Past Conferences


Townsville 2017

The 90th ACRS conference was held in Townsville, Queensland from 16th–19th July, 2017. Several fabulous venues hosted us for workshops and a welcome function on 16th, two full days of discussions and paper presentations on 17th and 18th, and workshops and other activities on 19th.

Keynote speakers included:

Dr. Terry Hughes, ARC Centre for Coral Reef Studies - "Global warming transforms coral assemblages on the Great Barrier Reef"

Dr. Britta Schaffelke, Australian Institute of Marince Science - " Water quality in the Great Barrier Reef: pressures, consequences and fututre challenges"

Dr. Nick Graham, Lancaster University (UK) - "Lessons on coral devastation, reorganisation, and managemente from East Africa"

The 2016 ACRS Medal for Established Researcher was awarded to Prof. Terry Hughes for his outstanding contributions to science and conservation of Australian coral reefs. The 2017 ACRS medal for Science Advocacy was warded to Dr. Russell Kelley for his exceptional role communicating coral reef science and research.

Many prizes were distributed among the delegates attending the ACRS conference:

Student Talk Prize Winners:

Michael McWilliam – Vicki Harriott Award – $500 cash "Regional differences in the diversity and redundancy of coral functional roles"

Maarten De Brauwer – Scuba Pro sponsored Outstanding Presentation Award– "Biofluorescence as a survey tool for cryptic marine species"

Christopher Hemingson – Remote Area Dive sponsored Outstanding Presentation Award– "Biogeographic patterns in major marine realms: function not taxonomy unites fish assemblages in reef, seagrass and mangrove systems"

Sofia Jain-Schlaepfer – Lizard Island Research Station Award – "Managing noise stress in fish embryos: Fish embryos show stress responses to recreational boat noise that differ with engine type"

Mikaela Nordborg – Orpheus Island Research Station Award – "The phototoxic effects of hydrocarbon fuels on coral larval settlement"

Kerry Cameron – One Tree Island Research Station Award – Outstanding Presentation for Field Based Research –  "Restoring corals on degraded reefs with enhanced supply of larvae"

Wing Yan Chan – Heron Island Research Station Award – "Generating novel genetic diversity through hybridization as a tool to increase coral climate resilience"

 Student Poster Winner:

Tessa Hill - Reef & Rainforest Research Centre prize - "Predation pressure of butterflyfish on coral communities may decrease under ocean acidification"

Hashtag (#2017ACRS) competition Winner:

Laura Richardson (@Richardson_LE)

Photo competition Winners:

Overall winner: Victor Huertas
Science in Action: Mikaela Nordborg
Macro: Ciemon Caballes
Diversity: C. Brunner
People's choice: Maarten De Brauwer



Thanks to our main sponsors:



Daydream Island 2015

The 89th ACRS conference was held on Daydream Island, Queensland from 28th–31st July, 2015. This fabulous venue hosted us for workshops and a welcome function on 28th, two full days of discussions and paper presentations on 29th and 30th and workshops and other activities on 31st. 

The ACRS Medal was awarded to Dr. Nicholas Graham, for outstanding contributions to science and conservation of Australian coral reefs.

Keynote speakers included:

Mr John Gunn, Australian Institute of Marine Science
Dr Elizabeth Madin, Macquarie University
Dr Charlie Veron, Corals of the World

Awards for the most outstanding presentations included:

Student Talk Prize Winners: 

1. Taryn Foster – Vicki Harriott Award – $500 cash + Oceanic dive computer (donated by Australian Underwater Products). "Ocean acidification causes microstructural deformities in juvenile coral skeletons"

2. April Boaden – Research station choice 1 + ScubaPro prize pack. "Top-down control, trophic interactions and the importance of predatory fishes on coral reef"

3. Maria del Mar Palacios – Research station choice 2 + ScubaPro prize pack. "Top-predators negate the effect of mesopredators on prey physiology"

4. Tessa Hempson – Research station choice 3 + ScubaPro prize pack. "Effects of prey availability on mesopredator condition, growth rate, and fecundity on coral reefs of the Seychelles Inner Island Group"

5. Rene van de Zande – Research station choice 4 + ScubaPro prize pack. "Influence of future climate scenarios on coral energy budgets and metabolics"

6. Theresa Rueger – Cruise Whitsundays GBR trip. "Size matters to males and females: mutual mate choice leads to size assortative pairing in a paternal mouthbrooding coral reef cardinalfish"

7. Kerry Cameron – Aeris Cyanea dive mask + McNett dive care essentials pack (donated by Australian Underwater Products). "Coral recruitment at Lord Howe Island – closed or open populations?"

Student Poster Prize Winner: 

1. Lisa Böstrom-Einarsson – Cruise Whitsundays Reef sleep trip. "Controlling outbreaks of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns starfish using a single injection of common household vinegar"

 Non-Student Talk Winners: 

1. Mark Erdmann – Cruise Whitsundays Camira sailing trip. "Impact Factor vs. Real World Impact: Musings of a Reef Scientist that drank the Conservation NGO Kool-Aid"

2. Renata Ferrari – Cruise Whitsundays GBR trip. "Disentangling the relationship between community composition and habitat structural complexity: what is the best metric?"

3. Zena Dinesen – Cairns Dive Centre snorkel trip. "Combining new and old approaches to reef coral taxonomy: A case study of the coral genus Leptoseris"

Delegates were invited to submit photos into the Annual ACRS Photo Competition. The winners were:

Overall winner – Kennedy Wolfe – iDive iPad housing + $100 cash

Science-in-action – Peter Vize – $50 cash

Best turtle photo – Kristen Anderson – $50 cash

Diversity – Ciemon Caballes – $50 cash

Macro – Maria del Mar Palacios – $50 cash

Thanks to our sponsors:




Brisbane 2014

The 88th Annual ACRS Conference was held from 27 to 29 August in Brisbane at the Mercure Hotel. On Wednesday 27th August, students were invited to take part in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Student Day, which focussed on developing students’ research and publication skills. This was followed by the Welcome Function for all delegates on the Wednesday evening. The following 2 days were an opportunity for delegates to present their own research and also hear from 3 keynote speakers:
Professor Michael Kingsford, “Connectivity among populations – the never ending story?”
Dr Adriana Vergés, “ Climate-driven shifts in herbivory and the tropicalization of temperate marine ecosystems – a global perspective”
Dr Janice Lough, “Changing environments for coral reefs”

The Conference Dinner was held at the beautiful level 12 Rooftop Room at Rydges Hotel at Southbank where students received awards for the most outstanding presentations:
Vicki Harriott Award
Lisa Bostrom-Einarsson
Research Station Bench Fee Awards
Susannah Leahy (1st choice of research station)
Tyson Martin (2nd choice of research station)
Patrick Burger (3rd choice of research station)
Chiara Pisapia (4th choice of research station)
Great Barrier Reef Book Award
Lauren Nadler
Poster award
Brock Bergseth

Delegates were invited to submit photos into the Annual ACRS Photo Competition. The winners were:

Category: Feathers, Flippers and Fins
Winner: Chico Birrell

Category: Your Story
Winner: Christine Schoenberg

Category: Closer
Winner: Maria Palacios

Category: Best-overall
Winner: Maria Palacios

Following the conference, some delegates took part in a field trip to North Stradbroke Island, staying at the Moreton Bay Research Station.

Thanks to our sponsors:



"Reefs in a Time of Change"

The 87th Annual ACRS Conference was held from 28th to 30th August in Sydney at the Menzies Hotel and was the first to be run in conjunction with the International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS). Over the three day conference, delegates participated in a number of social activities, including the welcome function at Sea Life Sydney Aquarium and the conference dinner at the Star Room. Delegates also had the opportunity to showcase their own research across a series of thematic sessions. In total, there were 112 oral presentations spread over two days in three concurrent sessions, and 20 posters presentations.

Delegates also heard from four keynote speakers:

Prof David Booth – ACRS Vice President and Director of the Centre for Environmental Sustainability, UTS

Prof Peter Ralph – Executive Director of The Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster, UTS

Dr Andrew Baird – ARC Future Fellow, JCU

Dr David Wachenfeld – Director, Ecosystem Conservation and Sustainable Use, GBRMPA

A number of workshops were run for delegates including the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies National Student Mentoring Day, and the coral identification workshop. An excursion was also run to the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS) where delegates were given a short presentation and tour of the research facilities, including laboratories, aquaria and teaching spaces.

Presentation Prizes

Vicki Harriott Award

Sediments suppress the functional roles of herbivorous fishes on coral reefs
Christopher Goatley

Bench fees awarded

A novel analysis of functional niche overlap applied to a herbivorous coral reef fish community
Simon Brandl

Effects of fishing and environment on protogynous sex change dynamics at multiple scales
Brett Taylor

Plastic lateralization in parasitised coral reef fish
Dominique G Roche

Physiological responses to thermal stress of free-living Symbiodinium cultured in reef sediment
Matthew Nitschke

Honourable mention

Predicting changes to Australia’s scleractinian coral ranges using traits
Toni Mizerek

Parental effects improve escape performance of juvenile reef fish in a high CO2 world
Bridie Allan

Hybridization in coral symbionts
Shaun Wilkinson


Dynamics of fish-coral associations across latitudes from the Southern Great Barrier Reef to Sydney
Paloma Matis 

Finding the best estimates of metabolic rates in a coral reef fish 
Sandra Binning 

Non-student awards

Tropicalisation of temperate marine ecosystems: Herbivore-mediated phase-shifts from kelp to coral? 
Alexandra Campbell

Mechanical vulnerability explains size-dependent mortality of reef coral growth forms 
Joshua Madin

Cumulative impacts, risks and informed decision-making on the Great Barrier Reef 
Kenneth Anthony 

Public Forum 

A Public Forum on Port Developments on the Great Barrier Reef was held from on the evening of Thursday 29th August in the Sydney Room at The Menzies Hotel. The panel discussed the ramifications of the proposed developments for the region from a number of perspectives. The panel included:

Dr Jamie Oliver – Australian Institute for Marine Science

Jon Brodie – James Cook University

Dr Michael Gardner – Queensland Seafood Industry Association

Larissa Waters – Queensland Senator and Greens spokesperson for the GBR

Tom Coughlin – Fitzroy Basin Association

Felicity Wishart – Fight for the Reef Campaign

The public forum discussion can be viewed here:


Sunshine Coast 2011

The 86th Annual ACRS Conference, held 26-29 August on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, at the Novotel Twin Waters Resort, was a smashing success. There were several highlights to the conference: the wonderful plenary talks by Katherina Fabricius, Terry Hughes, Hugh Possingham, and Morgan Pratchett; the ARC Centre of Excellence student mentoring day; the Coral Finder workshop; and the Public Forum on Saturday night with a mix of scientists, managers, and industry leaders discussing how best to spend $100 M to improve reef resilience. Answers ranged from don’t spend any of it, to spending the funds on education and outreach, to industry support to community engagement, and more. The conference banquet was also fun, with a live band, the presentation of student prizes, and the auction of the inaugural perpetual ACRS membership. Through our annual conference, ACRS continues to expand its influence on the science and management of coral reefs and its support for the next generation of coral reef scientists. 

Student Presentation Prizes

Oral presentation prizes:

  • Fantasea Foundation field excursions: Melanie Trapon

  • Vicky Harriott prize: Rebecca Lawton

  • Quicksilver Cruises Outer Barrier Reef trip: Yui Sato

  • Research Station bench space - Heron Island: Andrew Chin

  • Research Station bench space - Lizard Island: Tom Hawkins

  • Research Station bench space - Orpheus Island: Stefanie Pontasch

  • Research Station bench space - One Tree Island: Joanne Bayes

  • CSIRO GBR Book: Nicola Browne

  • Coral Finder kit: Alyssa Marshell

  • Qld Museum - Moreton Bay Wild: Andrew Olds

  • Fantasea book donation: Tom Bridge

Poster prize:

  • Fantasea book donation: Ai Nguyen




Coffs Harbour 2010

The 85th Annual ACRS conference was held this year for the first time at Coffs Harbour. It once again brought together Australia’s coral reef community to exchange ideas and the latest research findings and to encourage and reward postgraduate students in their endeavours. Hosted by Southern Cross University’s National Marine Science Centre, the conference involved more than 130 leading national and international coral reef researchers.  

Friday evening saw the conference officially opened by Southern Cross University Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee as the National Marine Science Centre showcased their excellent research and educational facilities.

Coral bleaching, the impact of warming waters on coral reefs, marine debris and the management of marine parks were just some of the topics covered as the conference continued on Saturday and Sunday at the Novotel Pacific Bay Resort. The next generation of reef scientists, represented by our students provided some engaging presentations, alongside veteran researchers and keynote speakers.

Speakers at the conference included:
• Professor Peter Mumby, The University of Queensland 
• Dr Mark Meekan, Australian Institute of Marine Science, WA 
• Dr Alan Jordan, NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water 
• Dr Maoz Fine, Bar-Ilan University, Israel 
• Professor Maria Byrne, University of Sydney 
• Dr David Wachenfeld, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

coral ID workshopWorkshops

Coral identification and sub-tropical reefs workshops were on offer to attendees in addition to the annual student mentoring day hosted by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

Thanks to speakers, organisers and sponsors

Huge thanks goes to local conference organiser Anna Scott, and again to Selina Ward for another brilliantly organised event.  Other special mentions here include Uli Siebeck,  Zena Dinesen, Naomi Gardiner, Emily Howells, Andy Hoey, Ross Hill, Chris Goatley, Rebecca Lawton, and Brigitte Sommer. Thanks also to our speakers and all who came and contributed their expertise and enthusiasm to a most memorable event.  Congratulations to all students who won prizes.  Thank you especially to event sponsors The SCU Marine Ecology Research Centre (MERC), GBRMPA, SCU, and UQ.  Thanks also to the National Marine Science Centre for hosting the event, SCU Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Lee for opening the conference and Mark Flanders for his warm ‘Welcome to Country’.

Wrap up 

Sundowners, the live band and the awards presentation were highlights of the closing dinner at the Park Beach Surf Club which was a time to celebrate those few great days of collaboration and fun.

workshop dinner fiedltrip

Subtropical reef workshop

Conference dinner

Field trip

Field excursion

The local residents of the Solitary Islands Marine Park put on a show for conference goers who enjoyed the excitement of shark encounters with scuba diving company Dive Quest and a perfect day of whale watching aboard the Spirit of Coffs Harbour guided by Dr. Daniel Burns. 

Student Travel Awards

For the 2010 Conference, ACRS awarded travel awards to assist students with their fares to the national conference. While many of these students were from James Cook University, travel awards were also given to students from UTS in Sydney and the University of Queensland. This time applications were also open to New Zealand students, and travel assistance was provided to two students from the Victoria University of Wellington. ACRS is really pleased to able to support so many students to travel to the annual conference and present their research. The society awarded travel grants between $250 and $770 to 27 students.

Student Presentation Prizes

The annual ACRS scientific conference always provides a great opportunity for postgraduate students to showcase their research, and this year in Coffs Harbour there were, again, many high quality student presentations.

A panel of judges assessed the presentations according to an agreed set of criteria, with at least two judges allocated per student paper. The panel consisted of Zena Dinesen, John Pandolfi, Peter Mumby, Ross Hill, and Dave Wachenfeld. (Please note this year there were very few posters entered by student members, and no awards were given in this category.)

The most prestigious student award is the Vicki Harriott Memorial Student Prize, established by the ACRS Council in 2005 in memory of the late Vicki Harriott, in recognition of Vicki’s great contributions to coral reef research and marine science education. The Vicki Harriott Prize for 2010 (a cheque for $500.00) for the best student presentation was awarded to Sebastian Schmidt-Roach of AIMS/University of Tasmania, for his paper (Schmidt-Roach et al.) entitled ‘Challenging morphological plasticity in a keystone coral species’. This was a very interesting paper on phenotypic plasticity and genetics of Pocillopora damicornis that challenges, inter alia, some of the established taxonomic ideas about the range of growth forms encompassed within this species. Congratulations to Sebastian!

vicki harriet prize best presentation student awards

Vicki Harriott Memorial Prize

Second major prize


The second major prize, a trip for two people on a Quicksilver outer barrier reef cruise, was awarded to Rebecca Lawton, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, at James Cook University, for her presentation of ‘High population connectivity across large geographic scales in two widespread coral reef butterflyfishes’. Well done, Rebecca.

There were also four prizes involving 4-7 days’ bench fees at the various Great Barrier Reef research stations. These were awarded to Jessica Stella of JCU (Lizard Island RS); Andrew Olds of Griffith University, Gold Coast (Orpheus Island RS); Hugo Harrison of JCU (One Tree Island RS); and Adrian Lutz of JCU (Heron Island RS).

A copy of the book ‘The Great Barrier Reef – Biology, Environment and Management’ edited by Pat Hutchings, Mike Kingsford and Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and published by the CSIRO, was presented to Deborah Cleland of the Australian National University for her presentation on SimReef and ReefGame, tools to support integrated reef research and management. Our congratulations to these prize winners, and thanks to all the students for their excellent and interesting presentations. The ACRS Council is very grateful to Quicksilver, the Research Stations and CSIRO for generously donating these prizes. Thanks also to Pat Hutchings and Selina Ward for liaising with these institutions and helping to arrange for the donations of prizes.

Other Past Conferences

2009 - Darwin

2007 - Fremantle

2006 - Mission Beach

2005 - Heron Island

2003 - Townsville