesting of resources occurs and are the dominant local marine resource management approach in the Pacific. Recently, a new wave of lessons have emerged on the efficacy of LMMAs that has yet to be interpreted and critiqued amongst resource managers, NGOs, and government actors. This project will involve hosting two workshops and co-developing communication products (infographic, pamphlet, and short video) in various Pacific languages on the current state of knowledge on LMMAs as a fisheries management tools. This work will provide an up to date synthesis of the contexts under which they can be successful, the trade-offs that may result when managing for multiple objectives, and the realistic impacts that can be expected from their use.
Patrick Smallhorn-West (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Workshops; Marine Protected Areas; Outreach; Community based fisheries management

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.

  • Political economy of youth-led food system transformations (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The Cave dwellers Distribution, abundance, ecological partitioning and social organisation of the genus Trimma on coral ereefs (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)

Connect with me

Advisory Accreditation
Primary Advisor

Similar to me

  1. Dr April Hall
    College of Science & Engineering
  2. Dr Andrew Chin
    College of Science & Engineering
  3. Prof Geoff Jones
    College of Science & Engineering
  4. Dr Rebecca Weeks
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
  5. Dr Georgina Gurney
    ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies