Dr Steven Dalton

Dr Steven Dalton

BSc Marine Science & Management (1st Class Honours UNE)

Research Summary

Dr Steven Dalton's early career research focused on threats to subtropical marine communities, with particular emphasis on hard corals associated with reefs throughout northern New South Wales. This research identified an infectious disease that was termed Australian Subtropical White Syndrome (published in Marine and Freshwater Research). It provided a comprehensive assessment of the impact thermal stress and disease had on hard coral communities throughout the region. These observations established baseline data for comparison following a significant coral-bleaching event at Lord Howe Island (LHI) in 2010. A current collaborative project is assessing the resilience potential of hard corals to combat repeated thermal stress events. This ongoing research at LHI is the first project to document the impacts of successive thermal bleaching events and will provide important information regarding the ability of thermally vulnerable coral species to persist in a warmer climate, where bleaching episodes are predicted to occur annually by 2050.

Steve has extensive knowledge of marine habitats along the NSW coastline and is currently co-investigator of two cross-institutional research projects focusing on the impact of local and global threats on marginal reef coral communities. Steve is committed to understanding the implications of these threats to subtropical marine environments, which will help to develop management strategies and educational programs to ensure future reef stability and longevity. Steve's contribution to local projects, which engage community and government agency support, continue to build on the regions capacity to undertake marine research. Recent funding opportunities will enable a student to complete a masters degree by research, which will determine mechanisms of coral resilience to rising seawater temperature.



Funding agencies



Implementation of best-practice marine resource use for the northern NSW recreational diving industry


2011 - 13


Evaluate the capacity of Lord Howe Island corals to acclimate to rising ocean temperature


2010 - 13


Coral health assessments at LHI

Project AWARE



Determine the prevalence and mechanisms of disease transmission in the SIMP coral community


2004 - 07


Sapphire Coast Marine Inventory Project - Status of Knowledge of the Sapphire Coast Marine Environment

Envirofund - Eden Whale and Marine Discovery Centre




Underwater - belt transects Book chapters

Dalton, S. J., Harrison, M., Carroll, A. G., Smith, S. D. A., and Pereg, L. (2010). Spatial and temporal patterns of Australian subtropical white syndrome at eastern Australian reefs: host range, prevalence and progression of tissue necrosis. In Handbook of disease outbreaks: Prevention, Detection and Control (Ed. A. Holmgren & G. Borg) Pp. 187-210. Nova Science Publishers Inc, NY.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

Hammerton, Z., Dimmock, K., Hahn, C., Dalton, S. J. & Smith S. D. A. (2012). SCUBA diving, collaboration and marine conservation at two Australian subtropical destinations. Tourism in Marine Environment, Vol. 8 (1). DOI 10.3727/154427312X13262430524180.

Dalton, S.J. & Carroll, A. G. (2011). Monitoring coral health to determine bleaching response at high latitude eastern Australian reefs: An applied model for a changing climate. Diversity, 4, 592-610; DOI 10.3390/d3040592

Harrison, P. L., Dalton, S. J. and Carroll, A. G. (2011). Extensive coral bleaching on the world's southernmost coral reef at Lord Howe Island, Australia. Coral Reefs, Published online. DOI 10.1007/s00338-011-0778-7

Beger M., Babcock R., Booth D. J., Bucher D., Condie S. A., Creese B., Cvitanovic, C., Dalton S. J., et al. (2011). Research challenges to improve the management and conservation of subtropical reefs to tackle climate change threats. Ecological Management and Restoration,12 (1): e7-e10. DOI: 10.1111/j.14428903.2011.00573.x.

Dalton, S. J., Godwin, S., Smith, S. D. A. & Pereg, L. (2010). Australian subtropical white syndrome: a transmissible, temperature dependent coral disease. Marine and Freshwater Research 61:342-350.

Smith, S. D. A., Rule, M. J., Harrison, M., & Dalton, S. J. (2008). Monitoring the sea change: Preliminary assessment of the conservation value of nearshore reefs, and existing impacts, in a high-growth, coastal region of subtropical eastern Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 56, 525-534.

Dalton, S. J. & Godwin, S. (2006). Progressive coral tissue mortality following predation by a corallivorous nudibranch (Phestilla sp.). Coral Reefs 25: 529.

Dalton, S.J. & Smith, S. D. A. (2006) Coral disease dynamics at a subtropical location, Solitary Islands Marine Park, eastern Australia. Coral Reefs 25: 37-45.

Peer-reviewed technical reports

Dalton, S. J., Carroll, A. C., Hammerton, Z. & Hartley, S. (2011). Implementation of best practice marine resource use-recreational diving community. Report to the Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority. National Marine Science Centre, SCU, Coffs Harbour. Pp. 28

Dalton, S. J., Carroll, A. G., Harrison, P. L., Salih, A. & Diamond-Tissue, S. (2011). Distribution of Nearshore Reef Assemblages and Resilience of Lagoon Benthic Communities on Lord Howe Island: Impact of the 2010 Coral Bleaching Event. Report to the NRCMA. National Marine Science Centre, SCU, Coffs Harbour. Pp. 34

Smith, S. D. A., Dalton, S. J. & Purcell, S. W. (2010). Distribution of threatened and protected species in marine habitats of the northern rivers region of New South Wales. Report prepared for the NRCMA. NMSC, SCU, Coffs Harbour. Pp. 36

Purcell, S.W., Dalton, S.J. & Smith, S.D.A. (2010). Critical habitats of selected threatened marine species in northern NSW. Report to the NRCMA. NMSC, SCU, Coffs Harbour. Pp. 31

Smith, S. D. A, Dalton, S. J., Harrison, M. A., Bowling, T. & Purcell, S. W. (2010) A long-term program to monitor the health of nearshore reefs. Reports cards for 2009/10. Report to the NRCMA. Pp. 27

Dalton, S. J. & Smith, S. D. A. (2009). A review of underwater volunteer groups in NSW. Report to the NRCMA. NMSC, SCU, Coffs Harbour. Pp. 39

Smith, S. D. A, Dalton, S. J., Harrison, M. A. & Bowling, T. (2009). Long-term program to monitor the health of nearshore reefs: regional evaluation and site selection. Report to the NRCMA and the NSW DECCW. NMSC, Coffs Harbour. Pp. 24

Green, M., Dalton S. J., Harrison, A., Scott. A. & McIlgorm, A. (2007). National Marine Science Centre school activity program: field and laboratory activity resource book. National Marine Science Centre, Pp. 134 ISBN 9781921324017

Dalton, S. J. & Godwin, S. (2005). Preliminary evaluation of coral stressors (disease, bleaching and predation) at Lord Howe Island Marine Park. Report prepared for the Lord Howe Island Marine Park Authority. NMSC. Pp. 34

Smith, S. D. A., Edwards, R. A., Dalton, S. J. & Harrison, M. (2005). Biological assessment of fish and benthic communities at Palm Beach Bait Reef, Gold Coast, Queensland. Report prepared for The Centre for Coastal Management, Griffith University, Gold Coast. Pp. 25

Dalton, S. J. (2004). State of knowledge of the Sapphire Coast marine environment. Report prepared on behalf of the Sapphire Coast Whale and Marine Discovery Centre, Eden. Pp. 71

Conference presentations

Dalton, S.J. & Carroll, A. G. (2012) An applied high latitude eastern Australian coral bleaching model. 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Carroll, A. G., Dalton, S.J. & Harrison, P. L. (2012) Successive coral bleaching events on the world's southernmost coral reef. 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Salih, A., Geny, D., Francesco, C., Digman, M., Diamond, S., Carroll, A., Dalton, S., Larkum, A., Gratton, E., Gudge, S. & Kerr, I. (2012) Corals as solar modulators in ambient sunlight and following coral bleaching. 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Dalton S. J, & Carroll A. G. (2010). Patterns of coral bleaching response in subtropical eastern Australia: differential bleaching susceptibility and bleaching threshold. 85th Australian Coral Reef Society Conference, National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia.

Dalton, S. J., Godwin, S. & Pereg, L. (2007) Characteristics of the coral disease subtropical white syndrome: mode of
transmission and temperature effects. 82nd Australian Coral Reef Society Conference, Fremantle, Western Australia.

Dalton, S. J. (2007). Life on subtropical reefs, it could be contagious: it's more than a social disease. UNTAMED Conference, University of New England, Armidale, Australia.

Dalton, S. J. & Smith, S. .D. A. (2003). Coral disease within the Solitary Islands Marine Park (South West Solitary Island), NSW, Australia. Australian Marine Sciences Association, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.