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Outstanding regional and rural leadership


Leadership in coral reef research

Leadership in coral reef research

ARLP Fellow and co-founder of Reef Ecologic, Dr Adam Smith outlines a partnership between coral reef managers and other environmental leaders to deliver a unique three-week training course in North Queensland.

Australia leads international training on the Great Barrier Reef

Australia is the world leader in coral reef research and management. Healthy global reefs are essential for healthy, happy people. By sharing knowledge on coral reefs we can build partnerships and make a difference locally and globally for the environment, society and the economy of our communities.

Twelve coral reef managers from the Pacific, Caribbean and Indian oceans have successfully completed an amazing three week training course in North Queensland to exchange knowledge and learn about innovative coral reef science, management and leadership. The fellows travelled between Townsville, Cairns and Port Douglas, visiting government departments, research stations, farms, schools and other reef-associated operations. They meet the great people and visited the habitats that make the Great Barrier Reef so special.

The Australia Awards Fellowship funded the innovative training course Improving coral reef management for sustainable development. Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships. The program supports short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia for mid-career professionals and emerging leaders. Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting agency focused on coral reef management, hosted the unique international fellowship program in North Queensland.

For many of the Fellows, this was their first time snorkeling on the iconic Great Barrier Reef. They observed the diversity and beauty of the coral, fish and interacted with turtles, sharks and giant clams. They also observed some of the threats including Crown of Thorns starfish. They learnt first hand about the issues and solutions used by key industries such as tourism and fishing to protect the reef.

The Fellowship also includes home-stays with local marine scientists as part of a cultural exchange. This is a rare and valuable experience as it brings together coral reef managers from such a variety of locations to gain and share expertise.

An intensive leadership course at Orpheus Island Research Station was a thought provoking and life changing experience for many of the fellows. The leadership activities included theory and exercises to plan, problem solve and work together and to reflect on the process and continuous improvement as well as having fun.


The fellows had many unique experiences with professors, CEO’s, scientists, media and business people; including Steve Edmonson a leader and innovator in the Great Reef tourism industry. We met Steve at his tree farm “Eco Shamba” and heard about the importance of habitat, carbon storage and biofuel. In the afternoon we boarded Sailaway for a trip to Low Isles offshore from Port Douglas. We were given a guided tour by Steve and the Low Isles caretaker of the island and learnt about the management of renewable energy, weather station, coral reefs, heritage and were impressed by the beauty of the island and the passion and expertise of the people who care for it.

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