The Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station

In calendar year 2016, 124 scientists used facilities of the Lizard Island Research Station to conduct 106 field research projects. They came from leading research institutions in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.  We are fortunate to have so many contributions to our understanding of the Reef and its myriad species. See full list.

The following provides a general grouping of the topics, with the caveat that some projects cover multiple areas and the title alone is not always a full descriptor:

Archaeology: There were two archaeology projects at the Station in 2016, one on long-term Aboriginal resource use (Archaeological Baseline for Sustainable Fishing) and one exploring how current sizes of the Giant Clam Tridacna maxima at Lizard Island compare with the same species there during the Holocene period.

Bacteria & molecular ecology: One project, exploring circadian cycles in intestinal Firmicutes.

Behaviour & learning: Nineteen projects, exploring cooperation, conflict, movement, learning, cognition, the role of micropredators, social networks, territoriality, sociality, fear, feeding behaviour, interactions in trophic cascades and behavioural thermoregulation.

Controlling outbreaks of the Crown of Thorns Starfish:

Collecting COTS specimens

Two projects were conducted at the Station  – one on reproductive behaviour, and one testing eDNA as a new monitoring tool for early detection of outbreaks. LIRRF also funded other important 2016 COTS projects elsewhere on the Reef, focusing on movement, detectability, and the use of settlement collectors as an early warning system.  These and the eDNA project were funded pursuant to a grant from the Ian Potter Foundation.

Effects of predicted climate change and other reef disturbances: Twenty-nine projects, including impacts of bleaching on coral reef fish; the nexus between physiology and behaviour in a warming world; post-bleaching survival of corals; coral recovery; the likely effects of higher CO2 concentrations; susceptibility to bleaching; rapid adaptation to thermal stress; Giant clam responses to the 2016 bleaching event; the effect of coral degradation on chemical alarm cue response in coral fishes; the effects of coral-associated fish on coral health; damage to coral colonies by waterbourne debris; algae-fish interactions,  the effect of canopy-forming macroalgae on reef processes; thermal stress response in fish; sediment suppression; factors limiting coral larvae settlement; quantifying parrotfish carbonate cycling and predicting impacts of environmental change.

Genetics: One project, on intracolonial phenotypic variability in corals;

Nutritional ecology: One project, on nutritional ecology of herbivorous fishes

Parasites: Ten projects, including the effect of parasite infection on the escape performance of coral reef fish; the role of parasites and cleaning behaviour in coral reef fish communities; life cycles of digenetic trematodes infecting herbivorous marine fishes; the behavioural effects of gnathiid isopod ectoparasites on their fish hosts; and the behaviour and abundance of a fish blood-sucking isopod.

Physiology: Six projects, including a comparison of direct and indirect metabolic rate measurements in coral reef fishes; physiological responses to hypoxia of the Humpback Conch; stress and physiological performance; intestinal carbonate production by fish; and the relationship between brain size and cognitive abilities in cleaner wrasse.

Sound: Six projects, including the influence of anthropogenic noise (i.e. human-generated noise from motors, sonar etc)  on fish; the impact of coral bleaching on reef soundscapes; and use of acoustic survey as a tool for monitoring coral reef ecosystems.

Surveys & monitoring: Fourteen projects, including seagrass monitoring; an automated underwater vehicle survey of Trimodal Reef; quantification of reef 3D structure; the Coral Reef Airbourne Laboratory; bleaching surveys; long-term monitoring of fish communities; photographic assessment of fish-coral associations; a telemetry study on shelter use and spatial ecology of large reef fishes; a 20-year perspective on groundwater nutrient dynamics; herbivory and algal production post-bleaching; a methodology for quantifying habitat complexity of coral reefs from space; movement ecology of large herbivores; and analysis of marine rubbish.

Vision, light and colour: Fifteen projects, including the evolution and function of fan worm radiolar eyes; colour vision and communication, neuroanatomy of stomatopod larvae; visual adaptations in coral reef fishes; surgeonfish vision; triggerfish vision; UV vision in stomatopods; light sensitivity and camouflage in flounders; and using polarization of background lighting for navigation


The results of these projects will be published in scientific journals.  Typically, visiting scientists take specimens and data from field research at Lizard Island back to their home institutions for further analysis. Then there is writing, submission to publishers and peer review, before eventual publication.  See also 2,062 SCIENCE PUBLICATIONS.