Marine Spatial Ecology Lab

University of Queensland


Marine Spatial Ecology Lab (MSEL)

The Marine Spatial Ecology Lab is located at the University of Queensland, Australia. Under Professor Pete Mumby MSEL have been conducting research into coral reef ecosystems, fisheries, modelling, and socioeconomics. With our team of PhD students,  postdocs, and collaborators in over 15 countries MSEL is involved with research projects on the Great Barrier Reef, in the Philippines, Indonesia, Palau, Belize, Bahamas and other coral reefs ecosystems throughout the world. 


Along with Prof. Pete Mumby, MSEL has a group of PhDs and Post doctoral researchers, an expanding alumni and diverse collaborators around the world.   



To date, twenty students have graduated from MSEL. Currently we have ten PhD undertaking resesarch in Micronesia, the Coral Triangle, the Maldives and Great Barrier Reef.

Postdoctoral researchers

MSEL postdocs comprise skilled modellers and coral ecologists working on reef health and resilience and marine reserve design and management.

Peter Mumby

Peter started MSEL in 2000 whilst at the University of Exeter, England as a NERC Post-doctoral Fellow and subsequently a Royal Society Fellow. He moved the lab to the University of Queensland, Australia in 2010 after being awarded an Australia Research Council Laureate Fellowship.



Past and present research projects at MSEL


Our research 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.

Areas of research include:
Coral Ecology: In examining coral–algal interactions, MSEL have investigated the competitive effects of macroalgae (Dictyota pulchella, Lobophora variegata, Halimeda).


Fish Ecology: We has been studying the biology and ecology of coral reef fishes. The movement of some species of fish such as grouper in relation to spawing aggregations and the importance of various marine habitats such as mangrove forests as nurseries for coral reef species are some of the areas or research.

Marine Reserves: MSEL have worked on several aspects of marine reserve design and its impacts.

Reef Resilience: In collaboration with others partners we have been probing resilience, the ability of a system to absorb shocks without fundamentally shifting to a different community.

Biodiversity: Some of MSEL's earlier work involved habitat mapping as the diversity of habitats within a tropical seascape is a metric of ecosystem biodiversity.


As a result of research projects MSEL has produced many resources to assist marine spatial planners, coral reef managers and various national, regional governements in decision-making regarding management of coastal and coral reef ecosystems.


Sizing marine reserves

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Towards Reef Resilience & Sustainable Livelihoods: a handbook for Caribbean coral reef managers

The EU-funded project Future of Reefs in a Changing Environment (FORCE)  produced a handbook that aims to provide reef managers with tools, information and recommendations on management of coral reef ecosystems. The handbook sections range from ecological history and biogeography, resilience as well as climate change issues to fisheries, governance and the monitoring of coral reef ecosystems.


Reef vulnerability

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