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Coral IVF spearheads Australian innovation to world's business leaders


Sharlene King
19 April 2021
Scuba divers swimming in coral reef, with front diver holding a camera
Professor Peter Harrison inspecting four-year-old corals at Heron Island lagoon in December 2020.

Pioneer of the Coral IVF technique, Professor Peter Harrison of Southern Cross University, features in a new video series showcasing Australian innovation to the world.

Called Australia Innovates and produced by Tourism Australia, the video series demonstrates our homegrown expertise to position Australia as a leading business events destination to markets in Europe and North America.

Professor Peter Harrison’s pioneering coral reef restoration program, known as Coral IVF, is a critical step in protecting Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and has the potential to regenerate reefs around the world.

PROFESSOR PETER HARRISON: Australians are incredibly lucky because we have spectacular seascapes that are found nowhere else on the planet. The Coral IVF process is designed to use the natural processes of coral spawning to regenerate the reef system so that we have healthy thriving reef communities not only for the Great Barrier Reef but for other reefs around the world.

Australia Innovates series is a wonderful opportunity to showcase coral larval restoration to new audiences and I’m honoured to be included as one of the key innovators selected,” Professor Harrison said.

“The Coral IVF process is designed to use the natural processes of coral spawning to regenerate the reef system so that we have healthy thriving reef communities not only for the Great Barrier Reef but for other reefs around the world.”

Watch the Tourism Australia video in full to learn more about Professor Harrison’s work. 

The documentary-style series showcases six Australians pursuing world first research, discovery, invention, innovation and intervention across several knowledge sectors including artificial intelligence, health, nanotechnology, environmental restoration and advanced manufacturing.

Business Events Australia, Tourism Australia’s specialist business events unit, commissioned the production as part of BEA’s broader international content strategy focused on maintaining engagement with its target customers throughout the pause to global travel.

“Our Australia Innovates videos series highlights Australia’s expertise across a wide range of fields, positioning us as a world-leading association meetings destination where delegates can experience innovation firsthand,” said Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison.

Originally developed as a print magazine format, the Australia Innovates video series is available on the Business Events Australia website and will be promoted to association customers in North America, United Kingdom and Europe through targeted marketing activity across business events publications and social media.

First Coral IVF babies on the Great Barrier Reef thriving
Professor Peter Harrison returned to Heron Island in December 2020 to check on the progress of the coral babies his team settled in 2016 and to conduct further Coral IVF trials in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Learn more:

PROFESSOR PETER HARRISON: This coral larval restoration project at Heron island and One Tree Island is a very large and complex undertaking. What we're doing during this program is combining the expertise of my team from Southern Cross University, colleagues from CSIRO and from Queensland University of Technology and together we're exploring ways to make the operations of the Coral IVF program more efficient so that within the next few years we can get to much larger scales.

DR DEXTER DELA CRUZ: Working on the Great Barrier Reef is like a dream for every marine biologist especially those working with corals so I'm so happy about that.

LUKA MEYERS: Every trip that I do where I'm culturing larvae I learn something better about how to culture them differently or how to make this process better, more efficient.

PROFESSOR PETER HARRISON: What we've done during the past week is capture some spawn from the major coral spawning events here at Heron Island and One Tree Island. We've lost so many large breeding corals that the natural production cycle of millions of larvae has started to diminish. The Coral Larval Restoration experiment shows that if you add larvae to those damaged reef areas you can kickstart the recovery of the coral community.

JORDAN IVEY: It helps restore the ecosystems around Australia, around the world, it also helps restore fish populations which a lot of indigenous communities rely on especially around the tropical regions and the South Sea Islander regions as well.

PROFESSOR PETER HARRISON: I hadn't seen the larval restoration sites for a couple of years so there was a great sense of anticipation when we went for the dive and I was thrilled to see so many healthy, new corals growing on the experimental sites where we placed larvae in 2016. That outcome re-energised me personally and professionally because it shows that the Larval Restoration process does work and now we need to take these results and scale it to much larger scales within the next few years so we can actively restore coral communities on damaged areas of the Great Barrier Reef so we can start to reverse the trend of declining corals.

Media contact: Sharlene King, media office at Southern Cross University, 0429 661 349 or [email protected]