Professor Peter Harrison

Professor Peter Harrison

    Peter is an internationally recognised research leader in coral reproductive ecology and reef restoration and has worked on many reef systems around the world for more than 40 years. He is passionate about marine ecology and discovery science and their applications to the conservation management of reefs and other ecosystems. Peter co-discovered the mass coral spawning phenomenon on the Great Barrier Reef (Harrison et al. Science 1984, 223: 1186-1189) with colleagues during his PhD in the early 1980s and has been awarded multiple prizes for excellence in science research and University teaching, including a Eureka Prize for Environmental Research. Much of Peter's reef research has focused on the Great Barrier Reef and in the Philippines, with additional research on reefs in Japan, Micronesia, French Polynesia, the Arabian Gulf, Florida, Bahamas, Maldives, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia. In 1995, he was the Project Leader for a United Nations-funded mission to assess the impacts of the first Gulf War on the coral reef systems of Kuwait and has a new coral species discovered in the Arabian Gulf named after him (Porites harrisoni). He has led many successful international and national research projects with large multidisciplinary collaborative research teams from equatorial to subtropical reefs, as well as research on cetaceans and Antarctic oil pollution.


    Peter’s current major research focus is coral and reef restoration, and he leads large multidisciplinary projects pioneering the world’s first large-scale successful coral larval restoration projects using millions of coral larvae to restore damaged reefs in the Philippines, GBR, Maldives. New projects are being developed to work on other SE Asian reefs and in other reef regions around the world. He has been awarded more than $23 million in external research grants resulting in more than 200 research publications and >15,000 citations. He has supervised >60 PhD and other higher degree research students, and has a coral species discovered in the Arabian Gulf named after him (Porites harrisoni). Peter also led the development of the SCU Whale and Dolphin Research Centre as its Director since 2002, which has supported numerous postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers on whales and dolphins in Australia and overseas. He was the Founding Director of the Marine Ecology Research Centre at SCU, and has been appointed to a range of expert committees and panels including the Australian Threatened Species Committee from 2005-2015 (deputy Chair from 2009), the Christmas Island Expert Working Group 2009-2010, the National Environmental Research Program Advisory Panel in 2010, and two Expert Panels to assess the impacts of a Supertrawler on marine wildlife.


    Peter also greatly enjoys communicating science research to the broader community and has featured in more than 30 television documentaries including BBC Blue Planet Live, BBC Our Changing Planet and PBS Changing Planet in 2024, plus hundreds of interviews to highlight science research and promote conservation and environmental management. He also features as one of the Ocean Sentinel sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor which are submerged on the Great Barrier Reef as part of the Museum of Underwater Art.


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