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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Alastair Harborne

Dr Alastair Harborne

Honorary University Fellow



I am a coral reef ecologist with wide ranging interests in fish and coral ecology, with the overarching aim of using ecological insights to aid biodiversity conservation. My key research interest concerns the processes affecting the abundance of reef fishes on reefs, but I am also interested in the landscape ecology of reefs and the design and effects of marine reserves. I am a member of the Environment and Evolution research group.

I am now an ARC DECRA Fellow working at the University of Queensland. For more information please visit my Queensland staff profile.


2007 PhD (Exeter)
1993 BSc (Southampton)


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Research interests

My PhD and post-doctoral research focused on how considering Caribbean marine habitats at seascape scales provides novel insights into their ecology and conservation. I was able to address the large-scale ecology of coral reefs through a combination of extensive field sampling of benthic and fish community structures and remotely-sensed imagery. The research considered reefs in the Bahamas and U.S. Virgin Islands. Specific research topics included:

  • The multiple effects of marine reserves on fish and corals
  • Habitats as surrogates of fish community structure
  • Mapping wave energy using remotely-sensed imagery and linear wave theory
  • Modelling the beta diversity of coral reefs
  • Functional value of Caribbean reef habitats to ecosystem processes

Research during my Fellowship will build on this work by considering the various processes controlling the abundance of reef fishes in the Bahamas. I will investigate the relative importance of pre-recruitment processes, such as larval supply and the availability of nursery habitats, and post-recruitment processes, such as predation, habitat quality, and fishing pressure. It is anticipated that the importance of these processes will vary among species, and I aim to obtain generic insights into which processes are most important for different fishes. A key component of this work will be integrating data from the biophysical models of Dr Claire Paris at the University of Miami.

Research grants

  • 2008 Natural Environment Research Council
    Post-doctoral Research Fellowship, A holistic model of the factors controlling reef-fish populations, including both pre- and post-settlement processes


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External Engagement and Impact

Committee/panel activities

I have acted as UK co-ordinator for Reef Check  since 1997. Reef Check is a programme to complete an annual global synopsis of the state of the world's coral reefs using volunteer divers and marine scientists. I am a founder member of the Reef Conservation - UK committee. RCUK organises an annual 1 day conference for UK reef researchers, published a newsletter and administers a small grants scheme.

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