Lizard Island

The Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship at Lizard Island has been funded by The Ian Potter Foundation since 2006. The fellowship provides outstanding PhD students with field expenses over one to three years to undertake field-intensive coral reef research at the Lizard Island Research Station.

Program Area:
Lizard Island, QLD
Project Dates:
2006 onwards
Courtesy Lizard Island Research Centre


The Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) is located on the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef, about 270 kms north of Cairns. A facility of the Australian Museum, it is the major island-based research facility on the Great Barrier Reef and recognized as one of the best tropical marine research stations in the world.

Coral reefs are complex ecosystems under enormous pressure from human development. Coral reefs worldwide are facing increasing threats from the impacts of climate change, outbreaks of crown of thorns starfish, invasive species, nutrient run-off, sedimentation and overfishing. Much of the research at LIRS is focused on these potential impacts, with the objective of understanding how best to manage the Great Barrier Reef to maintain its resilience. Scientists are still a long way from understanding how these systems work and how they can best be managed. Field research on coral reefs is vital to improving this situation.

About 100 research projects are conducted each year at the station, and many are directly relevant to management of the Great Barrier Reef. Over the last year a total of 134 scientists used the station facilities. They came from 35 institutions in 14 countries and undertook 113 research projects.

Since 1984, the Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation has provided funding for at least one doctoral fellowship at the station each year. The fellowships are highly competitive, with applications coming from PhD candidates around the world.

The Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship at Lizard Island has been funded by The Ian Potter Foundation since 2006. The Foundation renewed its support for this program for another five years from 2014 - 2018 at the Board meeting of August 2013.


The Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowships awarded each year vary in number and amount depending on the applications received and the selected Fellow(s)’ project but can be valued at up to $24,000 over three years. Applications are managed and assessed by a panel of Australian Museum scientists with input from external reviewers. Please refer to for information on how to apply and eligibility requirements.

Nine Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowships have been awarded since 2006 and produced excellent research. 

Year Researcher Institution Nature of Research
2006 Lynda Curtis University of Queensland Cleaner fish and fish diseases
2007 Andy Hoey James Cook University Discovered the importance of herbivorous fish in maintaining reef health
2008 Vanessa Messmer James Cook University Demonstrated the impact of the loss of coral diversity and habitat on the abundance and diversity of fishes (joint research)
2009 Alicia Crawley University of Queensland Investigated the impacts of acidification and ocean warming on corals
2010 Darren Coker James Cook University Demonstrated the impact of the loss of coral diversity and habitat on the abundance and diversity of fishes (joint research)
2011 Sandra Binning Australian National University Examined how adaptable a range of coral reef fishes are to differences in wave energy
2012 Oona Lonnstedt James Cook University Focused on how sensory cues (vision, smell) are used by fish in finding prey and avoiding being eaten
2012 Dominique Roche Australian National University Studied how waves affect swimming ability of fish
2013 Martina Prazeres University of Queensland Determined how temperature, light and nutrients interact to affect the health of forams, small reef animals that are a proxy for slower-growing corals
2014 Davina Poulos James Cook University Assessing the effects of prior residents in coral reef fish communities
2015 Steve Doo University of Sydney Investigating the functional role of large benthic foraminifera (LBFs) to reef scale carbonate production in the Lizard Island Reef complex
2015 Maria Palacios James Cook University Investigating the behavioural interactions among fish predators and their impact on trophic cascades 
2016 Zoe Loffler James Cook University Investigating canopy-forming macroalgae on coral reefs and how it affects key ecosystem processes 



Virtually all recipients of a Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation Doctoral Fellowship have pursued careers that further research and conservation in marine environments. 


The Foundation is delighted to have renewed our support for The Ian Potter Doctoral Fellowship program until 2018 and to be supporting researchers to develop in this area. This is a vital project that injects outstanding talent into research on what is becoming a much threatened reef system.

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