Professor Steve Smith

Associate Professor Steve Smith


Research Interests

I am a marine benthic ecologist with primary interests in the amazing biodiversity that can be found in our marine and estuarine environments. Much of this diversity is under threat from a wide range of human impacts and I am dedicated to understanding these impacts with a view to fostering long-term sustainability. Because little is known about the distribution and dynamics of marine biodiversity in Australia, especially in subtidal environments, much of my research focuses on measuring and monitoring diversity and determining the main factors that cause it to change - this includes both natural and human-induced impacts. This is a very broad area of research and my specific interests lie in the following key areas:

  • Developing methods to measure and monitor biodiversity in a rigorous and cost-effective way;
  • Measuring natural variation in communities - it is only by measuring this that we can effectively detect changes caused by human activities;
  • Measuring and monitoring the effects of different types of human impact on marine communities;
  • Identifying biodiversity hotspots (areas of high diversity that are also under threat) and, in collaboration with management agencies, facilitating their sustainable management;
  • Investigating the reasons why some locations have higher diversity than others; and
  • Predicting future impacts based on an understanding of the dynamics of the target communities.

Much of my work focuses on the highly diverse communities associated with subtropical reefs on the east coast of Australia. However, I am also actively involved in research in the Antarctic, subantarctic and tropical SE Asia. Although I have and do work on fish as part of wider benthic assemblages, my main interest is in marine invertebrates and especially the molluscs. This latter group are not only highly diverse, occurring in most if not all marine habitats, but they are also an excellent model group for studies of biodiversity and human impact.

While I have always been an advocate of engaging with the broader community in my research endeavours, over the last decade I have focused strongly on developing citizen science programs to both develop community capacity and to deliver data to support marine management at a range of scales. This has included assessments of marine debris over a NSW statewide scale, as well as biodiversity assessments of charismatic groups of organisms at recognised biodiversity hotspots (e.g. the Sea Slug Census program). This work has been recognised as exemplary in the field of community engagement, earning 2 SCU Vice Chancellor's Awards in 2012/13.

Teaching and supervision

I was an inaugural member of the team that developed the current marine science and management awards at SCU and currently teach into 4 of the units in the program (Successful Sampling, Marine Communities as Sentinels of Change, Marine Pollution and Scientific Diver).Since commencing my academic career, I have supervised or co-supervised the following number of candidates to successful completion: 20 PhD, 9 Masters, 36 Honours. I currently supervise research projects for 4 PhD, 5 Masters and 2 Honours candidates.


A list of my publications is available through the following link: Google Scholar

Please contact me for copies of any of these publications: