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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Professor Peter Mumby

Professor Peter Mumby

Professor of Marine Ecology


My research group, the Marine Spatial Ecology Lab (MSEL), focuses on delivering science to improve the management of coral reefs. We carry out empirical ecological studies at scales ranging from millimetres (algal patch dynamics) to thousands of kilometres (gene flow in Caribbean corals) in an effort to plug gaps in our understanding of reef processes. Empirical data are then used to develop ecosystem models from which we can investigate the effectiveness of conservation measures in mitigating disturbance on reefs including climate change. Lastly, we combine the ecological models with remotely-sensed data to allow spatial conservation planning such as marine reserve design.

In 2010, Peter was awarded a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation. The award attracts a research grant but, more importantly, provides lifetime membership of the Pew Marine Fellows, which include some of the greatest innovators in marine conservation. Peter was also awarded the Zoological Society of London's Marsh Award for Marine and Freshwater Conservation in 2010.
Peter is on leave at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland (Australia) where he has taken up a prestigious 5 year Laureate Fellowship from the Australian Research Council. He can be contacted at: School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia


1997 PhD (Coral reef remote sensing), University of Sheffield
1992 BSc (Hons) First Class, Marine Biology, University of Liverpool


2000-present Royal Society Research Fellow, University of Exeter
1997-2000 NERC Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Newcastle
1994-1997 Research Associate, University of Sheffield
1992-1994 Science Coordinator, Coral Cay Conservation

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Research interests

The Marine Spatial Ecology Lab (MSEL) focuses on research questions that underpin coral reef management. We have several remote sensing projects aimed at measuring the health of reef ecosystems. Outputs of remote sensing also describe the spatial distribution of reef habitats and a major focus of our work is the use of such habitat maps. We seek to answer questions like What are the ecological functions of these habitats and how should they be managed?, To what extent are marine ecosystems connected?, and What controls the beta diversity of coral reefs?. Spatial simulation models also provide useful ecological insight into the effects of stress on ecosystem resilience. Much of our empirical research fills gaps in ecological models and allows us to parameterise models. We are currently linking models of Caribbean reefs to seascape scales via remote sensing.

Research is currently funded by NERC, the World Bank/GEF, US Environmental Protection Agency, The Royal Society, and the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation. Research programmes include:
- Radiative transfer modelling
- Marine reserve design
- Modelling coral reef dynamics and resilience
- Algal grazing by parrotfish
- Remote sensing
- Population dynamics of corals and algae
- Ecosystem-based management & fisheries
- Seascape ecology
- Population genetics of Montastraea annularis

For further information see the MSEL website

Research grants

  • 2010 European Union
    Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment (Coordinating institution, 6.3m)
  • 2010 Pew Marine Fellows
    Operationalising the management of reef resilience
  • 2009 NERC
    Incorporating thermal stress into marine reserve design at global scales
  • 2009 NERC
    The effects of climate change on the fragmentation of marine systems
  • 2008 National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
    The exploitation and conservation of herbivores in Micronesia
  • 2007 NERC
    Generic model of aquatic remote sensing that includes ecological inputs and a Bayesian framework.
  • 2007 NERC
    Modelling fishing impacts on the resilience of Caribbean coral reefs.
  • 2007 Living Oceans Foundation
    GIS analyses to incorporate climate impacts into the design of reserve networks in the Bahamas
  • 2007 NERC
    Gene flow in Caribbean corals
  • 2006 The Royal Society
    Summer studentship
  • 2005 NERC
    Optical properties of coral reefs
  • 2005 National Geographic Society
    Dynamics of coral reef algae
  • 2005 European Union
    Marie-Curie Fellowship
  • 2004 US Environmental Protection Agency
    Modelling effects of climate change on Caribbean coral reefs and mangroves
  • 2004 World Bank/Global Environment Facility
    Targeted coral reef research (remote sensing)

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External Engagement and Impact

Committee/panel activities

1. Chair, World Bank / Global Environmental Facility Targeted Research Group on Coral Reef Remote Sensing

2. Member, NERC Ecosystem Synthesis Working Group on Effects of Reserve Networks (2006-08), with Mark Johnson, Bill Kunin, Kevin Gaston, Robert Whittaker and others.

3. Elected Corresponding Secretary (2002-2006) International Society for Reef Studies

4. Member of IOC-UNEP Coral Reef Theme for the Integrated Global Observing Strategy

5. Member of Advisory Group to World Bank/GEF Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System Project

6. Scientific Council, Living Oceans Foundation, Washington DC

7. Adjunct Associate Professor, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami

8. Advisor to the Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology, Dominica

9. Review Panelist to NASA Global Interdisciplinary Science Initiative (2003)

10. Scientific advisor to Coral Cay Conservation, London

Editorial responsibilities

Editorial board: Ecology Letters, Phil Trans Royal Society B, Marine Ecology Progress Series
Ecological editor: Coral Reefs (2006-2009)

Invited lectures

In the last four years I have been invited to give four plenary presentations at international meetings and sixteen seminars or presentations at international workshops (13 of which in the last two years).

*** = keynote, **= invited (expenses paid)

1. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), University of California, Santa Barbara, 2007**

2. University of Queensland, Australia 2007**

3. Westden Seminars on Climate Change, Plymouth, 2007**

4. University of Sheffield (Animal & Plant Sciences), 2007**

5. University of California, Davis, USA**

6. University of East Anglia, 2007**

7. Caribbean & Gulf Caribbean Fisheries Institute, 59th Annual meeting, Belize 2006**

8. International Society for Reef Studies, Bremen 2006***

9. Challenges for conservation biology, Heron Island, Australia, 2005**

10. Coastal Zone Management Institute, Belize, 2005**

11. University College Belfast (Marine Science), 2005**

12. Coral Reef Conservation, Zoological Society of London, 2004***

13. Western Society of Naturalists, California, USA 2004***

14. Stanford University (Hopkins Marine Station), USA 2004**

15. Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 2004**

16. University of Melbourne (Zoology), Australia, 2004**

17. University of Queensland, Australia, 2004**

18. Australian Institute of Marine Science, Australia, 2004**

19. James Cook University (Marine Science), Australia, 2004**

20. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Australia, 2004**

21. Southampton Oceanography Centre, 2004**

22. University of Edinburgh (Geography), 2004**

23. University of Newcastle (Marine Science), 2004**

24. University of Plymouth (Marine Science) 2003

25. Plymouth Marine Laboratory, 2003

26. IOC-UNESCO/World Bank Coral Bleaching Workshop, Heron Island, 2002**

27. AIMS/NOAA Satellite Remote Sensing for Coral Bleaching, Townsville, 2002**

28. NASA/Conservation Workshop on Biological Fingerprinting (topic leader for marine applications of remote sensing for biodiversity research, New York, 2001***

29. NCORE workshop on Caribbean reef research, Miami, 2001 (topic leader)***

30. Bahamas workshop on design of Marine Protected Areas, Bahamas, 2000**

31. 9th International Coral Reef Symposium, Bali, Indonesia, 2000**

32. University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, 2000**

33. First Biennial Science Meeting on the Intra-Americas Seas: connectivites between coastal zones, Panama 1999**

34. International Workshop on the Use of Remote Sensing Tools for Mapping and Monitoring Coral Reefs. NOAA / ICLARM, Honolulu, Hawaii, 1999***

35. International Conference on Scientific Aspects of Coral Reef Assessment, Monitoring and Restoration. National Coral Reef Institute, Nova Southeastern Oceanographic Center, Florida 1999**

36. Workshop to assess NASAs remote sensing capabilities to map and monitor the health of coral reefs: present status and future needs. St. Petersburg, Florida 1999***

37. NOAA Seagrass and Aquatic Habitat Assessment Workshop, St. Petersburg, 1998**

38. Atlantic Gulf Reef Assessment Workshop on coral reef condition, Miami, 1998**

39. International Symposium on Mangrove Biology & Ecology, Kuwait, 1998.***

40. VIII Pacific Science Inter-Congress, University of the South Pacific, Fiji, 1997.**

41. East African Workshop on Environmental Monitoring in the Coastal Zone, Mombasa, Kenya, 1997**

42. Tropical Marine Research Unit, University of York, 1997.**

43. International Centre for Living Aquatic Resources Management, Manila, Philippines, 1996.**

44. Smithsonian / University College of Belize Training Course in Mangrove Management, Belize, 1996**

45. Department of Marine Sciences, Bangor University (N. Wales), 1996**

46. Centre for Marine Sciences, University of the West Indies, Jamaica, 1995**

47. 1994 Site Directors meeting of the CARICOMP programme, Florida Institute of Oceanography, 1994.**

48. Symposium on Research Conducted in Belize, Scottish Natural History Museum, 1993.**

49. Marine Conservation Society (UK); Muffles college, Belize; University College of Belize, 1993.**

Media Coverage

1. The Times, Coverage of Nature article from November 07

2. The Independent, Coverage of Nature article from November 07

3. BBC Online (6th most frequently viewed news story of the day), Coverage of Nature article from Nov 07

4. Express & Echo, Coverage of our study in PNAS, May 07

5. ITV Western News, Television interview about our research, May 07

6. Western Morning News, Coverage of our study in PNAS, May 07

7. Perspectives of climate change, interview for The Royal Society May 06

8. The Economist, coverage of our study of marine reserves, Jan 06

9. ITV Western News, Television interview about our research, Jan 06

10. The Independent, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

11. The Times, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

12. New York Times, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

13. Western Morning News, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

14. Nature, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

15. New Scientist, coverage of our study of marine reserves, Jan 06

16. The Yorkshire Post, coverage of our study of marine reserves, Jan 06

17. National Geographic Society online, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

18. Discovery Channel online, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

19. BBC online, Effects of marine reserves on coral reefs, January 2006

20. Royal Society Education Programme, Sc1 Website, Interactive module on coral reefs

21. Exeter Express & Echo, Impact of coral bleaching in the Caribbean, October 2005

22. BBC World Service "Science in Action", February 2004

23. CBC Canada, Radio interview about mangroves and coral reefs, Feb 2004

24. Liberacion, Importance of mangroves for coral reefs, Feb 2004

25. BBC Online, coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

26. National Geographic Society News, Linkages coverage of our study of marine reserves Jan 06

27. Science News, "Aircraft spies on health of coral reefs", 160 (10), September 2001 & "Mangroves story" Feb 2004

28. National Geographic Society News, "Coral reef health & climate change", September 2001

29. New York Times, "Surveying the coral", September 11th 2001

30. BBC World Service, radio interview, September 2001

31. The Daily Express "Coral Reefs Wrecked", July 23rd 2001

32. Radio Australia Interview on coral bleaching & climate change, July 24th 2001

33. Interactive presentation on the health of coral reefs, Caf'e Scientifique, Nottingham, May 2001

34. Reporting impacts of dynamite on the Belize barrier reef; television interviews in Belize, August 1992

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Together with Dr Alastair Harborne, we offer a Level II course in Marine Biology, a Level II Field Course to the Bahamas, and a Level III course in Tropical Marine Biology.

Novel teaching resources are available at and have been used widely on the internet and even in the DVD version of the Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore.



Information not currently available

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Supervision / Group

Postdoctoral researchers

Postgraduate researchers

  • Sonia Bejarano (remote sensing and grazing of reef fish)
  • Stephen Box (coral recruitment)
  • Iliana Chollet (ORSAS) Remote se
  • Nicola Foster (coral fecundity)
  • Manuel Gonzalez (Venezuelan Scholarship) Ecosystem function in the southern Caribbean
  • Ellen Husain (effects of damselfish on coral reefs)
  • Mary Ledlie (FSBI) Ecological processes affecting recruitment on Pacific reefs
  • Shay O'Farrell (NERC) Climate change on parrotfish demographics
  • Henk Renken (dynamics of reef algae)

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