Scuba divers in coral colony

Restoring the Reef, caring for our oceans

Working with industry, government and communities, our Reefs and Oceans research is helping to leverage the ecological, environmental, economic, and cultural value of our precious marine environments.

Our world-renowned reef restoration research has led to the development of innovative and proven solutions for the restoration and protection of coral populations.

Man smiling with beach in background

“Our reefs and oceans are undergoing momentous and accelerating change, which calls for a hands-on approach to marine conservation.”

Coral at Lizard Island

UN Sustainable Development Goal

Addressing #14 Life Below Water

ARWU Top 100 Oceanography

Top 100 universities for ocean studies and research

National Marine Science Centre (NMSC)

State-of-the-art marine laboratory and field facilities

Key research projects

Coral IVF

Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison has pioneered a solution to mitigate the impacts of climate change on coral reefs. Coral IVF – the use of naturally occurring coral spawning to restore damaged reef systems – has proven to be effective for restoring breeding corals on badly damaged reefs in the Philippines, and the challenge now is to scale this success to larger reef areas including the Great Barrier Reef.

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Collecting corals ready for spawning - COPYRIGHT Gary Cranitch

Humpback dolphin strand feeding

Researchers have for the first time documented the unique risky feeding behaviour known as ‘strand feeding’ in Australian dolphins. Southern Cross University researcher Dr Daniele Cagnazzi used drones to film a pod of humpback dolphins in the Fitzroy River – one of Queensland’s largest catchments – to document young and adult dolphins ‘stranding’ or ‘beaching’ themselves to catch their next meal.

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Humpback dolphin strand feeding

Sea Cucumber Manual

A Southern Cross University manual for postharvest processing of small-scale fishery products is available in eight languages. The Sea Cucumber Manual, produced by the Southern Cross University's Dr Steven Purcell and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community with the financial support of ACIAR, is designed for sea cucumber fishers in the Pacific islands. It provides best-practice processing methods that can be applied by fishers using resources in their own villages.

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Sea cucumber at Heron Island

Cloud brightening

Led by Southern Cross researcher Dr Daniel Harrison, marine cloud brightening is a world-first technique which sees microscopic sea water droplets sprayed into the air, creating a plume of salt crystals. This interacts with cloud to reflect solar energy away from the reef waters when heat stress is at its maximum. Researchers aim to apply this technology over the Great Barrier Reef to reduce the severity of coral bleaching during marine heat waves, cooling and shading the corals below.

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Seawater sprayer jets close up 15 Cloud Brightening

Shark surveillance

Southern Cross University has spearheaded a technology-based marine study that develops drones for shark surveillance in collaboration with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI). Their research is focused on improving the detectability of sharks and delivering the machine learning tool to lifeguards and other beach authorities.

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Drone flying over shark in the ocean. Credit Andrew Colefax

Researcher profiles

Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison

Peter Harrison

Distinguished Professor

For marine scientists such as Southern Cross University’s Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison, protecting the Great Barrier Reef is a mission to prevent a precious asset from becoming a precious memory. His commitment covers more than 40 years of research, teaching, initiative and influence in better understanding the Great Barrier Reef and other reef regions throughout the world.

Professor Kirsten Benkendorff in the research lab

Kirsten Benkendorff


Professor Benkendorff is a seafood sentinel marine scientist who has been announced as one of Australia’s newest Superstars of STEM, a program that tackles the gender inequity of visible diverse role models in the media. Kirsten's research investigates ways to safeguard the health of our oceans and the seafood we eat. In particular, ways to reduce the impacts of climate change and agricultural run-off to ensure shellfish health and high-quality seafood.

Dr Daniel Harrison

Daniel Harrison

Associate Professor

As the Great Barrier Reef continues to suffer in the era of climate change, could there be hope in the clouds? Dr Daniel Harrison’s cloud brightening technology offers innovative and promising potential for an environmental treasure. There was a time when Daniel had ambitions to be a career pilot, which seems in contrast to what he does now as an oceanographer, engineer, researcher and Senior Lecturer. However, given the projects he is involved in, the separation of sky and sea is not so marked.

Associate Professor Kai Schulz water sampling in Tasmania

Kai Schulz

Associate Professor

Incredible as it sounds, the controlled emptying of industrial waste into our oceans is gaining momentum as a means of mitigating climate change. The oceans already store vast amounts of carbon and Associate Professor Kai Schulz says that, with strict controls, the waste normally stockpiled on land may be harnessed to increase ocean-based carbon capture and storage. The keyword is impact, especially on precious and delicate marine ecosystems.

Emily Howells

Senior Researcher

Dr Emily Howells’ research is firmly placed at the nexus of global warming and the future of the world’s coral reefs. Based at the National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour, the marine biologist is investigating the capacity of reef-building corals to adapt to climate change. It is a crucial scientific mission, and the results are promising.

Marine biologist Professor Symon Dworjanyn

Symon Dworjanyn


The National Marine Science Centre at Coffs Harbour is truly a pool of potential in the field of aquaculture. In the mission to sustain the environment, support commercial practice and feed the world, marine biologist Professor Symon Dworjanyn is working closely with all stakeholders. It’s a vital challenge, and one that reflects his lifelong connection to the marine environment.