Sweatman, Hugh

Dr Hugh Sweatman

Senior Research Scientist, Leader of AIMS Long-term Monitoring Program for coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef

Contact Information

Phone (07) 4753 4470
Int +61-7-4753 4470
Email h.sweatman@aims.gov.au


I trained as a behavioural ecologist working on reef fishes and have worked on the GBR and in the Caribbean (Panama). My research interests have broadened to processes of disturbance and recovery on reefs, particularly as applied to the GBR. After graduating, I worked briefly at University of Sydney, then spent three years as a post-doc at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. From 1990 I was a post-doc at James Cook University, initially studying fish predators of Acanthaster planci, then the effects of feeding fishes around Tourist pontoons (Reef CRC). In 1995 I came to AIMS to lead the Long-term Monitoring Program.


1985 PhD Macquarie University, Sydney
1975 BA Zoology, Oxford University, UK


Through my involvement with a large monitoring program on GBR reefs, I am interested in the status of GBR reefs and in coral reef ecology generally, especially: 
the effects of disturbances on reef communities and processes of subsequent recovery;
the ecology of Acanthaster planci, the crown-of-thorns starfish, which has been the major cause of losses of living coral on the GBR in recent decades;
"ecosystem health" particularly as applied to coral reefs;
the effects of marine reserves.


Emslie MJ, Logan M, Williamson DH, Ayling AM, MacNeil MA, Ceccarelli D, Cheal AJ, Evans RD, Johns KA, Jonker MJ, Miller IR, Osborne K, Russ GR, Sweatman HPA (2015) Expectations and Outcomes of Reserve Network Performance following Re-zoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Current Biology 25: 983-992.

Pratchett MS, Caballes CF, Rivera-Posada JA, Sweatman HPA (2014) Limits to understanding and managing outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster spp.) Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review. 52: 133-200.

Cheal AJ, Emslie MJ, MacNeil MA, Miller IR, Sweatman HPA (2013) Spatial variation in the functional characteristics of herbivorous fish communities and the resilience of coral reefs. Ecological Applications 23(1): 174-188.

De'ath AG, Fabricius KE, Sweatman HPA and Puotinen ML (2012) The 27-year decline in coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef and its causes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 109: 17995-17999.

Sweatman HPA and Syms C (2011) Assessing loss of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef: A response to Hughes et al. (2011). Coral Reefs. 30: 661-664.

Sweatman HPA, Delean S and Syms C (2011) Assessing loss of coral cover on Australia┬┐s Great Barrier Reef over two decades with implications for longer-term trends. Coral Reefs 30: 521-531.

Cheal AJ, MacNeil MA, Cripps E, Emslie MJ, Jonker M, Schaffelke B and Sweatman HPA (2010) Coral-macroalgal phase shifts or reef resilience: links with diversity and functional roles of herbivorous fishes on the Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs 29: 1005-1015.

McCook LJ, Ayling AM, Cappo MC, Choat JH, Evans RD, de Freitas DM, Heupel M, Hughes TP, Jones GP, Mapstone BD, Marsh H, Mills M, Molloy F, Pitcher CR, Pressey RL, Russ GR, Sutton S, Sweatman HPA, Tobin R, Wachenfeld D and Williamson DH (2010) Adaptive management of the Great Barrier Reef: a globally significant demonstration of the benefits of networks of marine reserves. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 107: 18278-18285.

Bruno JF, Sweatman HPA, Precht WF, Selig ER and Schutte VGW (2009) Assessing evidence of phase shifts from coral to macroalgal dominance on coral reefs. Ecology 90(6): 1478-1484.

Russ GR, Cheal AJ, Dolman A, Emslie MJ, Evans RD, Miller IR, Sweatman HPA and Williamson DH (2008) Rapid increase in fish numbers follows creation of world's largest marine reserve network. Current Biology 18: R514-R515.