Dr Ralph Trancoso

Research Fellow

School of Biological Sciences


+61 7 3170 5713

Picture  Picture   Picture  Picture  Picture 


Ralph is an Earth System scientist with expertise in ecohydrology, climate change, spatial sciences and data analysis. He integrates these knowledge branches to address relevant issues for society. Ralph worked in a broad range of environmental job sectors spanning academia, industry, government and consultancy in both Australia and Brazil. He is currently a Research Fellow in climate change working at the School of Biological Sciences (University of Queensland) and the Department of Environment and Science (Queensland Government).

Ralph has broad research interest spanning several fields in Earth System sciences. His science constrains two most important drivers detrimentally impacting coral reefs: climate change and catchment processes. Ralph tackle these processes at a range of spatial and temporal scales with innovative techniques and engaging visualization. Ralph’s scientific outputs are generally designed to support environmental and climate policies in addition to the purely applied science.

Ralph’s main areas of knowledge and how they complement each other to understand earth surface processes and deliver scientific outputs.

Ecohydrology is a core theme in Ralph’s research portfolio. He is particularly interested in how catchment processes are changing due to landscape- and climate-induced changes and how these changes may impact other systems (e.g., coral reefs) and society (e.g. water supply, flood regime). Ralph has been investigating catchments with varying hydrological regimes over the world and his scientific contribution helped understanding critical processes and leveraged theoretical knowledge.

Ralph’s current main research projects are in climate sciences to underpin adaptation  and mitigation of climate change. Ralph and his team have developed the Queensland Future Climate dashboard – an interactive regionalization platform with high-resolution climate change data and information for a range of regions within Queensland.

Check how high-resolution climate models project future temperature in Queensland under moderate and high emissions in the video below.


PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences (University of Queensland)
MSc of Applied Geosciences (University of Brasilia)
MSc of Tropical Forests Sciences (National Institute for Research in the Amazon)
BSc in Forest Engineering (University Federal Rural of Rio de Janeiro)

Prospective projects

Ralph is usually keen to collaborate in research projects related to his fields of expertise. Prospective students and colleagues are welcome to get in touch.

Selected Publications

Peer reviewed journals

Vanessa Clark

I completed my Bachelors of Science with honours at the University of Queensland. My honours which I undertook in the Coral Reef Ecosystems lab focused on coral physiology and climate change with field and tank based experiments on Acropora corals at the Heron Island Research Station. I am now completing my PhD investigating coral growth dynamics and small scale population genetics. My research aims to investigate how corals in locations with stark environmental contrasts show differing growth strategies on a species level, and whether there is evidence for this having a genetic basis.


Carolina Castro-Sanguino




I have studied coral reefs from molecular to community levels.  My general interests are in understanding the mechanisms by which marine organisms respond to environmental forcing in their ecological context, to improve predictions of  ecosystem responses to multiple stressors such as climate change, habitat degradation and fishing.

I completed my bachelor and master degree studies in Colombia while exploring Caribbean reefs. During my masters’ degree, I investigated the genetic diversity and dispersal of Symbiodinium spp. by the stoplight parrotfish Sparisoma viride  (Castro-Sanguino & Sanchez 2012).

In 2012 I moved to Australia to pursue my PhD at the University of Queensland. My PhD research focus on the ecological drivers of the marine calcareous algae Halimeda, one of the greatest contributors to reef carbonate sediments. Here, I combined long-term field-based experiments (Castro-Sanguino et al 2016) and laboratory experiments (Castro-Sanguino et al 2017) to quantify the interactive effects of temperature, light, nutrients, and herbivory on Halimeda growth dynamics. Based on these results I developed a mechanistic, individual-based model of Halimeda population demographics to estimate Halimeda’s contribution to reef carbonate sediment production (Castro-Sanguino et al 2020).

My postdoctoral experience has involved meta-data analyses to investigate the effect of fishing on reef fish and benthic communities of the northern Great Barrier Reef (GBR) (Castro-Sanguino et al 2017).  My work at the Global Change Institute (in 2018) and at the Australian Institute of marine Science-AIMS (in 2019) focused on assessing  impacts of multiple stressors (e.g. water quality, cyclones, bleaching, crown-of-thorns starfish, CoTS), on coral population dynamics along the GBR. Currently, my work at MSEL aims to help developing a decision-support system for controlling CoTS, one of the greatest threats on the GBR.

John Tanzer – Global Oceans Leader – WWF

John Tanzer Oceans Leader – WWF International

John Tanzer originally trained in the disciplines of geography and economics, completing an honours degree at James Cook University in 1980. Since that time he has worked in a number of areas of natural resource management and policy particularly in the marine and coastal realms. He holds a master’s degree in environmental law from the Australian National University.

Mr Tanzer was appointed as the inaugural Chair and Chief Executive of Queensland’s Fisheries Management Authority (QFMA) when it was first established in 1994. In 1998 he was appointed as Executive Director of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) the Federal Government agency responsible for the management of the Great Barrier Reef. He served in this position and as Acting Chairman for 10 years. During his service in this position and also as the Acting Chairman, he led the Commonwealth’s negotiations to develop the East Coast Trawl Plan and the Reef Line Fishery Plan. Most notably from 2001 onwards he was the Executive Director responsible for the oversight of the spatial rezoning of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park based on the Representative Areas Program (RAP) which resulted in highly protected area increased from around 5% to over 33% of the 350,000sq kilometre park.

Mr Tanzer represented the Australian government at the first Coral Triangle Summit in Bali in December 2007. Between July 2008 and December 2012 he worked with the international NGOs –WWF and The Nature Conservancy to assist with the development of the Coral Triangle Initiative. In this role he worked extensively throughout the region. He also worked as an advisor to an alliance of Australian universities to provide capacity development to the countries and institutions of the Coral Triangle.

In February 2012 he joined WWF International as the Director, Global Marine Program. John was then appointed as the Leader of the WWF Oceans Practice in late 2016. His responsibilities include development and implementation of a new global oceans strategy. The focus of his work is to support the effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals especially SDG14.

Amatzia Genin

Amatzia is a visiting professor from Eilat, Israel, on 2 years of Sabbatical leave at CRE (November 2018 – September 2020)


I am a marine ecologist and biological oceanographer. My major interest is in the coupling between physical and biological processes in the marine environment, focusing on the effects of water motion on fundamental ecological processes, including predator-prey relationships, competition, symbiosis, mass transfer, and behavior. Research at my lab is process-oriented and inter-disciplinary, addressing mechanisms that operate at levels ranging from the individual to the ecosystem. Most of my studies are based on field experiments involving advanced technologies and novel approaches.

I completed my BSc (1977) and MSc (1981) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel and PhD (1987) at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC San Diego, USA. I have been a faculty at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a resident researcher at the InterUniversity Institute for Marine Sciences of Eilat (IUI) since 1987. In the past 6 years (2012-2018) I was the scientific director of the IUI.

Some relaxation at the water front…

Dr. David Obura

David Obura is a Founding Director of, and works at CORDIOEast Africa, in Mombasa, Kenya – www.cordioea.net

CORDIO is a knowledge organization supporting sustainability of coral reef and marine systems in the Western Indian Ocean. CORDIO takes research to management and policy, builds capacity, and works with stakeholders, managers and policy makers.

David’s primary research is on coral reef resilience, in particular to climate change, and the biogeography of the Indian Ocean. At the boundary between science and action, David works to integrate conservation and development through inclusive blue economy principles and links provided by global sustainability goals and targets.

He works from the local scale, through fostering innovative action to promote sustainability, through regional scale alignment and integration such as in the Northern Mozambique Channel, to global scales of bringing knowledge and local-regional practice into decision-making circles. 2020 will be a critical year for ocean, biodiversity and climate targets in global conventions, and David is engaged in multiple processes (see expert groups) to bring coral reef science and learning into these global fora.

David contributes to The Conversation through his UQ affiliation on topical issues.

Online profiles

Expert groups

  • Earth Commission, Global Commons Alliance/Future Earth.
  • Technical Working Group (Kenya) and Expert Group, High Level Panel on Ocean Sustainability
  • IUCN Coral Specialist Group (chair) (International Union for the Conservation of Nature)
  • IPBES Global Assessment – Coordinating Lead Author, Chapter 2: Nature subsection
  • REVOcean Science and Innovation Committee
  • National Geographic Explorer. Updating the global coral Red List of Threatened Species
  • Informal Advisory Group (IAG), Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas, CBD Secretariat
  • GOOS Biodiversity and Ecosystems Panel (Global Ocean Observing System, UNESCO-IOC)
  • GCRMN – Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Technical development and coordination

Selected publications

  1. Obura, D.O. (2020) Getting to 2030 – scaling effort to ambition through a narrative model of the SDGs. Marine Policy.
  2. Díaz S, Settele J, Brondízio ES, Ngo HT, Agard J et al. (2019) Pervasive human-driven decline of life on Earth points to the need for profound change. Science 366, eaax3100: 1-10
  3. Obura, D.O. (2019) A plot for sustainability -the Sustainable Development Goals as a narrative. Preprints 201910.0157 (doi:10.20944/preprints201910.0157.v2
  4. Gudka, M., Obura, D., Mbugua, J., Ahamada, S., Kloiber, U., Holter, T. (2019) Participatory reporting of the 2016 bleaching event in the Western Indian Ocea.n Coral Reefs 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-019-01851-3
  5. Obura DO, et al. (2019) Coral Reef Monitoring, Reef Assessment Technologies, and Ecosystem-Based Management. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:580. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00580
  6. Bax NJ, Miloslavich P, Muller-Karger FE, Allain V, Appeltans W, Batten SD, Benedetti-Cecchi L, Buttigieg PL, Chiba S, Costa DP, Duffy JE, Dunn DC, Johnson CR, Kudela RM, Obura D, Rebelo L-M, Shin Y-J, Simmons SE and Tyack PL (2019) A Response to Scientific and Societal Needs for Marine Biological Observations. Front. Mar. Sci. 6:395. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00395
  7. Gamoyo, M., Obura, D., & Reason, C. J. C. (2019). Estimating connectivity through larval dispersal in the Western Indian Ocean. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 124. https://doi.org/10.1029/ 2019JG005128
  8. Chassot E., Bodin N., Sardenne F., & Obura D.O. (2019) The key role of the Northern Mozambique Channel for Indian Ocean tropical tuna fisheries. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 1–26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11160-01
  9. McLeod E., Anthony K.R.N., Mumby P.J., Maynard J., Beeden R., Graham N.A.J., Heron S.F., Hoegh-Guldberg O., Jupiter S., MacGowan P., Mangubhai S., Marshall N., Marshall P.A., McClanahan T.R., Mcleod K., Nyström M., Obura D.O., Parker B., possingham H.P., Salm R.V., & Tamelander J. (2019) The future of resilience-based management in coral reef ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Management, 233, 291–301
  10. Popova E., Vousden D., Sauer W.H.H., Mohammed E.Y., Allain V., Downey-Breedt N., Fletcher R., Gjerde K.M., Halpin P.N., Kelly S., Obura D.O., Pecl G., Roberts M., Raitsos D.E., Rogers A., Samoilys M., Sumaila U.R., Tracey S., & Yool A. (2019) Ecological connectivity between the areas beyond national jurisdiction and T coastal waters: Safeguarding interests of coastal communities in developing countries. Marine Policy, 104, 90–102.
  11. Obura, D.O. The Three Horses of Sustainability—Population, Affluence and Technology. Preprints2018, 2018120176 (doi: 10.20944/preprints201812.0176.v1)
  12. Obura, DO (2018) Ocean health in the blue economy. In: A Handbook on the Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean Region. Editor: Prof VN Attri. Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ESRC/S Africa.
  13. Obura D, et al. (2018) East and southern Africa – coastal and ocean futures. Northern Mozambique Channel initiative (WWF/CORDIO), www.wiofutures.net.
  14. Obura, DO (2017) Refilling the coral reef glass. Science 357 (6357): 1215 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao5002
  15. Obura, DO et al.  2017. Reviving the Western Indian Ocean Economy: Implementing the SDGs to sustain a healthy ocean economy.  WWF International/Boston Consulting Group/CORDIO.
  16. Obura DO, et al. (2017) The Northern Mozambique Channel – a capitals approach to a Blue Economy future. In: Handbook on the Economics and Management for Sustainable Oceans. Editors: Svansson LE, Nunes PALD, Kumar P & Markandya A. Edward Elgar Publishing.
  17. Costello M.J., et al. (2016) Methods for the Study of Marine Biodiversity. The GEO Handbook on Biodiversity Observation Networks (ed. by M. Walters and R.J. Scholes), pp. 129–163. Springer.
  18. Obura, DO (2017), An Indian Ocean centre of origin revisited: Palaeogene and Neogene influences defining a biogeographic realm. Journal of Biogeography. 43:229–242 doi: 10.1111/jbi.12656
  19. Freestone, D. et al. (2016) World Heritage in the High Seas: An Idea Whose Time Has Come. World Heritage Centre reports, #44, United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization. 79 pp.
  20. Sale PF, & 24 others. (2014) Transforming management of tropical coastal seas to cope with challenges of the 21st century. Marine Pollution Bulletin: 1–16. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.06.005
  21. Hoegh-Guldberg O. et al. (2013) Indispensable Ocean. Aligning ocean health and human well-being. Guidance from the Blue Ribbon Panel to the Global Partnership for Oceans
  22. Obura, DO (2012) The diversity and biogeography of Western Indian Ocean reef-building corals. PLOS ONE. 10.1371/0045013.
  23. Obura DO. (2009) Reef corals bleach to resist stress. Marine Pollution Bulletin 58:206-212. DOI 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.10.002
  24. Carpenter KE, et al. (2008). One-Third of Reef-Building Corals Face Elevated Extinction Risk from Climate Change and Local Impacts. Science 321: 560-563
  25. Obura DO (2005) Resilience and climate change – lessons from coral reefs and bleaching in the Western Indian Ocean. Estuarine Coastal and Shelf Science 603: 353-372.

Calcification calculation by Delta alkalinity

Calcification calculation by Delta alkalinity

ALK units: 2.2 µmol g (SW)-1 or 2200 µmol Kg (SW)-1

SW Density units: 1.03 gL-1

MW of CaCO3 = 100 g mol-1


AT = [HCO3]T + 2[CO32−]T + [B(OH)4]T + [OH]T − [H+]



Delta CaCO3 µg L(SW)-1 =

Delta ALK µmol g-1 x Density of SW gL-1 x MW of CaCO3 g mol-1 x ½

(NB in bold underlined units remain after nominator denominator cancellation)

Clearly then need to Multiply by Volume of seawater (L) and normalise to time and some other factor such as surface area or weight of organism.

Research on ocean acidification and coral bleaching in Hawaii

The effects of climate change on coral reefs are well known. We know that as the climate changes, the ocean temperature is rising, and that rising temperature is leading to coral bleaching. We also know that as the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere increases, the ocean is becoming more acidic, and that is reducing coral growth (as more acidic water impairs the growth of skeleton by corals).

Does rising temperature also affect coral growth, and does ocean acidification also affect coral bleaching? Well, rising temperature (beyond a certain limit) has also been irrefutably found to reduce coral growth.

Coral bleaching in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, 2014.

Well, rising temperature (beyond a certain limit) has also been irrefutably found to reduce coral growth. But the effects of ocean acidification on coral bleaching are less clear. In some studies, ocean acidification increases coral bleaching. However, in other studies, ocean acidification does not seem to have an impact.

The Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

To try to clarify this problem, I performed an experiment at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology from November 2014 to January 2015. Collaborating with local researchers (Dr. Ruth Gates, Dr. Ross Cunning and Chris Wall), we exposed colonies of the lace coral, Pocillopora damicornis, to two levels of ocean acidification.

One of these levels (7.95 on the pH scale) will be seen in the near future whilst the other level (7.75 on the pH scale) is what the world could see towards the end of the twenty-first century, if we don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough. At first there may not seem to be much between 7.95 and 7.75, however the pH scale is logarithmic (not linear), so a decrease of 0.2 pH units actually amounts to a huge increase in the level of ocean acidification.

Coral micro colonies used in the ocean acidification experiment.

After two months of exposure to these two levels, we then divided the corals at each level of ocean acidification into a further two groups: one that would experience no increase in water temperature (remaining at 24°C), and one that would experience an increase of 6°C (to a final temperature of 30°C). An increase of that level is often sufficient to cause coral bleaching.

What we wanted to know is, will coral bleaching be worse in the corals that experienced end-of-century ocean acidification, compared to those that experienced less ocean acidification? After one week of temperature exposure, corals were snap frozen, preserving their biology for later analysis in a laboratory.

Using an airbrush of the same type used by artists, we removed the thin layer of tissue from the surface of each coral fragment to collect the single-celled algae that live within the tissue. As photosynthetic organisms, these algae provide the organic molecules that the coral tissue uses for energy. It is the loss of these algal cells from coral tissues that is the cause of the whitening (bleaching) of the coral during high temperatures. Using a microscope, we counted the number of single-celled algae from the tissue of each coral, and then calculated the total number of algal cells per square centimetre of area of coral tissue. This provided a measure of coral bleaching that could be compared between all the corals in our experiment.

In statistical analyses now underway, we are examining whether there is in fact more coral bleaching in those corals exposed to high ocean acidification compared to those that experienced less ocean acidification. This information will help us to plan for the impacts of climate change on coral reefs, and will further help to focus attention on the plight of marine ecosystems in our changing planet.

No better reason could be found for this research than in September 2014, when a coral bleaching event occurred on reefs beside the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology due to high water temperatures. Scientists and coral reef managers in Hawaii are now planning for a second bleaching event at the same location, anticipated to occur this coming summer in 2015.