Professor Terry Hughes is Director of the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, which is headquartered at James Cook University, Australia. His research focuses on the linkages between the ecology of reefs and their importance for societies and economies. He has worked extensively in Australia, the Coral Triangle Region, and in the Caribbean. An important aspect of his research is understanding the dynamics and resilience of coral reefs, and translating this knowledge into innovative and practical solutions for improved reef management.

  • In the past five years, my research has increasingly evolved in a new direction, moving from an ecological focus to a broader evaluation of the linkages between coral reef ecosystems and people. This new program focuses on solutions for managing resilience and for coping with change and uncertainty in complex social-ecological systems. The ARC Centre is developing further research capacity in this area by strategic recruitment of social scientists, creating a unique multi-disciplinary team of the highest calibre. My recent work has focussed on market drivers of ecological change, missing institutions, identifying safe planetary boundaries for human development, avoiding social traps, and transformative governance of the sea in Australia, Chile, China, the Galapagos Islands, Gulf of Maine and the Coral Triangle. My future research will focus on the linkages between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the welfare of human societies. The objective is to improve the governance and management of natural systems and enhance their capacity to sustain human and natural capital. The overarching goal is to integrate the science of coral reef resilience with decision-making and management.
Research Disciplines
  • 2014 - Einstein Professorship
  • 2008 - The Darwin Medal
  • 2007 - Eureka Sherman Prize for Environmental Science
  • 2012 to 2017 - ARC Laureate Fellow
  • 2007 to 2012 - Federation Fellow
  • 2002 to 2007 - Federation 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
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 124+ research outputs authored by Prof Terry Hughes from 1980 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 Centre - Penang, 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

International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management - Contract Research

Improving community based fisheries management in Pacific countries

Indicative Funding
$175,504 over 4 years
The objective of this Project is to enhance collaborative research between WorldFish and the Centre of Excellence with a particular focus on participation of the Centre in ACIAR project Improving Community-based Fisheries Management in Pacific Countries. WorldFish and the Centre will co-fund a Postdoctoral Research Fellow to undertake research on governance and sustainability of Pacific island coastal fisheries.
Terry Hughes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Pacific Island; Coastal Management; sustainability; Fisheries Management; Communities

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Australian Laureate Fellowships

Science for management of coral reefs

Indicative Funding
$2,511,216 over 6 years
The overarching aim is to increase knowledge of the dynamics and resilience of ecosystems (i.e. their capacity to absorb recurrent shocks without tipping into a degraded condition), and to incorporate these research findings into improved management of coral reefs. The Fellowship will develop research programs of international significance through the establishment of new collaborative teams that transcend disciplinary boundaries. Coral reefs provide essential ecosystem services and food security to millions of people. A key outcome of the research will be to actively transfer scientific knowledge to end-users, to increase their capacity and effectiveness and provide tangible benefits to all Australians.
Terry Hughes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Coral reefs; Ecosystems; Biodiversity; Ecology; social-ecological systems; Resilience; regime-shift

Griffith University - National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility - Contract Research

Policy Guidance Brief: GBR and its Ecosystem Services

Indicative Funding
Development of a policy guidance brief on the Great Barrier Reef and its ecosystem services.
Terry Hughes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Great Barrier Reef; Ecosystem Services; Synthesis; Climate change

Australian Institute of Marine Science - Contract Research

Deep-Water Reefs in Northern Australia

Indicative Funding
$174,080 over 4 years
There is increasing awareness of the importance of submerged and deep-water banks habitat for diverse ecological communities and, potentially, refugia from climate change. However, due to logistic and technological restrictions, they remain poorly studied compared to shallow-water coral reef habitats. This project will investigate biodiversity associated with deep-water reefs and submerged shoal habitats across northern Australia and assess their potential to provide refugia for coral reef biota from climate change. I will also use new technology such as 3D imaging and light-field cameras to enable surveying and repeat monitoring of deep-water coral reef habitats.
Terry Hughes (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Mesophotic; Climate Change; Underwater Imaging; Coral Reef; Refugia; Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

Australian Institute of Marine Science - Contract Research

Biological Control of Acanthaster Planci

Indicative Funding
$129,010 over 2 years
Acanthaster planci (like many echinoderms) are susceptible to infectious disease (Pratchett 1999), providing an option for biological control (Rivera-Posada et al. 2011). The close proximity between sea stars during outbreaks has the potential to facilitate rapid transmission of potential panthogens, eliminating the need to directly kill or collect each individual sea star Disease (s) have been implicated in abrupt declines of A. planci at the end of outbreak events with sea stars disappearing long before they have reached maximum size or age (Zann et al. 1990; Moran et al., 1985; Moran 1986; Pratchett 2005). Biological disease agents to be isolated and tested would included bacteria, virus, fungi and parasites.
Terry Hughes and Jairo Rivera Posada (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Acanthaster planci; (family Acanthasteridae); Crown-of-thorns sea star; Pest Control; Outbreaks

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Super Science Fellowships

Resilience of Coral Reef Ecosystems to Climate Change - Round 2

Indicative Funding
$835,200 over 4 years
The unifying theme of this proposal is the development of technologies and new knowledge for management and sustainable use of the world's coral reefs. The capacity of marine organisms and ecosystems to cope with accelerating climate change will depend on their potential for rapid acclimatisation, and ultimately adaptation, to changing climate. Research in Round 2 will use a unique combination of experiments, genomics and modeling to reveal the molecular and physiological mechanisms for acclimation and adaptation to climate change corals and reef fishes, leading to an enhanced capacity for predicting and managing changes to these critical natural assets.
Terry Hughes, Bette Willis, David Miller, Philip Munday and Bob Pressey (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, College of Science & Engineering, College of Public Health and Medical & Vet Sciences)
Climate Change; Coral reefs; Fisheries; Adaptation; Resilience; Disease; Genomics; Modelling; Physiology

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.

  • Social - Ecological Dynamics of Coral Reef Fisheries. (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • Adaptive Strategies of Scleractinian Corals. (PhD, Secondary Advisor)
  • Primary Habitat Requirements of Key Herbivorous Fish and Stress-Tolerant Coral Species in the Great Barrier Reef: Which Ecological Factors Govern their Distribution and How to Draw Lessons for Coral Reef. (PhD, Primary Advisor)
  • The Trait Diversity of Reef Corals: A Response-and-effect Framework (PhD, Primary 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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