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Marine Ecology Research Centre

Professor Peter L. Harrison

Director, Marine Ecology Research Centre

e: peter.harrison@scu.edu.au

BSc (Double Major in Marine Biology and Zoology), James Cook University 1979
BSc (First Class Honours) in Marine Biology, James Cook University 1980 (Honours Prize)
PhD in Marine Biology, James Cook University conferred 1989

Research Summary

Professor Peter L. Harrison, Director

Professor Peter Harrison is the founding Director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at Southern Cross University. Peter is a recognised leader in coral reproduction ecology and has been actively researching and teaching a wide range of marine science and ecology programs for more than 30 years. He has been awarded more than $10 million in research grants and Antarctic field support (the majority from national and international competitive research grants including ARC) and consultancies. He has published more than 150 scientific research papers, books, invited major review chapters and major reports, which have been cited more than 5,500 times (Google Scholar); H-index 33.

Peter was a leading member of the coral research team at James Cook University that discovered the mass coral spawning phenomenon on the Great Barrier Reef (Harrison et al. Science: 223: 1186-1189), and was a joint recipient of a prestigious Eureka Prize for Environmental Research for this discovery. He has been awarded multiple prizes for excellence in science research and University teaching including a 2009 Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation for outstanding University Teaching and two University Teaching excellence Awards.

Peter has been appointed by Ministers for the Environment to national committees including the Australian Government's Threatened Species Scientific Committee from 2005-2015, the Christmas Island Expert Working Group 2009-2010, and the National Environmental Research Program Advisory Panel in 2010. He was a member of the DIISRTE Australian Science Delegation to the 12th Australia-EU JSTCC Meeting in Brussels and the Australian-German JSTM Cooperation Meeting in Bonn during October 2012. Peter is also an appointed member of the Port Curtis and Port Alma Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program Advisory Panel, the NSW DECCW Marine Fauna Advisory Group, the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Scientific Committee, a member of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (Oceania), a member of the South Pacific Whale Research Consortium, and the Patron of the Banyan Tree Marine Laboratory in the Maldives, central Indian Ocean.

Peter has successfully supervised to completion more than 50 postgraduate and Honours students, with 12 current postgraduate students and Postdoctoral research fellows on topics ranging from coral reef ecology and management, impacts of pollutants on marine invertebrates from the tropics to Antarctica, freshwater and estuarine wetlands and communities, to whale and dolphin ecology and conservation. His major research interests include: global patterns of coral reproduction, impacts of pollution and stress on coral reefs and other marine ecosystems, coral reef rehabilitation, whale and dolphin ecology and conservation, long-term monitoring of subtropical and tropical marine reef communities, dispersal and biogeography of corals and implications for global networks of marine protected areas.

Much of Peter's research has focused on the Great Barrier Reef and subtropical marine habitats in eastern Australia, with additional research in Japan, Micronesia, French Polynesia, the Arabian Gulf, Florida, Bahamas, Maldives, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, the Philippines and Antarctica. During 1995, he was the Project Leader for a United Nations funded mission to assess the impacts of the first Gulf War on the coral reef systems of Kuwait, and has a new coral species discovered in the Arabian Gulf named after him (Porites harrisoni). Peter regularly reviews manuscripts for many international journals and grant applications for leading international and national research granting bodies including the ARC and USA NSF. He was an elected Academic Staff member on the University Council from 2010-2012.

Peter also led the development of the SCU Whale and Dolphin Research Centre as its Director since 2002, which has supported numerous postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers on whales and dolphins in Australia and overseas. He was the project leader for the ARC-Linkage grant on ageing humpback whales using non-lethal molecular techniques, which was highlighted in many media reports including feature stories in 'Nature' and on the ABC '7.30 Report' and in an ARC Annual Report. Peter led the major DEWHA-funded research project on the 'Global Status of Cetaceans' (Harrison et al. 2009, 125 pages; internationally peer-reviewed), and led the review of the conservation status of marine mammal species in Australian waters as part of the Action Plan for Australian Mammals published by CSIRO (Woinarksi et al. 2014).

Peter is passionate about science and ecology and its application to conservation management, and has participated in many international and national marine science conferences and workshops. He also enjoys communicating science research to the broader community and has featured in more than 20 television documentaries and many hundreds of other media interviews on national and international television, radio, newspapers, and magazines to highlight science research and promote conservation and management. Peter has won prizes for his photographs and his images have been very widely published in international and Australian textbooks, popular books, science journals, poster series, magazine articles and newspapers, and featured in art exhibitions.

Awards and Distinctions

  • 2015 Whitley Commendation Award for the book The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012.
  • 2009 Australian Citation Award for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning, Australian Learning and Teaching Council.
  • 2008 Vice Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award, Southern Cross University.
  • 2000 University Award for Teaching Excellence, Southern Cross University.
  • New coral species Porites harrisoni (Veron 2000) named after Peter in recognition of his international coral reef research.
  • 1992 Eureka Prize for Environmental Research (joint recipient) for the discovery of, and research on, the mass coral spawning phenomenon. (Award presentation broadcast live on ABC-TV 'Quantum').
  • Young Scientist Travel Award, 5th International Congress of Invertebrate Reproduction, Nagoya, Japan, 1989.
  • Dr R. Palmerston-Rundle Prize for Biological Sciences. Award for the best performance in BSc (Honours) degree within the School of Biological Sciences, James Cook University, during 1980.
  • The Lawrence George Chun Tie Bursary, James Cook University, 1980.
  • Nominated for the 2006 'Nature' Mentor Award by postgraduate students.

Committee, Council and Board Membership

  • Appointment by the Minister for the Environment to the Australian Threatened Species Scientific Committee (Australian Government Department of the Environment), Committee Member since 2005, reappointed until 2015
  • Member of the Australian Delegation to the 12th Australia-EU Joint Science and Technology Cooperation Committee (JSTCC) Meeting Brussels October 2012, and Australian-German Joint Science and Technology (JSTM) Cooperation Meeting, Bonn October 2012 (DIISRTE)
  • Appointment by Minister for the Environment to the Christmas Island Expert Working Group 2009-2010
  • Appointment by Minister for the Environment to the National Environmental Research Program Advisory Panel 2010
  • Appointed member of the Port Curtis and Port Alma Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program (ERMP) Advisory Panel, 2010 ongoing
  • Appointed member of NSW DECCW Marine Fauna Advisory Group, 2009 ongoing
  • Southern Cross University Council member (elected Academic staff representative from 2010-2012)
  • IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management (Oceania) Member 2006 to present
  • Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Scientific Committee Member 2012 ongoing
  • Patron, Banyan Tree Marine Laboratory, Vabbinfaru, Maldives since 2007 (ongoing)
  • National Marine Science Centre Board Member 2005-2011 (alternate member 2003-2005)
  • Marine Science and Management Course Coordinator (2002-2010)
  • Masters and Graduate Diploma of Marine Science and Management Course Coordinator (2003-2010)
  • SCU Academic Board member (2000-2006)
  • SCU Academic Board Standing Committee member (2002-2005)
  • SCU Learning and Teaching Advisory Committee member (2000-2003)

Recent National Competitive Research Grants

  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) Restoring damaged coral reefs using mass coral larval reseeding. 2015-2020 ($1.2 Million)
  • NSW Environmental Trust Reef restoration: conservation solutions for critical habitats 2015-2016 ($97,950)
  • Australian Antarctic Science (AAS Grant 4142). Toxicity of chemically and physically dispersed fuels on Antarctic marine biota - applicability of dispersant use for fuel spill response planning, 2012-2015 ($2,249,000 research and Antarctic logistical field support)
  • Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). Mass coral larval reseeding of damaged coral reefs. 2011-2015 ($149,100)
  • Environmental Research and Monitoring Program. Increase understanding of the status of the Australian snubfin and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins within Port Curtis and Port Alma. 2014-2016 ($294,600)
  • Australian Antarctic Science (AAS Grant 3054). Impacts of oil pollutants on Antarctic marine invertebrates, 2008-2012 ($1,637,000 research and Antarctic logistical field support)
  • Australian Research Council LIEF grant (LE110100143). Flexible architecture high performance computing facility for the Intersect Consortium of New South Wales, 2011 ($500,000)
  • Australian Marine Mammal Centre. Anthropogenic contaminants in Queensland's coastal dolphins, 2010-2011 ($170,000)
  • Australian Marine Mammal Centre Development of an Australian Humpback whale fluke catalogue, 2011-2012 ($40,600)
  • Inspiring Australia (DIISRTE) East Coast Humpback Whale Watch Catalogue 2012-2014 ($42,900)
  • Australian Marine Mammal Centre Fluke Matcher computerised fluke matching system for Humpback whales, 2008-2009 ($50,100)
  • Australian Research Council Linkage grant (LP0562517). Ageing wild vertebrates from their DNA: An investigation using humpback whales. (Harrison: Primary author and Project manager) 2005-2008 ($438,000)

Google Scholar Citations

http://scholar.google.com.au/citations?hl=en&user=YUGuNGkAAAAJ

Top 10 Publications (based on citations and scholarship)

Harrison, P.L. and Wallace, C.C. (1990). Reproduction, dispersal and recruitment of scleractinian corals. Chapter 7. In: Z. Dubinsky (Editor), Coral Reef Ecosystems, Ecosystems of the World Vol. 25. pp. 133-207. Elsevier Science Publishers, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-444-87392-9. (Significance: I was invited to write this review and contributed >90% of the material which has >990 citations (Google Scholar), which is by far the most widely cited coral reproduction publication globally.)

Harrison, P.L., Babcock, R.C., Bull, G.D., Oliver, J.K., Wallace, C.C. and Willis, B.L. (1984). Mass spawning in tropical reef corals. Science, 223: 1186-1189. JIF 31.377 (Significance: This paper announced the discovery of the mass coral spawning phenomenon on the Great Barrier Reef, and has >500 citations, making it the second most widely cited coral reproduction publication globally.)

Babcock, R.C., Bull, G.D., Harrison, P.L., Heyward, A.J., Oliver, J.K. , Wallace, C.C. and Willis, B.L. (1986). Synchronous spawning of 105 scleractinian coral species on the Great Barrier Reef. Marine Biology, 90: 379-394. JIF 2.011 (Significance: This paper has >500 citations and provides the most comprehensive original data on coral spawning published to date, and is the third most widely cited coral reproduction publication globally.)

Harrison, P.L. (2011). Sexual reproduction of scleractinian corals. In: Z. Dubinsky and N. Stambler (Editors), Coral Reefs: An Ecosystem in Transition Part 3, 59-85, DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-0114-4_6 Springer Publishers. ISBN 978-94-007-0113-7 (>100 citations)

Harrison, P.L. and Jamieson, B.G.M. (1999). Cnidaria and Ctenophora. In B.G.M. Jamieson (Editor), Reproductive Biology of the Invertebrates, Volume IX Part A, Progress in Male Gamete Ultrastructure and Phylogeny, Oxford-IBH. pp. 21-95. (Significance: I was invited to write this review chapter and contributed >50% of the review, published in this prestigious invertebrate reproduction monograph series.)

Harrison, P.L. and Booth, D.J. (2007). Coral reefs: naturally dynamic and increasingly disturbed ecosystems. Chapter 13, pp. 316-377. In S.D. Connell and B.M. Gillanders (Editors) Marine Ecology, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 630 pages. ISBN 0-19-555302-0. (Significance: I was invited to write this peer-reviewed chapter and contributed >80% - it provides a comprehensive global review of coral reef ecology.)

Willis, B.L., Babcock, R.C., Harrison, P.L. and Wallace, C.C. (1997). Experimental hybridization and breeding incompatibilities within the mating systems of mass spawning reef corals. Coral Reefs 16, Suppl.: S53-S65. JIF 3.780 (Significance: This paper has >150 citations and demonstrated that reef corals can hybridise, leading to a major global re-evaluation of coral taxonomy and evolutionary theory.)

Koop, K., Booth, D., Broadbent, A., Brodie, J., Bucher, D., Capone, D., Coll, J., Dennison, W., Erdmann, M., Harrison, P., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Hutchings, P., Jones, G.B., Larkum, A.W.D., O'Neil, J., Steven, A., Tentori, E., Ward, S., Williamson, J. and Yellowlees, D. (2001). ENCORE: The effect of nutrient enrichment on coral reefs. Synthesis of results and conclusions. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42: 91-120. JIF 2.359 (Significance: This paper synthesises substantial multidisciplinary research on nutrient effects on corals and reefs and has >300 citations.)

Harrison, P.L. and Ward, S. (2001). Elevated levels of nitrogen and phosphorus reduce fertilization success of gametes from scleractinian reef corals. Marine Biology 139: 1057-1068. JIF 2.011 (Significance: This paper described new methods for quantifying stress impacts on coral reproductive success, which have since been applied by other researchers working on pollution impacts, and has >70 citations.)

Woinarksi, J.C.Z., Burbidge, A.A. and Harrison, P.L. (2014). The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012. 1072 pages. CSIRO Publishing ISBN: 9780643108738 (Significance: This recently published major review provides the most comprehensive national review of the conservation status of all Australian mammal species and subspecies, including marine mammals.) (>60 citations)

Postgraduate Research Student Supervision

Current PhD and MSc Project Supervision

Kathryn Brown. 'Impacts of oil pollutants on early life stages of Antarctic marine invertebrates'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. Awarded 'Best Poster from a Student or Early Career Researcher' at the 2012 international SCAR (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) biennial Open Science conference in Portland, Oregon, USA. APA Scholarship.

Frances Alexander. 'Assessing the toxicity of dispersed and weathered fuels on Antarctic marine invertebrates.' Senior supervisor for PhD, SCU. APA Scholarship.

Dexter dela Cruz. 'Settlement and post-settlement survivorship of coral larvae on natural and artificial substrates: implications for recruitment and reef restoration studies.' Senior supervisor for PhD, SCU. John Allwright Fellowship-ACIAR Scholarship.

Peta Beeman. 'Development of an East Australian Humpback whale watch photo-identification catalogue'. Senior supervisor for MSc project, SCU.

Brigitte Sommer. 'Dynamics of subtropical coral assemblages'. Co-supervisor for PhD, UQ. APA and CSIRO Scholarship.

Silje Vindenes. 'Ecology of migrating Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) along the highly urbanised Gold Coast environment.' Senior supervisor for MSc project, SCU.

Nadine Boulotte. 'Capacity of the Lord Howe Island coral community to survive predicted thermal bleaching events.' Senior supervisor for MSc project, SCU.

Amanda Beasley. 'Life history and reproductive biology of two commercially important subtropical cuttlefish species, in northern NSW, Australia.' Senior supervisor for PhD, SCU. APA Scholarship.

Previous PhD and MSc Project Supervision

Darren Richardson. 'Aspects of the ecology of anemonefishes (Pomacentridae: Amphiprion) and giant sea-anemones (Actiniaria) within sub-tropical eastern Australian waters. SCU PhD project, graduated 1998. (Senior supervisor)

Selina Ward. 'The effects of elevated nitrogen and phosphorus on the reproduction of three species of acroporid reef corals'. SCU PhD project, graduated 1998. (Sole Supervisor)

Joanne R. Wilson. 'Reproductive and larval ecology of broadcast spawning corals at the Solitary Islands, eastern Australia'. SCU PhD project, graduated 1999. (Sole Supervisor) ACRS National Conference Student presentation award.

Amanda J. Reichelt-Brushett. 'The lethal and sublethal effects of selected trace metals on various life stages of scleractinian corals'. SCU PhD project, graduated 1999. (Senior Supervisor)

Daniel J. Bucher. 'The effects of experimentally elevated nutrient concentrations on growth rate, skeletal architecture and soft tissue morphology of acroporid corals (Scleractinia: Acroporidae). SCU PhD project, graduated 2001. (Sole Supervisor)

Shaker Alhazeem. 'Monitoring changes in reef communities on the north-western area of Heron Island reef, using quantitative surveys and aerial photographs'. SCU MSc project, graduated 1999. (Senior Supervisor)

Yoko Nozawa. 'Initial settlement patterns, settlement-competency periods and the effect of temperature on settlement of larvae of broadcast spawning reef corals'. SCU MSc project, graduated 2001. (Sole Supervisor)

Esther Fischer. 'Dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP) as a water quality stress indicator' Co-supervisor for PhD project, SCU, graduated 2005. (Co-supervisor)

Daniele Cagnazzi. 'Abundance and distribution of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins Sousa chinensis in the Great Sandy Strait, Queensland, Australia'. Senior Supervisor for MSc project, SCU and the University of Bologna, completed 2005.

Sangeeta Mangubhai. 'Coral Reproductive Ecology on Kenyan Reefs'. Sole Supervisor for PhD project, SCU, graduated 2007. 2007 Chancellor's Medal for Outstanding PhD thesis. 2006 ACRS National Conference Student presentation award.

Anna Scott. 'Sexual reproductive biology of the host sea anemones Entacmaea quadricolor and Heteractis crispa in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, Australia'. Sole Supervisor for PhD project, SCU. APA scholarship. Thesis excellent, two examiners recommended Chancellor's Medal, graduated May 2008.

Nicole Patten. 'Viruses and cellular bleaching processes in reef corals'. Senior Supervisor for PhD project, SCU, graduated September 2008. 2008 Chancellor's Medal for Outstanding PhD thesis.

Christine Fury. 'Dolphin habitat use in northern NSW'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. (Senior Supervisor). Thesis excellent, two examiners recommended Chancellor's Medal. Graduated September 2009.

Ryan Donnelly. 'Solomon Island Fisheries Management'. Senior supervisor for MSc project, SCU. Graduated September 2009.

Annika Noreen. 'Genetic connectivity of eastern Australian coral populations' Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. SCU International Postgraduate Research Student award, and 2006 ISRS/TOC International Coral Reef Fellowship in Coral Reef Science. Thesis excellent, two examiners recommended Chancellor's Medal. Graduated September 2010.

Andrew Carroll. 'Reproduction of scleractinian reef corals at Moorea, French Polynesia'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU/NMSC. APA scholarship. 2007 ACRS National Conference Student oral presentation award. Graduated September 2010.

Daniel Burns. 'Humpback whale migration and identification'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. Graduated September 2010.

Michela Mitchell. 'Actiniaria (Cnidaria: anthozoa) of Port Phillip Bay, Victoria: including a taxonomic case study of Oulactis muscosa and Oulactis mcmurrichi' Senior supervisor for MSc project, SCU. Graduated September 2011.

Daniele Cagnazzi. 'Conservation status of Australian snubfin, (Orcaella heinsohni), and Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, (Sousa chinensis), in the Capricorn Coast, Central Queensland, Australia'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. Graduated September 2011.

Yimnang Golbuu. 'Responses of Palau's coral reefs to disturbances at multiple scales' Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. SCU International Postgraduate Research Student award. Thesis accepted September 2010.

Ruth Owler. 'Ecology of rocky shore communities in Cape Byron Marine Park'. Senior supervisor for MSc project, SCU. Graduated May 2012.

Casandra Chronik. 'Development of a 2011 Coffs Harbour humpback whale watch photo-identification catalogue' Masters MS&M 25% research project thesis, High Distinction grade.

Jacinta Ryan. 'Whistle production of a female bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) before, during and after the birthing process' Masters MS&M 50% research project thesis, Credit grade.

Trish Franklin. 'The social and ecological significance of Hervey Bay Queensland for eastern Australian humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. Thesis accepted December 2013.

Yulia Ivashchenko. 'Soviet Whaling: past history and present impacts'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. Awarded 2012 NOAA Best Paper of the Year Award for Marine Fisheries Review 2011 paper. Thesis accepted December 2013.

Elisabeth Deschaseaux. 'Effect of climate change on atmospheric aerosol emissions from corals' Co-supervisor for PhD, SCU. Thesis Accepted.

Kristina Entwistle. 'Impacts of coral bleaching on Lord Howe Island benthic reef communities' Masters MS&M 50% research student. Completed 2015

Nicola Ransome. 'Social roles, migratory timing and behaviour of heavily scarred humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) on a Mexican breeding ground.' Masters MS&M 50% research student. Completed 2015

Wally Franklin. 'Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae), in Hervey Bay, Queensland: Abundance, site fidelity, residency and migratory interchange'. Senior supervisor for PhD project, SCU. Thesis. Completed 2015

Honours Research Project Supervision

2014-2015 'Health and Status of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins in Moreton Bay, Queensland' Lara Pogson-Manning . (Class 1 Honours)

2011-2012 'Patterns of scleractinian coral recruitment at Lord Howe Island' Kerry Cameron. (Class 1 Honours).

2008-2009 'Comprehensive assessment of the world's largest Flatback sea turtle rookery and nesting success' Brett Leis (Senior supervisor) (Class 1 Honours).

2008-2009 'Effects of extreme storm and tsunami events on coral reef communities and diversity patterns in Bonaire, southern Caribbean' Brigitte Sommer (Senior supervisor), (Class 1 Honours).

2008-2009 'Southern migration of humpback whales and the use of Cape Byron Marine Park habitats' Kathryn Brown. (Class 1 Honours) University Medal.

2005-2006 'Benthic structure at Cook Island, northern NSW, with an emphasis on scleractinian corals' Chris Wilson (Co-supervisor) (Class 2A Honours)

2005 'Drupella species densities in Ningaloo Marine Park' Shannon Armstrong (Class 1 Honours)

2003-2004 'Coral communities in the Great Sandy Straight region' Cathrine Bennett (Class 2A Honours)

2002-2003 'Crown of Thorns Starfish outbreaks at Lord Howe Island' Lea Taylor (Class 1 Honours)

2002-2003 'Lord Howe Island coral communities' Jacqueline Bullard (Class 1 Honours)

2002 'Marine turtle population monitoring at subtropical NSW reefs' Marissa Speirs (Class 1 Honours)

2002 'Freshwater fish communities in northern NSW wetlands' Nathan Miles (Class 1 Honours)

2000-2001 'The effects of experimentally elevated nutrients and reduced salinity on scleractinian coral reproductive success' Anna Scott (Class 1 Honours)

2000-2001 'Settlement competency patterns and dispersal potential of scleractinian reef coral larvae' Andrew Carroll (Class 1 Honours)

2000 'A survey of the fish fauna of the Upper-Nymboida and Blicks River Sub-catchments, New South Wales, Australia, with reference to water management'. Kris Pitman (Class 2A Honours).

1999-2000 'The effects of fuel oil, dispersed oil and oil dispersant on the reproductive success of scleractinian corals'. Alison Lane (Class 1 Honours, University Medal).

1997 'Clarence River invertebrate benthic macrofauna'. Ben Hunter (Class 2A Honours).

1991 'A limnological study of the Nymboida River, N.S.W., with some reference to the fishes'. Gerard Hawkes (Class 2A Honours).

1991 'Some aspects of food and feeding in the Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea commercialis (Iredale and Roughley) in Port Stephens, NSW'. Darren Richardson (Class 1 Honours).

1990 'Sexual reproduction of scleractinian corals from Northern NSW'. Brett Nudd (Class 2B Honours).

Updated: 17 October 2016