My research focuses on the gorgonian (sea fan) octocorals of the Indo-Pacific. I am fascinated by their immense diversity, their biological success particularly at mesophotic depths, the various ways of adapting to this dynamic environment, and how this relates to their evolutionary history. 

During initial surveys as an undergraduate on the shallow reefs of the Wakatobi, SE Sulawesi, Indonesia, I discovered an immense diversity of gorgonian octocorals. Determined to learn the different species names to further my research, I went to several international museums to study the historical specimens and literature that described this enigmatic coral group. 

It quickly became clear why few work on these elegant corals; they’re not easy to identify! Infact, whilst gorgonian corals have their greatest diversity within the Indo-Pacific, they are still considered ‘poorly known’. Yet, they are typically the most abundant and diverse species  present on the reefs, especially with increased depth.

As such any concept of biodiversity is very incomplete; how can one conduct research on something we don’t know? Therefore, I decided – somewhat naively – to build my own reference collection and determine what everything was, what was new, and what taxa would be the focus of my research. This collection now consists of >8000 fully curated specimens with many new species to science.

Over the past decade, my research has shown that mesophotic coral ecosystems (MCEs) within the Indo-Pacific are thermally dynamic environments, and are dominated by diverse assemblages of gorgonian octocorals. These findings have led to specific research questions: how are gorgonians able to withstand such challenging environments, and is this ability an important evolutionary mechanism in gorgonian species diversity at these depths? It is my long-term vision to address such questions.

Research Goals

1) Explore the unknown depths of the Indo-Pacific; to find new locations and new species to science.

2) Ecologically characterise sites within select locations for comparative research and experimentation on gorgonian octocorals implementing the novel techniques that I have developed.

3) The ongoing development of a phylogenomic and multi-trait framework for an emerging model group – gorgonian octocorals – on the MCEs of the Indo-Pacific.

4) Investigate mechanisms of selection that may act as selective agent(s) leading to the success of the gorgonian holobiont and MCEs as a whole.

5) To share such discoveries with the local and scientific communities alike with a view to assist in conservation awareness and management strategies.


Research Objectives

1) Have a highly skilled expedition and field research team using advanced technical rebreather diving to explore, discover new species to science, and conduct experimental research at the mesophotic depths of the Indo-Pacific.

2) Have a stable laboratory and field base to advance my scientific research, and the significant research of talented young scientists particularly those who are native to the samples themselves.

3) Chronicle the journey of discovery and exploration – including some of the characters involved – from the warm shallow reefs to the unchartered depths of the tropics.

In all cases it is imperative to have as much fun as possible.

In Sum,

I seek to understand the biological success of gorgonian corals, their responses to environmental change over time and, in turn, determine what traits natural selection is targetting to render them so remarkable. In particular, the shear dominance and diversity of gorgonians at the mesophotic depths of the Indo-Pacific, I see, hold many keys to my questions. To address these questions I integrate cross-disciplinary approaches​​​​​​​ from experimental field ecology to advances in genomics and diving technology.

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Patreon • Publications • Fine Art America/Pixels • Training • Exploration


Research • Expeditions • Training • Rebreathers • Exploration


Mesophotic Research • Species Discovery • Conservation • Safety