“What Peter and Reef Live are doing is showing how we can connect things.”

Lucas Handley

Southern Cross marine science graduate and Reef Live presenter with Professor Peter Harrison (left).

Southern Cross University and Reef Live

In late 2020, the Australian Broadcasting Commission livestreamed one of the most unusual events on the annual marine science calendar: the mass spawning of coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

Freediver, filmmaker and Southern Cross marine science graduate Lucas Handley was one of the presenters of the two-part program, taking viewers below the surface for a close-up look at this incredible natural phenomenon that happens over a few days every year.

He was joined by Southern Cross University’s Professor Peter Harrison, whose innovative technology dubbed Coral IVF is aimed at increasing the successful reproduction of new coral and restoring sections of the Great Barrier Reef that have been affected by mass bleaching events.

Southern Cross University has been active for many years in developing innovative solutions to combat coral bleaching, most recently as a partner in the Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program funded by the Federal Government.

Read some of the stories here:

Experience ‘underwater galaxies’ being born with Southern Cross marine graduate

Reef Live reporters Dean Miller, Madison Stewart and Lucas HandleyReef Live reporters Dean Miller, Madison Stewart, and Lucas Handley

Why are corals so important? (0:60)

Professor Peter Harrison: One of the great things about the recent Reef Live episodes on ABC were that it's going to bring home the message to the broader Australian community about just how fragile corals are and how important they are to the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

We know that as sea temperatures rise as a result of global warming the risks of losing more corals through mass bleaching events are also increasing.

We know that as sea temperatures rise as a result of global warming the risks of losing more corals through mass bleaching events are also increasing.

Front row seats for birth of new corals livestreamed from Reef

Man scuba diving at a coral reefProfessor Peter Harrison diving at Moore Reef, Great Barrier Reef (credit Juergen Freund).

Coral IVF Update (01:30)

Professor Peter Harrison: We're very excited by the outcomes of the experiment so far. We had some brilliant coral spawning right on cue on the fifth night after the full moon.

During this event hundreds of different corals from different species were all spawning together releasing their eggs and sperm bundle and that flowed like an underwater snowstorm up to the sea surface where the bundles all break apart and fertilization occurs. And the spawn was so intense that it coated the sea surface with a coral spawn slick.

We were able to capture some of that coral spawn slick and have distributed it into our larval nursery pools.

The larval pools are designed to retain the coral larvae on the reef system during their five-day development period and they have fine mesh in the base of them to allow the water to flow through to maintain them at good water quality in a healthy condition.

We have beautiful developing embryos turning into larvae and we have many millions of them ready for the experiment on the reef in a few days from now.

We'll be aggregating the larvae and then directing them down onto the reef system to settle in our experimental plots so that we can then see how quickly they grow into visible sized recruits and how quickly they grow in subsequent years through to reproductive size and start generating their own coral spawn and larvae to kick-start the recovery of the coral community on the northern Great Barrier Reef.

Whitsundays tourism industry onboard to deliver new life to damaged reefs

Boat in the ocean towing a coral larvae nursery poolThe Whitsundays tourism industry is onboard to deliver new life to damaged reefs using a citizen science version of the Coral IVF technique (Credit: Great Barrier Reef Foundation).

How science is delivering millions of healthy coral babies onto damaged reefs

Pool structure in the ocean containing coral spawnThe specially designed larval pool, designed by Professor Harrison, that captures the coral spawn (credit Juergen Freund). 

Scientists trial world-first ‘cloud brightening’ technique to protect corals

Cloud brightening equipmentCloud brightening equipment. Credit: Brendan Kelaher/Southern Cross University.

Southern Cross University joins world-leading RRAP program to boost reef resilience

RRAP program photoResearcher at Great Barrier Reef. Photo credit: Christopher Brunner and gbrrestoration.org.