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Environmental research and education go hand-in-hand. Mahonia Na Dari offers a unique opportunity for marine scientists and other researchers to work on a wide variety of projects that both advance collective knowledge and benefit communities.

Professor Geoff Jones and his lab group based at James Cook University (Australia) have been conducting scientific research in Kimbe bay for over 20 years.

They have collected one of the most significant long-term reef monitoring data sets in the region and have published some of the most important studies to date in the fields of marine ecology and conservation.

Current Research

Newcastle University, United Kingdom

Dr. Theresa Rueger

Lecturer in Tropical Biodiversity,

Principal Investigator

Theresa’s research focuses on the

evolution of social and mating systems

and population dynamics of coral reef fishes. Her current work utilizes long-term behavioural experiments, molecular tools and evolutionary modelling to understand social evolution in two key model species in Kimbe Bay; the emerald coral goby, Paragobiodon xanthosomus, and the clown anemonefish, Amphiprion percula.


Melissa Versteeg

PhD Candidate

Melissa is monitoring inshore

anemonefish populations to understand

their response to environmental stress

exposure. She looks at a range of abiotic and biotic factors including temperature, turbidity, and predator density. Her research focuses on how population dynamics change during disturbance events such as bleaching or flooding.

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Other Researchers

Yuya Kobayashi

PhD Candidate, Osaka University, Japan

Yuya's research focuses on the relationship

between environmental factors such as 

resource availability and the social structure

of marine fish. Specifically he looks at Amphiprion

clarkii, a widely distributed species, to make comparisons among populations. He is also making interspecific comparisons between A. clarkii and the closely related species A. percula.


Lucian Himes

Fulbright Researcher,

United States

Lucian's work focuses on how we can

use drones to map and monitor coral

reefs. One of the ways he is testing the

usefulness of drones is by mapping reefs near areas where mangroves have been reintroduced to determine if this helps mitigate the effects of various types of land use. 

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Reef Fish Connectivity Group.

James Cook University, University of Perpignan, CRIOBE

An international collaboration between leading research groups which has conducted some of the most significant work on fish dispersal and population connectivity to date.


Mahonia Na Dari works with Walindi Plantation Resort to host a resident researcher who is actively involved with both institutions. You can read more about the Resident Researcher Program here.

Past Researchers



Ben's research examines connectivity between fish populations at various scales across Kimbe Bay. Using a combination of acoustic telemetry, genetics and stable isotope analysis he aims to understand more about how fishes utilize the seascape.




Saul is investigating ecological relationships between fish and sponges, specifically focusing on how invasive ascidian species are altering habitat availability for fish communities.




As a graduate student in the Buston Lab, I study the environmental and social factors that influence parental care and how variation in the parental environment can influence future generations using the clownfish (Amphiprion percula) as a model system.




My honours project is aimed at measuring the abundance of macro-algae on the inshore reefs of Kimbe Bay and comparing the fish communities between macro-algae and non-macro-algae dominated areas. I will also be conducting an experiment to test if the macro-algae Turbinaria directly causes differences in fish communities, by removing all Turbinaria from small plots and comparing the fish communities to those of control plots. This research should provide a much needed understanding of the ecological functions that these under-studied macro-algae serve for fishes, and of the types of communities we may expect to find if coral loss and macro-algal proliferation continue.


Patrick Smallhorn-West

Patrick conducted his honours degree in Kimbe Bay investigating the depth distribution and abundance of coral-associated reef fish. He is currently conducting his PhD at James Cook University working on protected area design and implication in Tonga.



Peter studied the habitat specialisation, distribution and abundance of dwarfgobies in Kimbe Bay. Using ecological surveys, his research discovered strong associations of many species with particular corals including some of the most extreme fine-scale patterns of habitat specialisation known for reef fishes. Most interestingly, dramatic declines of two habitat specialised species were documented in response to extreme losses of their preferred coral habitats over the past decade. These findings confirmed that coral specialists are most threatened by declining coral cover, and local extinction is likely where their preferred corals are lost. 



Ed conducted part of his PhD in Kimbe Bay. His research focuses on the depth distribution patterns of reef-building corals and has recently resulted in a high impact paper in the journal Ecology.



Matt worked at MND for several years between 2011-2015 doing his PhD research on depth gradients in coral reefs. He looked at how diversity, distribution and habitat specialization change with depth for coral reef fishes. This is important to know as it might tell us whether deeper reefs are suitable as a refuge for fishes when shallow reefs get damaged through climate change related disturbances. Matt now works at the University in Northumbria in the UK.




My research focused upon habitat choices by juvenile reef fish following a larval stage within the pelagic environment.  I concentrated on the use of chemosensory cues by juveniles of several common coral reef fish species (damselfish, butterflyfish and wrasses).  I wanted to determine whether they could detect different habitat types or members of the same species though ‘smell’ alone.  I also considered whether scent of degraded habitats might alter these choices.  I found that most species were either capable of detecting their preferred habitat type, or avoiding their non-preferred habitat type.  For fish species that exhibited a more social nature, the presence of other fish was important in shaping habitat choices.



Alyssa did her Masters at MND in 2014, researching how juvenile fishes use branching corals as habitat. While we know that small coral reef fishes use corals for shelter, we know less about how medium sized mobile fishes depend on coral as habitat when they are young.
Alyssa now completed her PhD and is a Policy officer at the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Waterworking in Tasmania. She is working on marine threatened species and ecological community policy and recovery planning.

Scientific Publications

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