Professor Peter Mumby

Chief Scientist

Professor of Marine Ecology

School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland

The University of Queensland

Professor Mumby is the Chief Scientist for the CCRES Project and Team Leader of the component exploring “quantifying the value and market potential of coral reef and mangrove ecosystem services”.  He leads the Marine Spatial Ecology Lab which 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.

Professor Mumby's work as a marine ecologist primarily focuses on tropical coastal ecosystems. Before embarking on a research career, he spent two years (1992-1994) designing marine reserves in Belize where he experienced first-hand the limited scientific basis for such planning. This experience was highly influential in defining and driving his research, which has been dedicated to conducting applied science in support of the management of coral reefs. He obtained a Ph.D. in coral reef remote sensing from the University of Sheffield, UK in 1997 and then used two post-doctoral fellowships to broaden his expertise into empirical reef ecology and ecological modeling. In April 2010 Mumby moved from his position as Professor at the University of Exeter in the UK to the University Of Queensland School Of Biological Sciences to take up a prestigious Laureate Fellowship funded by the Australian Research Council.

In an effort to assist managers in demonstrating the benefits of conservation actions at appropriate scales, Peter and colleagues have studied the impacts of marine reserves on Caribbean reefs and discovered that the direct effects of protecting fish can have profound indirect effects on the ecosystem. Additionally, Peter has developed mechanistic ecological models of coral reefs that integrate reef dynamics, conservation actions and disturbance (including climate change). These models have provided insight into the consequences of conserving herbivorous fishes, reducing nutrient runoff, conserving mangroves and restoring urchin populations.

Peter has also worked diligently to obtain credible evidence of human impacts at appropriate scales. Today, Peter has a unique niche in being able to use remotely-sensed data to scale up ecological models so that they are spatially-realistic and able to inform conservation decisions directly. Providing scientific evidence for the link between human activities and ecosystem consequences, his research has directly influenced conservation policy, contributing to the implementation of a ban on herbivore exploitation in Belize and the identification of a marine park at Conception Island, the Bahamas.