Filter by Type

The Future of the Raja Ampat Coral Reef Ecosystem

Event Type: 
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
Contact Name: 
Contact Email: 

2:00 PM ET

Title: The Future of the Raja Ampat Coral Reef Ecosystem


Dr.Phillip Dustan, Department of Biology, College of Charleston, SC 


NOAA's National Ocean Service Science Seminar; coordinators are  Tracy Gill and Rick Schwabacher

Remote Access:

We will use Adobe Connect.To join the session, go to, enter as "Guest", and please enter your first and last name. Users should use either IE or Edge on Windows or Safari if using a Mac. Audio will be available thru the computer only; no phone. Questions will be addressed in the chat window. This Webcast will be recorded, archived and made accessible in the near future. You can test your ability to use Adobe Connect at the following link: is over the computer, so adjust volume on your computer speakers or headsets. 
Questions? Email

The reefs of Raja Ampat in the heart of the Coral Triangle are the epicenter of global biodiversity. Their equatorial location provides a refuge from tropical cyclones while being supplied by tropical Pacific Ocean water as part of the Indonesian Throughflow that joins the Pacific and Indian Oceans. However, ecotourism, principally sport diving, has become a booming economic engine that is flooding the area with people. In the past 50 years science has revealed that the very adaptations that enable coral reefs to flourish make them vulnerable to human activity, principally through overfishing, nutrification, and physical damage. The exponential growth of the tourism is already generating destructive ecological effects which are nested within the impacts of ocean warming, acidification, and commercial and artisanal overfishing. Raja Ampat's reefs are of the highest priority for conservation as witnessed by the strong presence of major non-profits including (WWF, TNC, CI) but without a concerted effort to reduce local stressors, coral diseases, algal overgrowth, crown-of-thorns infestations, and physical destruction will quickly decimate live coral cover initiating a cascade to ecological ruin. We have the knowledge, but can we muster the political will and courage to recognize, organize, and implement an initiative to sustain the richest reefs on Earth?


Dr. Phillip Dustan, Professor of Biology, College of Charleston, is a marine ecologist specializing in the ecology, vitality, and conservation of coral reefs. Much of his work has centered on detecting change in reef communities to assess coral reef vitality and human influences. Phil began his reef studies in Discovery Bay, Jamaica in the early 1970's which expanded to include the Florida Keys, Bahamas, the wider Caribbean, Pacific, Indian Oceans, and Java Sea. He worked closely with Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau and the Cousteau Society between 1974-2000, testified to the US Senate Subcommittee on Oceans in support of the Coral Reef Conservation Act of 2000. More recently was part of the scientific team for the Emmy and Peabody Award winning documentary Chasing Coral by ExposureLabs. Dr. Dustan was a founding Principal Investigator on the USEPA Florida Keys Coral Reef/Hardbottom Monitoring Project, pioneered remote sensing techniques for coral reef change and collaborated on developing coral molecular stress markers. Recently, Phil has begun retrospective studies of reefs in Jamaica, Belize, and Florida; places he worked as a young scientist that have all changed almost beyond recognition, having lost between 50% and 95% of their living coral cover ( This has sparked collaboration with to involve more people in reef conservation through the concept of “Diving with a Purpose”. People get involved with reef conservation through clean-up dives and other projects that connect them personally to the reef, triggering them to become ardent conservationists. Just like politics, all conservation really begins with local people and their local actions.  
Multimedia credits (television, video, film, web):
TEDx Charleston on saving coral reefs, October, 2017.
Chasing Coral 2017, Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate.
Vanishing Coral, Earth Focus Episode 72, 2017. The personal story of scientists and naturalists working with local communities to protect coral reefs. First aired on KCET TV 11 April 2017.
Coral Reef Bleaching in Bali, NW Bali, Indonesia a video showing ecological change 2015 to 2016:
Caribbean Coral Reefs Through Time 1972 to 2013 
Coral Reefs Canaries of the Sea, 2003. Glick, P. Reston, VA: National Wildlife Federation.
Mysteries of the Hidden Deep, 1976. Science Advisor to Undersea World of Jacques Yves Cousteau, Episode 34. Filmed in Belize, Jamaica, and Mexico.
Subscribe to the OneNOAA Science Seminar weekly email: Send an email to with the word 'subscribe' in the subject or body. Visit the OneNOAA Science Seminar Series website for more information.

Translate this Page