Masterclass with Charlie Veron
Friday 6 October, 9.30am-12.30pm
Institute of Advanced Studies, UWA
Postgraduate Students, Early Career Researchers, Academics

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Charlie Veron

Are Coral Reefs on Death Row?

A masterclass with Charlie Veron, former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Over the past few decades there have been hundreds of popular and scientific publications describing dire futures for coral reefs, but none of these comes close to the devastation now being unleashed. Most people may well feel that dire predictions about anything almost always turn out to be exaggerated, something to worry about but not as bad as doomsayers like me predict. This view is understandable given that only a few decades ago I would, myself, have thought it ridiculous to imagine that reefs might have a limited lifespan on Earth because of human actions.

Twenty years ago my increasing concern for the plight of reefs in the face of global temperature changes led me to start researching the effects of climate change on reefs, drawing on my experience in reef science, evolution, biodiversity, genetics and conservation as well as my profound interests in geology, palaeontology and oceanography, not to mention the challenging task of understanding climate science itself.

When I started researching my book A Reef in Time: the Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End (Harvard, 2008) I knew that climate change was likely to have serious consequences for coral reefs, but the big picture that emerged left me shocked to the core. I turned to specialists in many different fields to find anything that might suggest a fault in my own conclusions, but was depressingly unsuccessful. Prediction has now turned to fact, the bottom line being that coral reefs can indeed be utterly trashed in the lifetime of today's children.

Reefs are the ocean's canaries and we must heed their call, not just for themselves, but for the other great ecosystems of the ocean which stand behind reefs like a row of dominoes. If coral reefs fail, could the rest follow in rapid succession, even to the point of a Sixth Mass Extinction? Yes it could; the time for urgent action is upon us.  

Charlie Veron, former Chief Scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, has worked on all the major coral reef regions of the world and has over 100 research publications including 12 books and monographs on corals, reefs, and the environment. He is the principle scientist of electronic products that have underpinned most major conservation initiatives of Indo-Pacific reefs over the past decade. His recent book A Reef in Time: the Great Barrier Reef from Beginning to End (Harvard University Press, 2008), distils the world?s best reef and environmental science for general readers.

Charlie Veron will also give a public talk, discussing his latest book A Life Underwater on Thursday 5 October, 6.00pm at the Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, UWA. Bookings can be made via