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Octopus pair at Lizard Island

On our last expedition to Jiigurru (Lizard Island), we were fortunate enough to witness a pair of Reef Octopus (Octopus cyanea) out actively hunting and copulating in the late afternoon at Watson's Bay, with very little concern about our presence. The larger female...

The next Crown-of-Thorns Starfish outbreak is coming

Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) are natural members of coral reef communities and their numbers erupt periodically into outbreaks. Adult starfish – which can reach more than 50 cm diameter - eat the living tissue of corals. When outbreaks occur, COTS consume coral...

Lizard Island Coral Reef Study Tour 2022

Introduction by Kate Hayward, LIRRF Chair Back in 2019, the LIRRF undertook to support and fund an inaugural 9-night educational program at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station for a select group of Year 11 NSW government school biology students and...

2022 Critical Research Grant awarded

The 2022 Lizard Island Critical Research Grant has been awarded to Prof. Andrew Baird of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University and colleagues from the Museum of Tropical Queensland and University of Hawai’i at Manoa. The project,...

Damselfishes in colour

To anybody familiar with the coral reef systems of the Great Barrier Reef and their inhabitants, the importance of the damselfish family is well understood. Take a quick look at the reef while snorkelling on Lizard Island and you will see hundreds of this family’s...

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Friday February 11th is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. With combined goals of showcasing women and girls doing amazing things to promote, engage and foster female representation in science it is also a reminder of the progress that still needs to...

A tribute to Ken Coles AM

Ken Coles AM was a Trustee of the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation (LIRRF) from 1991 to 2015 and Chair from 1994 to 2012. During this time he transformed the Foundation and the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS). Ken died peacefully on 18...

Fellowships and grants update

No new fellowships or grants were awarded for 2021 due to severe limitations on travel caused by COVID-19. We’re pleased that this important program has now resumed. Four new postdoctoral fellows and three new postdoctoral fellowships have now been selected to start...

How many coral species exist at Lizard Island?

That apparently simple question is not so easy to answer. Not only are corals notoriously difficult to identify to species, the mixture of species within a local community can change over time, rare species are easily overlooked, and even the concept of a species can...

Marine pollution research

For nearly two decades, Manoela Romano de Orte has been studying the double-barreled menace of pollution and climate change that puts coral reefs in the firing line. As a recent graduate in Brazil in 2004, Manoela was looking for a research topic for a higher degree...

Effective Action on Climate Change – Watch Now

In a webinar hosted by LIRRF on November 23,  Professor Terry Hughes shared findings from his most recent work which sets out the scale of bleaching damage on the GBR and its implications for various reef-recovery proposals.  Terry is the former Director the ARC...

Climate Change Briefing – Watch Now

On Tuesday October 19, 2021 the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation hosted an informative and engaging webinar with leading Australian climate change scientist Professor Lesley Hughes. A highly regarded communicator on climate change issues, Lesley shared her...

Changing reefs

At just 27 years of age, Sterling Tebbett has already seen stark changes in the coral reefs he knows and loves. In early 2015, he made his first trip to Lizard Island as a research assistant and recent graduate. “It was, in hindsight, a strange time to visit with...

Outcomes of the Polychaete Workshop eight years on

A 2013 expedition to Lizard Island by a team of worm taxonomists has greatly expanded knowledge of coral reef biodiversity – and reveals how much more there is still to learn. Polychaetes are marine worms commonly known as Bristle Worms. The 11th International...

Fellowship travel awards in a time of COVID

Our Foundation provides funding for its doctoral fellows to present their research at an international conference in their second or third year. Such meetings are vitally important for young researchers to become exposed to wider ideas, to make themselves known and to...

The rise and fall of turf-algae empires

How will the abundance and diversity of life respond to the overall declining health of the Great Barrier Reef? The drivers of abundance and diversity are complex. They include the availability of food, the availability of shelter, and access to the services provided...

The Sapphire Project and The Great Barrier Reef

World Oceans Day is here once again - LIRS Co-Director Dr Anne Hoggett AM in conversation with Mia Steiber of RUSSH magazine on World Oceans Day. This day is all about raising awareness for our oceans; the perils they current face due to human impact and the benefits...

Deconstructing coral colonies

Dr Kyle Zawada is a humble man, but show him just a glimpse of Acropora loripes and he’ll give you its distribution, distinctive features and more in a heartbeat. Whereas some specialize in the language of mathematics or the coded workings of the human mind, Kyle’s...

Solar power upgrade: towards zero

After years of planning, the solar power system at LIRS was upgraded and expanded in April 2021. That was one of the wettest periods this year which made installation of the new system by Tropical Energy Solutions (Townsville) very challenging. The original 30 kW...

An inspiring video of a student trip to LIRS

A student group from Emmanuel Anglican College in Ballina NSW visited Lizard Island Research Station in May 2021. This video was produced by teacher Thomas Papworth, who was one of the group leaders.  

2020 Lizard Island Research Station Report

The Lizard Island Research Station’s 2020 Report is available here and includes: 2020 in Review by resident Directors Lyle Vail & Anne Hoggett; Fellowships & Grants: Updates on the program and impacts of COVID-19; Visitors in 2020, including details on 62...

Why do gobies and corals live together?

When we think of coral reefs, we immediately imagine corals of different shapes and sizes with many colourful fishes swimming above and around these beautiful corals. We might even see a big fish or shark swim by that catches our attention. Then when we look closer,...

2021 Coral bleaching at Lizard Island

More than 20 years ago, it was predicted that coral bleaching would become an annual event globally by 2050 and that it would happen even earlier on the Great Barrier Reef. That prediction shows every sign of being fulfilled. Corals bleached at Lizard Island in early...

A tale of two ichthyophiles: Simon & Chris’ story

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For Dr Simon Brandl and Dr Christopher Goatley, success and frustration came hand in hand. Joint recipients of the 2020 John and Laurine Proud Fellowship, neither could visit the Lizard Island Research Station to...

Testing new methods to study Crown-of-Thorns Starfish populations

Crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster cf. solaris, are natural inhabitants of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) are common coral eating starfish which grow up to 80 cm across, eat 10 square metres of coral a year and can produce up to 50...

Rise of the turfs: unlocking the secrets of our changing reefs

Following a COVID enforced delay, Dr Stephanie Gardner heads to LIRS in late March to spend two weeks, supported by two PhD candidate assistants, researching the characteristics of turf algae in the region.  Lizard Island represents the northerly most point of her...

Microplastics ingestion by larval fish

The impact of plastic in our oceans is a growing threat to the marine ecosystem and a new study conducted at LIRS is helping to understand the magnitude of the problem associated with microplastics – those plastics that are <5mm. The aim of the project is to...

Coral reef degradation: testing the resilience of fish communities

Coral reefs are in global decline through the combined effects of climate change and anthropogenic stressors.  This has resulted in a decrease in coral cover, shifts in coral composition and the spatial arrangement of coral habitats.  Such habitat degradation can have...

Reefside chat Q&A

With over 100 people logging into the reefside chat on December 9, there were too many questions to answer in the time available. Not to be undone by the tyranny of time, LIRS Director Anne Hoggett has provided written answers to many of the questions that did not get...

Reefside chat – listen now

On Wednesday, December 9, 2020, Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation had a virtual “reefside chat” with Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) Co-Directors Dr Anne Hoggett AM and Dr Lyle Vail AM, in conversation with Professor Kris Helgen, Chief Scientist and...

Reefside chat – 9 December 2020

  Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation Invites you to a Reefside Chat Date:  Wednesday, December 9, 2020 Starting:   5.30 PM – 6.15 PM (AEDT) NSW, VIC, TAS, ACT 4.30 PM – 5.15 PM (AEST) QLD Click here to register.   Please join us for a virtual “reefside...

LIRS plans to achieve 95% renewable electricity

Marine environments are under increasing threat from human activity with climate change widely recognized as the single greatest risk to coral-reef ecosystems. Globally, the rapid build-up of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is leading to...

Welcome Kris Helgen

The Lizard Island Research Station is part of the Australian Museum Research Institute. Professor Kris Helgen has been appointed Chief Scientist and Director of AMRI. Prior to this appointment he was Curator in Charge of Mammals at the Smithsonian.  He has great...

Recovery of coral growth rates after severe bleaching

Recovery of coral growth rates and reef carbonate budget after severe bleaching events at Lizard Island Corals are the building blocks of remarkably diverse ecosystems, housing thousands of reef fish and associated organisms, but are extremely sensitive to...

Nooks, crannies and critters

Drawing on field work conducted at the Lizard Island Research Station, a large team of ecologists and engineers has developed a relatively simple way to standardize how habitat complexity is measured. The research, recently published in Nature, Ecology and Evolution,...

Dr Anne Hoggett and Dr Lyle Vail join us by video from LIRS

Around this time of year, LIRS co-directors usually attend our Foundation’s Sydney and Melbourne dinners, updating our supporters on research undertaken at the Station. With LIRS closed to researchers since mid-March, Dr Anne Hoggett and Dr Lyle Vail join us by video,...

Finding baby Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

Newly settled crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris, aka CoTS) have rarely been studied in the field. This knowledge gap in our understanding of CoTS population and outbreak dynamics has been my research focus for the past several years. My interest...

2019 Lizard Island Research Station report

The Lizard Island Research Station’s 2019 Report is available here.  It includes 2019 in review by resident Directors Lyle Vail & Anne Hoggett; Visitors in 2019: details of the 106 visiting researchers and their projects;  Publications: Titles and citations for...

2020 coral bleaching at Lizard Island

In early 2020, the Great Barrier Reef suffered its third major coral bleaching event in five years due to heat stress.  At Lizard Island, bleaching first became noticeable in mid-February. February is normally “wet season”, with clouds and rain that keep the sea...

Early detection of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish outbreaks

Early detection of population outbreaks in Crown of Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster solaris cf, aka CoTS) is a necessary precursor to containment. Excellent progress has been made over the past few years, especially in the deployment of DNA technology.  The five research...

Impact of ocean acidification on fishes

Ph.D. student Kelly Hannan is undertaking research into the impact of ocean acidification on fishes under the supervision of Associate Professor Jodie Rummer (James Cook University). The fieldwork for her research has been supported by a Lizard Island Reef Research...

Microplastics and DEHP in coral reef fish

Marine life is detrimentally affected by human pollution; including by plastic waste and greenhouse gas emissions that cause ocean warming.  Thanks to a LIRRF Fellowship grant, I was recently able to undertake further research on these effects, yielding additional...

Baby brooding corals: diversity and thermal tolerance

My research at Lizard Island sought to answer two questions: Are all larval corals (a.k.a. planulae) created equal, or do they vary depending on parental condition, species, location and time of birth?  and Are corals born from parents that survived mass bleaching...

The changing song of the sea

For the last four years, I’ve been fortunate to carry out research on coral reef bioacoustics at Lizard Island. My most recent trip was funded by a LIRRF Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship,  awarded by the Australian Museum. Coral reefs are alive with sound; the crackle...

Mapping reef recovery at Lizard Island

Assoc. Prof Maria Dornelas (University of St Andrews, Scotland), Assoc. Prof Joshua Madin (University of Hawaii) and fellow collaborators have been making annual visits to LIRS since the early 2000s during which they monitored the changing ecology of coral reef...

Corals and goby fishes showing signs of recovery at Lizard Island

Corals and goby fishes are slowly recovering, less than 3 years after the devastating climatic events that occurred at Lizard Island. While this is great news for Lizard Island, more recovery time is needed. The last 5 years have been rough for the reef, with two...

Accelerating discovery of the peptides in cone-snail venoms

As a Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, Mark Phuong accompanied Australian Museum Mollusc expert, Francesco Criscione, on a field trip to the Lizard Island Research Station in August, 2014. During the course of 5 days, Mark collected 32...

School science trip to Lizard Island Research Station

During the July school holidays in 2019, a group of senior Wenona students (including me) spent a week at the Lizard Island Research Station to learn more about our changing marine environments, to experience field-work first hand, and to  learn from the scientists...

Panel eve with Prof Tim Flannery – Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Please join us for an evening of conversation with Professor Tim Flannery and marine scientists Professor Maria Byrne and Martin Hing. Tim is currently a Distinguished Visiting Fellow on climate change at the Australian Museum. Maria is Professor of Marine and...

Seaweeds are just as sensitive as corals to ocean warming

Alexia Graba-Landry is a PhD candidate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University 2017-2019. She was a LIRFF Lizard Island Doctoral Fellow in 2017. Ocean warming is one of the greatest threats to coral reefs. Increasing temperatures...

Students from Geelong College study reef ecology

Over the past two weeks marine scientists from the Coral Sea Foundation (Dr Andy Lewis, Dr Cristiana Damiano, Dr JP Hobbs and Ms Pauline Narvaez) have been guiding three groups of students from The Geelong College through a coral reef ecology field course at the...

The urgency of biodiversity discovery

Although the likely effects of projected climate change are being widely studied, we are just scratching the surface with regard of its long-term consequences. Among the many areas of concern, changes in temperature regimes are altering species ranges; variation in...

Interview with Darko Cotoras: LIRRF fellowship recipient

Darko Cotoras is the recipient of a 2019 Lizard Island Postdoctoral fellowship funded by the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation (LIRRF). He took some time to answer some questions about his work at the Lizard Island Research station and how the fellowship has...

Have cleaner fish become lazier, less capable, or both?

Zegni Triki spent three months in 2018 collecting data at Lizard Island Research Station for her PhD. Her work was supported by a 2018 Lizard Island Doctoral Fellowship. One part of Zegni's research examined changes in the brain complexity of cleanerfish, specifically...

Global assessment report on biodiversity & ecosystem services

The UN Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services ( IPBES ) is completing its Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.  Compiled by 145 expert authors from over 50 countries with inputs from another 310...

Coral protects fishes and fishes protect coral

If you have spent any time exploring healthy coral reefs, you will have seen clouds of small fish hovering above and then darting into branching corals as you swim past. The fish clearly benefit from the protection offered by the coral branches, retreating to cover...

2018 publications based on field work at Lizard Island

Scientific publications based on field work at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station show the quality and scope of its science.   The Station’s 2018 Report lists 107 such publications from that year – all written or closely supervised by eminent...

Lizard Island Research Station Report 2018

The Lizard Island Research Station 2018 Report is available here (PDF 4.9 MB). The Report is set out under the following headings, showing donors how their funds are being put to good use: Welcome: Messages from Australian Museum Director & CEO Kim McKay and...

Coral recruitment dynamics: a unique data set

This is a story of a unique data set quantifying the relationship between the loss of adult corals and new coral recruitment. It is reported in Terry P Hughes et al Global warming impairs stock-recruitment dynamics of corals. Recruitment occurs when tiny coral larvae...

New damselfish at Lizard Island?

Do you recognise this fish? If so, tell Dr Anne Hoggett, director at the Lizard Island Research Station. Anne knows it is a species of damselfish.  But which one?    Anne is a director of the Lizard Island Research Station. She took this photo in November 2016...

Learning from the cleaners and their clients

On coral reefs, tiny cleaner fish and shrimps remove parasites from large fish “clients”. The cleaners obtain nourishment by eating the parasites.  Although some clients are fearsome predators, the cleaners are rarely prey.   Scientific studies of this remarkable...

Great Barrier Reef – The Book

  This book describes the animals, plants and other organisms of the reef, and the biological, chemical and physical processes that influence them. It also has chapters on shelf slopes, fisheries, climate change, coral bleaching, ocean acidification, coral...

Reef fish recruitment and microplastics

My colleagues and I are researching how plastic consumption may affect the transition (recruitment) that fish make from an open water (pelagic) existence to settlement in a coral reef community. Microplastics have been found in the digestive tracts of juvenile coral...

Lace corals at Lizard Island

[Dr Daniela Pica is a marine scientist based at Università Politecnica delle Marche in Ancona Italy. Her research is expanding scientific knowledge of shallow water lace corals, most recently in Indian and Pacific Ocean locations. This is her report of recent field...

Horror, wonder and science of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

The Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS) invoke horror and wonder.  They also spur important science. Horror and wonder  CoTS (Acanthaster) are indigenous to the Great Barrier Reef.  They eat coral. In “normal” periods there are relatively few adult CoTS to be found and...

Larval cloning of the Crown of Thorns Starfish

Recently-published research shows larval Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS) clone themselves.  A larval CoTS can split, resulting in TWO larval CoTS, each having the capacity to become a fully fertile adult.  It takes less than a second. One moment there is a single...

My visit to Lizard Island Research Station 

On the 11th of September my family and I arrived on Lizard Island. To get to the Island we flew on a tiny plane which could only fit 12 people on board. You could also see the captain flying it! The first lizard We arrived at Lizard Island on one side of the island....

Stones tell ancient human story of Lizard Island

Updated in June 2019 People visited and stayed on the island for thousands of years before Captain James Cook passed by in 1770 and called it ‘Lizard’.  Dingaal Aboriginal traditional owners know it as Jiigurru (‘stingray’).  They were there long before Egyptian,...

Deep seagrass, blue carbon & climate change

Deep-water seagrass is sequestering carbon, mitigating climate change. Photosynthetic marine plants (especially seagrasses, tidal marshes and mangroves) “eat” carbon dioxide and release the oxygen component. Their residual biomass becomes part of the sea floor...

Reef recovery in 2018

In 2018 the corals spawned; juvenile corals that settled back after mass bleaching of 2016 and 2017 continued to grow; and many more appeared.  Fish populations increased. The resident Lizard Island Research Station Directors Dr Anne Hoggett & Dr Lyle Vail were...

Coral goby social structures – pairs v groups

Research on coral goby species at Lizard Island shows the social structure of those that live as pairs is more resilient to habitat degradation caused by successive cyclones, as compared to those that live in groups of 3 or more.  See Martin L Hing et al Repeated...

Microplastics and other marine microdebris

  Dr Frederieke Kroon and her colleagues from AIMS have published the first study confirming the presence of marine microdebris, including microplastics, in wild-caught fish on the Great Barrier Reef. They found microdebris items in the gastro-intestinal tracts...

Reef soundscapes & larval fish

The health of a coral reef is measured by the life and diversity of the entire reef ecosystem, not just by the health and abundance of corals.  When coral populations are significantly reduced, there is a reduction in populations of other reef animals. Many marine...

Crown-of-Thorns Starfish & eDNA

Field trials confirm that the presence and concentration of Crown of Thorns Starfish (CoTS) on any coral reef can be determined from environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from a small sample of local seawater.  This is a very promising advance. Until now the only way to...

Reef research: the brain and other benefits

Why does the Queensland Brain Institute do field research on coral reefs at Lizard Island? It’s because marine animals provide rich insight into the evolution and biological functions of brains (all life evolved from the sea); coral reefs host 25% of all marine...

Our best-ever $216.35 donation

We recently received a donation of $216.35 from five friends in Northbridge Public School Class 2B:  Alice Berkelouw, Tia McIntosh, Beatrice O’Brian, Abbie Harris and Heidi Heap, aged 7 & 8. Tia’s mother told us how it came about. At school the girls had been...

Sailing with the Lizard Island Field Guide

Barbara Banks and her husband Paul are sailors and frequent visitors to Lizard Island aboard their yacht, Aquasafari.  Barbara is also a keen photographer and has contributed over 1,080 of the 28,250+ records in the Lizard Island Field Guide (LIFG). Barbara & Paul...

Ichthyology, eDNA and barcoding

Joseph DiBattista is a Research Fellow in the TrEnD Lab at Curtin University. Via a joint appointment, he is also Curator of the Ichthyology Collection at the Australian Museum (AM) and an AMRI researcher, based in Sydney. The AM’s Collection holds about 1.8 million...

30,000+ years of reef survival

Recently-published research confirms the Great Barrier Reef has been resilient to major changes in climate, sea level and water quality on a 30,000 year timescale. Jody Webster is a marine geoscientist. He participated in our Can We Save the Reef? symposium at the...

“Other minds” and the origin of us all

In his book  Other Minds – the octopus and the evolution of intelligent life  Peter Godfrey-Smith  goes back 600 million years to find the common ancestor of octopuses and humans. It was probably a simple worm-like creature, living at a time when no organisms had made...

 LIRRF’s 40th Anniversary

2018 is our 40th year of supporting science at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station and elsewhere on the Great Barrier Reef. Our achievements belong to everyone involved: the talented and dedicated research scientists; the institutions who employ...

Research on a lesser Reef

How important is continuing research on the Great Barrier Reef, now that (a) the coral population has been diminished and needs decades without further bleaching or cyclone damage to fully recover; (b) climate science says it is unlikely to have this recovery period...

Can we save the Reef?

Bleaching events killed many reef-building corals in the late summers of 2016 and 2017 .  Given enough time (i.e. a decade or two without further bleaching), these corals will re-establish. Millions of tiny new corals have already appeared during the cooler months,...

2017 highlights

2017 - a year of further bleaching and hope for recovery   January 2017:  Greg Torda’s proposed research on ability of corals to adapt or acclimatise to higher sea temperatures was outlined in Coral recovery - basis for hope. Daniela Ceccareli and Zoe Richards...

Closing COTS knowledge gaps

Professor Morgan Pratchett is a leading researcher on the Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS).  In our 2014 LIRRF donor update he outlined knowledge gaps relating to COTS.  That year we received a $500,000 Commemorative Grant from The Ian Potter Foundation for research to...

2017 Publications

Publication is vital in science. It invokes the quality assurance of peer review and shares the research with everyone. Projects at Lizard Island are rarely ready for publication when the scientists leave the island.  There is always more work to be done back in their...

Marine research helps human vision

A device inspired by Lizard Island research identifies susceptibility to age-related macular degeneration. It prompts actions to reduce the chance of blindness later in life. Dr Shelby Temple was awarded a 2012 Yulgilbar Fellowship to study polarised vision. His work...

Stylasterid corals

Stylasteridae (“lace corals”) are a family of hydroids, closely related to stony corals in the phylum Cnidaria.  They and one other hydroid family, Milleporidae (“fire corals” ) have a hard, calcareous skeleton.  Globally, some 330 stylasterid species have been...

In praise of taxonomy

In biology, taxonomy is the science of describing, identifying, naming and classifying organisms. Without taxonomy, scientific communication about the living world would be almost meaningless, because there are millions of species and no other practical way of...

Climate links

[ Updated 18 May 2019 ] Marine scientists at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station do not study climate directly. However, they respect and accept the work of others who specialise in climate studies. The Museum's Climate Change page provides...

Zoli’s gifts of sight

Sight is important in countless ways, including for science and for appreciating why life on the Great Barrier Reef is so worthy of our support and conservation. Zoltan Florian (Zoli) was Director of the light microscope unit at James Cook University from the 1970s to...

Coral time capsules

Corals are careful historians. Day in and day out, as they build their skeletons larger and larger, they diligently record the water temperature, their own growth rates, and whether they are healthy or stressed.  These coral history books are being accessed to explore...

2017 AMRI Medal 

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of research & innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science.  The winners are announced at an annual black tie dinner.  This year it was held in August at the Sydney Town Hall. The...

John Gough Cyclone Shelter

Construction work on a cyclone shelter at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station is nearing completion.  It has been largely funded by a grant from the The Ian Potter Foundation, and will be called the John Gough Cyclone Shelter. The late John Gough AO...

Top predators help juvenile fish

Top predators affect mid-level predators (mesopredators), which in turn affect prey fish lower down the chain. This is a trophic (food) cascade.  When the three levels are in ideal balance, the presence of top predators is highly beneficial to the survival and...

Habitat degradation – which fish will be most affected?

Professor Mark McCormick runs the Coral Reef Ecology Laboratory at JCU.  He and his students often use the facilities of the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station for their field research. One of Mark’s major areas of interest is fish/habitat interactions...

Scientists & projects – 2017 YTD

This post lists some of the scientists and research projects utilizing the facilities of the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station this year.  A complete list will be published as part of the Station’s full 2017 Report. The results from most of these...

Coral growth after bleaching

Death is the end of growth. But not all corals die when a reef is subject to bleaching conditions. This story is about survivors and a scientist - Kristin Anderson King PhD.   Kristen's research focuses on three important species of branching coral - Acropora...

Coral recovery – the time perspective

When thinking about coral loss and recovery, it helps to have a sense of time and a sense of urgency. Time began about 13.5 billion years ago.  The first organisms were formed in the sea around 3.8 billions years ago. Corals have existed for over 500 million years,...

Counting survivors

Scientists  conducted detailed surveys of fish and coral around Lizard Island in 2011, 2015 and 2017. By counting surviving species, they quantify the impact of the major detrimental events that occurred in this period.  Such detailed multi-year site-specific...

Lots to see and study at Lizard Island

There is lots to see and study at Lizard Island, despite loss of coral as a result of the 2016 bleaching. The images in this post were captured in Nov-Dec 2016 and Jan 2017.  Further bleaching occurred in March 2017, but if you were to visit today you would still find...

2016 projects and scientists

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...

2,062 science publications

The Lizard Island Research Station currently holds 2,062 scientific publications in its Shuetrim Library. Each year over 100 new publications are added to this collection. All are based on field research conducted at the Station.  See Publications & Projects for...

Archaeological baseline for sustainable fishing

I am a PhD candidate in Archaeology at JCU.  I have recently completed a 4.5 month internship at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station that enabled me to gain valuable professional development skills as well as conduct research for my PhD project....

Coral recovery – basis for hope

Dr Greg Torda has been awarded LIRRF's John & Laurine Proud Fellowship to study population genomics of coral recovery at Lizard Island following the 2016 bleaching events. He is interested in understanding how quickly corals adapt (genetically) or acclimatise...

Lizard Island corals

The Lizard Island Field Guide lists over 150 of the 600 species of coral found in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. To view them, begin at Corals and Similar Animals and click on the photos until you come to the end of each thread.  It is the next best thing to...

Research vessels at Lizard Island

Donations to the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation (LIRRF) go to support field research projects and facilities at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station. The facilities include fifteen boats that are in constant use by visiting scientists from...

Investigating climate change at the Great Barrier Reef

2011 marked the year that New Zealand national Dr. Bridie Allan moved to Australia to begin her PhD in Marine Biology at James Cook University under the supervision of Prof. Mark McCormick and Prof. Phillip Munday. After graduating in March, Bridie's currently...

Behavioural interactions in the fish food-web

Colombian born Maria Del Mar Palacios moved to Australia in 2013 to begin her PhD at JCU under the supervision of Professor Mark McCormick. Having finished all her field-work on 'Mesopredator behaviour' at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station, she is...

Reef fish assemblages with Laura Richardson

ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University student Laura Richardson is conducting her PhD project at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station under the supervision of Andrew Hoey, Nick Graham and Morgan Pratchett, studying...

Evolution of sociality in coral reefs

Martin Hing a PhD student from the University of Wollongong, originally focused on the 'Evolution of sociality in coral reef associated fishes' however this rapidly changed as two cyclones and the coral bleaching epidemic severely impacted his research. Due to these...

Lizard Island Research Station founder honoured

The Australian Museum Research Institute recognised Professor Frank Talbot’s achievements in the natural sciences by presenting him with the 2016 AMRI Lifetime Achievement Award. This annual award is presented to a person who has dedicated a large part of their life...

Celebrating NAIDOC 2016 at Lizard Island

NAIDOC week is a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements and is an opportunity to recognise the contributions that Indigenous Australians make to our country and our society. The Dingaal Aboriginal people are the...

Measuring fish-coral interaction

Tory Chase  is a PhD student at JCU /CoralCoE. In 2015 he spent 4 months as an Intern at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station. He was endeavouring to quantify the prevalence and intensity of coral-fish interactions, specifically between aggregating...

The heart of the natural world is sound

An update on Jamie McWilliam / Can we hear the reef dying?  Continuing his research at the Lizard Island Research Station, he has been  studying the pulse of a coral reef ecosystems in a changing climate, using underwater microphones (hydrophones) . Jamie’s goal is to...

Science-based policy for Australia’s coral

The Australian Coral Reef Society has released a paper (PDF, 750KB) identifying 8 key stressors affecting coral reefs and suggesting policy goals: 1.  Climate change is the greatest and most pressing challenge. It affects coral reefs through warming sea surface...

2015 Lizard Island Research Station Report

The Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station has published its 2015 Report.  The cover shows a magnificent black feather star Colobometra perspinosa with a beautiful sea fan (species not identified) in the background. Despite the disruption by Cyclone Nathan...

Visual nudibranch signals

Nudibranchs are slug-like marine animals.  Many nudibranch species use extraordinary colours and patterns to warn predators they are toxic. Research by scientist Naomi Green at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station is expanding our understanding...

Fish perception, memory and learning

Field research by Dr Ulrike (Uli) Siebeck and her team at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station is busting the myth that fish have a short span of memory and lack ability to learn. Reef fish live in a dynamic, colourful environment. Like other...

David Attenborough’s Reef & VR Dive

The Great Barrier Reef Virtual Reality Dive The Australian Museum is hosting a Virtual Reality Dive experience, created by Alchemy VR in conjunction with David Attenborough.  Wearing the latest VR headsets, participants are able to turn and see in every direction, as...

Death by bleaching

Sea temperatures around Lizard Island and elsewhere in the northern sector of the Great Barrier Reef were one or two degrees above normal for several weeks in March 2016, but started to cool off in April.   See BOM Anomaly Forecast. Coral tolerates short-term...

Losing Nemo

This photo essay was created by Professor Justin Marshall,  Chief Investigator and Project Leader at CoralWatch. It provides a few graphic glimpses of how coral bleaching is affecting reef ecology. Nemo is an Eastern Clown Anemonefish Amphiprion percula. This is his...

Epaulette sharks & climate change

Recent research shows at least one small shark species will be able to cope with the level of ocean acidification predicted for the end of this century. Dr. Jodie Rummer from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoralCoE) at James Cook University (JCU)...

How baby Crown-of-Thorns Starfish survive

I have been researching mechanisms employed by Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish Acanthaster planci (COTS) during their early life stages to reduce their chances of being eaten by predators, and predation rates during these stages.   COTS is one of the most destructive...

Life stages of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

(updated 8 May 2020) The life of a Crown of-Thorns Starfish Acanthaster cf. solaris (CoTS) progresses through five main stages: 1. Egg > blastula > gastrula A single large female CoTS can produce 100 million eggs over a spawning season.  This occurs during the...

Schooling influences metabolism and behaviour on coral reefs

The Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station has been a wonderful place for research and learning during my time as a PhD student with James Cook University.   Over the last three years, I have been working at LIRS studying the behaviour of two species...

Baby fish – the vital larval phase

  Marine fish begin as eggs, hatch as larvae and go through further phases to adulthood. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae are entirely on their own, with no parental care or training. Knowledge of the larval phase for each species is vital to our understanding of...

Curious cuttlefish

Cuttlefish are found throughout the world's oceans. The most common around Lizard Island are Broadclub Cuttlefish Sepia latimanus. These cephalopods are one of the most intelligent invertebrates, grasping new concepts quickly, especially when adapting to external...

2016 Resort-stay prize

Lizard Island has only three small areas of human habitation - the Lizard Island Research Station, operated by the Australian Museum, the environmentally friendly Lizard Island Resort, operated by Delaware North and a small campground operated by Queensland National...

Resuscitation for the Reef

This installation art by Janet Laurence is called Deep Breathing - Resuscitation for the Reef.  It reflects on marine life threatened by global warming.  Presenting life being resuscitated in a science lab, it suggests the action required, and its urgency.  ...

Australia, blue carbon and COP21

COP21 underscores the importance of marine science in containing climate change and conserving life as we know it. The Paris Agreement (PDF) aims to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5° above pre-industrial levels by balancing anthropogenic...

Fish feeding on larval Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

Zara-Louise Cowan is currently completing her PhD at James Cook University. She is researching the early life stages of the reef's most destructive creature, the Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS). Specifically she is looking into predators of larval COTS and under what...

Familiarity, climate change and schooling

Lauren Nadler is a PhD student at James Cook University, researching schooling behaviour in coral reef fish at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station. A school is a social group of fish that exhibits coordinated swimming behaviour and a polarized...

Coralline algae: reef builders

Dr. Emma Kennedy is a postdoctoral researcher at Griffith University in Brisbane, and is currently leading a field team investigating coralline algae at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station. Coralline algae are a hard, red algae, commonly found on...

Can We Hear the Reef Dying?

Jamie McWilliam is a PhD Student at Curtin University. He is researching reef soundscapes at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station. Using underwater microphones, called hydrophones, his focus is not on what marine creatures can see but rather what...

The Oddity Effect – Helping or Hindering Shoaling Fish?

Dom Roche is a postdoc at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland and was the 2012 Ian Potter Doctoral Fellow. He and his wife, previous feature scientist Sandra Binning, have been conducting field work at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station for...

Crown-of-Thorns Starfish have many eyes but what do they see?

Ronald Petie is currently focusing his work on the Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS). Most research done on the COTS has been ecological, covering things like their location and abundance. However, Ronald’s background is actually in physiology, and so his research is...

Fish with learning difficulties – are parasites the cause?

Sandra Binning is a Post-Doctoral researcher from the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland and both she and her husband Dom Roche have spent time at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station. Sandra is part of a team studying the behaviour of fish,...

Damselfish promote coral health

Tory Chase is a PhD student at James Cook University. He is originally from New Hampshire and completed his undergraduate studies in North Carolina. He is currently 8 months into his PhD project, as well as interning at the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research...

Fear tactics in fish

How can small reef predators be stopped from hunting baby fish?  With FEAR!  Fear of predation triggered by the presence of a larger predator can stop smaller predators from foraging on baby fish. This post was contributed by Maria Palacios, recipient of the 2015 Ian...

Cyclones and Fish Foraging Habits

Dr Andrew Hoey is investigating the impact of cyclonic disturbances on the foraging habits of herbivorous fish species around the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station. Following severe cyclones, dead coral skeletons are rapidly covered by seaweed. High...

Forams, Carbonate Sand and Reef Ecosystems

Forams (foraminifera) are single celled organisms that live in oceans worldwide. They produce calcium carbonate skeletons which form part of the sandy sediment on the sea floor and have an important ecosystem role.  Calcium carbonate sediments in the reef lagoon help...

Vinegar – controlling Crown-of-Thorns Starfish at half the cost

COTS is a global issue Massive population outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp. referred to as COTS) destroy reef after reef as they spread.  The current outbreak on the Great Barrier Reef is the fourth recorded since the 1960’s. ...

Glorious worms: 91 new polychaete species

Polychaetes are an important component of marine ecosystems around the world.  More than 10,000 species have been described.  Some are breathtakingly beautiful in form and colour, while others are rather plain.  Polychaete is Greek for “many bristles”.  They are also...

Where will a Lizard Island Fellowship take you?

2016 Lizard Island Fellowship applications are now open! Open to applicants all over the globe, including outstanding PhD students and early career post-doctoral researchers, Lizard Island Fellowships offer world-class facilities to conduct research that leads to...

Fish collaboration – deciding when and with what

  Fish collaborate with other species and make rational choices about when and with whom to do so. This amazing behaviour was demonstrated in an experiment at the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station by Alex Vail, Andrea Manica and Redouan Bshary....

A web dashboard for LIOS

  Solar powered sensors and a video camera are deployed in the Lizard Island lagoon to monitor key air and water parameters.  Real-time data is available on a dedicated touch screen at the Research Station.  The system is called LIOS - the Lizard Island Observing...

Community outreach and cleaning up the Reef

In February, the Lizard Island Research Station was part of a project that provides disenfranchised youth with an opportunity to make a difference on the Great Barrier Reef. As part of a combined community outreach and eco-tourism venture, Team Wild Yachting (a...

Lizard Island and the year that was 2014

Life and science at the Lizard Island Research Station in 2014. Every April, the Australian Museum's Lizard Island Research Station publishes a report on the previous year’s research and scientific publications. Even though 2014 was a year of massive disruption caused...

Citizen Science and the Purple Flying Gurnard

Science teacher Edward Sze-Tu visited the Lizard Island Research Station with a group of school students, where he made an exciting discovery.  This is his story: We were learning about classifications.  I thought it would be a great opportunity for the students to...

Hiding in plain sight: The Dusky Dottyback

  The dusky dottyback Pseudochromis fuscus changes colour to mimic its damselfish prey. This deception and camouflage is called phenotypic plasticity. It is typically executed as an almost-perfect mimicry of several model fish species rather than a perfect...

Cleaning up after Cyclone Nathan

For the second time in less than a year, the Lizard Island Research Station has been in the path of a cyclone that required everyone to evacuate to Cairns.  See Cyclone Nathan Part 1 and Part 2, and Cyclone Ita (April 2014).   The good news:  Once again there was no...

Cyclone Nathan: Part 2

By: Steve Doo (PhD student University of Sydney), Cassy Thompson (LIRS staff) The second in a blog series about our Lizard Island Research Station's recovery from 2015’s Cyclone Nathan.   Day 4 of the evacuation: we are writing this update from our hotel in...

Cyclone Nathan: Part 1

By: Steve Doo (PhD student University of Sydney) Cassy Thompson (LIRS staff) Paloma Matis (PhD student University of Technology Sydney) A blog series about our Lizard Island Research Station's recovery from 2015’s Cyclone Nathan. Lizard Island Blog – 19 March 2015...

Life on the Reef

The ABC’s Life On The Reef series depicted the vast scale, beauty and importance of the Great Barrier Reef, showing many fascinating aspects that tourists seldom see or hear about. You can buy the DVD. Each episode runs for almost an hour.  If you don't have that much...

Athletes of the Great Barrier Reef

Increased greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere is causing more carbon dioxide (CO2) to be absorbed by the oceans, producing ocean acidification.  Increased CO2  would normally be expected to reduce aerobic performance of fish.  Somewhat surprisingly, research...

Abbot Point update

Our August 2014 post on Abbot Point reported on the proposal to dump dredging spoils in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.  This is an update.   Adani holds a 99-year lease of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal.  These Greenpeace maps (#1 & #2) indicate...

2015 research on the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish at Lizard Island

The crown-of-thorns starfish Acanthaster planci (COTS) is a native Australian species.  It eats coral.  Periodically its population increases to plague proportions, killing off large areas of coral that take decades to grow back.  We still have a lot to learn about...

Precambrian, Devonian, Triassic and Jurassic reefs

The study of ancient (paleo) reefs is a fertile source of information on historic changes in climate and water quality.  Scientists are concerned that current ocean conditions are more extreme than those experienced by marine ecosystems over past millions of years -...

Agricultural run-off: Lizard Island less exposed

Research by Dr. Frederieke Kroon and other scientists indicates that pesticides used in sugar farming is affecting barramundi caught in river systems which run through those farming areas, and coral trout caught hundreds of kilometres from the river mouths. (Kroon et...

Coral diversity 10 months after Cyclone Ita

Reefs on the northern and eastern exposures received the full brunt of the cyclone-induced waves, so our objective was to document the status of reef communities in those areas and compare the results to identical surveys undertaken in 2011.  See also fish diversity....

Fish diversity 10 months after Cyclone Ita

As on land, the damage to the coral reefs was very patchy; some places were stripped bare while some others have remained largely intact.  At each site, we surveyed two depths (8-10m and 3-5m); recording the entire fish and coral community, including species,...

Seeing the sea-level rise

Digital mapping, visualization and wave-modelling technology is helping scientists predict the effect of rising sea levels at Lizard Island and other coral reef locations.   Scientists commenced work on the Australian Sea-Level Rise Project at Lizard Island in...

Paleo reefs – the last 126,000 years

Marine geologists are investigating the effects of changing sea levels and sea surface temperatures on reef development, with some surprising results.  This graph shows the eustatic (global) sea level for the last 360,000 years.  1kya = 1,000 years ago.   Around...

Mantis shrimp inspire medical imaging sensors

Mantis Shrimps pack the fastest punch on earth and see a color spectrum beyond our imagination. Their compound eyes have inspired the development of sensors with biomedical applications, including early diagnosis of cancerous tissue - see Bioinspired Polarization...

Crown-of-Thorns knowledge gaps

Even though the crown of thorns starfish (COTS) has been the subject of many scientific studies, we still have huge knowledge gaps. Professor Morgan Pratchett* highlights things we know about COTS and areas where more research is urgently required. We know COTS have...

Abbot Point

Dredging spoils from the expansion of the Abbot Point coal loading port will be dumped  in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, 20km from significant sea grass beds and 40km from mid-shelf coral reefs.**  The requisite permits were issued following a period of...

Why Lizard Island is a great base for field research

The Lizard Island Research Station is widely regarded as the premier location for field research on the Great Barrier Reef.  It's 'alumni' list is superb.  It continues to attract many of the best and brightest marine scientists from all over the world - because It is...

Seagrass & blue carbon

Coral reefs comprise only 7% of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.  The rest is an extraordinary variety of marine habitats, including algal and sponge gardens, mangroves, tidal marshes, sand… and seagrass.  Fifteen species of seagrass are found in the...

Wildlife genomics help save the reef from Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

The Australian Centre for Wildlife Genomics at the Australian Museum has developed DNA collection and extraction protocols that assist vital research on the Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) - Acanthaster planci. The Centre has particular know-how and experience in...

Become a LIRRF leader

We are seeking volunteers to help refine and develop this blog site and our social media channels. If you are a user of social media and interested in helping achieve our objectives, please contact us. We have three objectives: Communicate the science -  why the Great...

Meet some mighty coral polyps

These little animals are only a millimetre or so in diameter, but together with countless of their close relatives they make a mighty contribution to our world.  Coral polyps build reefs, including Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. And reef are very important. Although...

The amazing Lizard Island Field Guide

Wherever you dive or snorkel near Lizard Island you encounter wonderful fish.  This one is a bicolour parrotfish (cetoscarus bicolor), but how could you know? How could you know that as a juvenile this same species would have an entirely different colouring and that...

Help us contain Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

The Crown of Thorns Starfish (COTS) is eating our coral The Great Barrier Reef has lost half its coral since systematic monitoring commenced in 1985. The three major causes are storm damage (48%), COTS (48%) and bleaching (10%).  We can’t stop the storms or the...