Dr Steve Whalan

Dr Steve Whalan

B. Sc (Hons 1A), University of Western Australia, 2002
PhD, James Cook University, 2007

Research Fellow

Research Summary

Coral reefs exhibit remarkable diversity and complexity that persist under a dynamic flux of disturbance and recovery. The balance between disturbance events (natural and anthropogenic) and recovery is fragile, particularly when increasing levels of anthropogenic stress are considered. Understanding processes that define how populations are maintained over time and space are critical to efforts to manage and conserve populations and more broadly coral reef ecosystems. My research falls under the broad banner of determining key elements contributing to population maintenance, and on impacts that compromise population persistence for coral reef taxa. I have a specific focus on sessile invertebrates, due to their plasticity in reproductive strategies, which often translate to dynamic pictures of their population ecology.

Research Expertise

  • Coral reef ecology
  • Benthic ecology
  • Marine invertebrate larval ecology (dispersal, settlement and recruitment)
  • Invertebrate reproduction
  • Sessile invertebrate population connectivity
  • Biodiversity surveys and benthic habitat mapping
  • Sponge ecology
  • Sponge aquaculture


2012 recipient of the Great Barrier Reef Foundation's Bommies award.


  • Great Barrier Reef Foundation (2012). Coral reef restoration: optimising larval recruitment using novel artificial surfaces.
  • ARC Linkage LP0990664, (2009). Towards closing the life cycle of marine sponges: benefits for public aquarium display and coral reef conservation.
  • Marine and Tropical Sciences Research Facility (2009). Project 1.3.2 - Ecological role and potential economic value of sponges to the Torres Strait.


Organising Committee - IX International Sponge Symposium, Fremantle, 2013

Review Editor- Frontiers in Marine Ecosystem Ecology, 2013-

Editorial Board - Scientific Reports, 2015-


Link to Google Scholar Publications and Metrics: scholar.google.com.au/citations?user=qdgqbmEAAAAJ

Postgraduate student co-supervision

PhD - Current

  • Blake Ramsby. "Modelling the net growth of coral reefs under climate change: The neglected role of bioeroding sponges" - AIMS@JCU
  • Dexta de la Cruz. "Coral reef restoration using mass coral larval re-seeding".
  • Ajit Kumar Ngangbam. "Bacterial symbionts and the biosynthetic origin of tyrian purple in muricidae molluscs".

PhD - completed

  • Dr Hugh Macintosh "Competition and coexistence in tropical shipworms" - James Cook University, 2014. Currently at Museum Victoria.
  • Dr Heidi Luter "The effects of disease and stress on the microbial community of the sponge Ianthella basta" - 2011, James Cook University. Currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at NAMRA, Charles Darwin University.
  • Dr. Muhammad A. Abdul Wahab. "A holistic approach to understanding population dynamics of a Great Barrier Reef sponge" - James Cook University, 2014. Currently a Benthic Ecologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.
  • Dr Tine Carl "Surface-based technologies and the settlement of Mytilus galloprovincialis" - 2012, James Cook University. Currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at James Cook University.

Honours - completed

  • Muhammad A. Abdul Wahab "Reproduction and early life history processes of the tropical sponge Coscinoderma matthewsi" - 2010, James Cook University.