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Marine Ecology Research Centre

Professor Peter L. Harrison

Director, Southern Cross University Institute for Development, Environment and Sustainability (IDEAS)

Director, Marine Ecology Research Centre

T : +61 2 66 203774

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

Research interests and background

Professor Peter L. Harrison, Director

Professor Peter Harrison is the founding Director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre and the Director of the Director of the Institute for Development, Environment and Sustainability (IDEAS) at Southern Cross University.

Peter is a recognised leader in coral reproduction ecology and has been researching and teaching a wide range of marine science and ecology programs for more than 35 years. He is passionate about marine ecology and environmental science and their applications to conservation management, and has led many successful international and national research projects and teams including work for the UN. Peter also greatly enjoys communicating science research to the broader community and has featured in more than 20 television documentaries, a TEDx talk and many hundreds of media interviews on national and international television, radio, in newspapers and magazines to highlight science research and promote conservation and management.

Peter's current major research focus is coral reef restoration and he was recently awarded a $1.2 million grant from ACIAR to develop the world's first large scale coral reef restoration project using millions of coral larvae to restore damaged reefs in the Philippines. He has been awarded more than $10 million in research grants and Antarctic field support (the majority from competitive research grants including ACIAR, AAD, ARC) and research consultancies. He has published more than 150 scientific research papers, books, invited major review chapters and major reports, which have been cited more than 7,000 times (Google Scholar). Peter has successfully supervised more than 50 postgraduate and Honours students, with seven current postgraduate students, on topics ranging from coral reef ecology and management, impacts of pollutants on marine invertebrates from the tropics to Antarctica, whale and dolphin ecology and conservation, to freshwater and estuarine wetlands and communities.

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 (deputy chair from 2009), the Christmas Island Expert Working Group 2009-2010, the National Environmental Research Program Advisory Panel in 2010, and the Expert Panel to assess a Declared Commercial Fishing Activity under the EPBC Act (Supertrawler). He was a member of the 2012 DIISRTE Australian Science Delegation to the Australia-EU JSTCC Meeting in Brussels and the Australian-German JSTM Cooperation Meeting in Bonn. Peter is also an appointed member of the Port Curtis and Port Alma Ecosystem Research and Monitoring Program Advisory Panel, 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 Patron of the Banyan Tree Marine Laboratory in the Maldives.

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 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. He was lead author on the Government-funded research project on the 'Global Status of Cetaceans' (Harrison et al. 2009), and led the review of the conservation status of Australia's marine mammal species for the 'Action Plan for Australian Mammals' book published by CSIRO in 2014, which received a 2015 Whitley Commendation Award.

Peter Harrison's publications