In 1978 I was lucky enough to participate in a Cambridge Coral Starfish Research Group expedition to the Sudanese Red Sea for three months. This first encounter with coral reefs changed my life and I returned home determined to change my career from insect physiologist to coral reef biologist. Initially, I worked largely on reef fish systematics and biogeography with expeditions to the Cape Verde Islands, St Paul’s Rocks, Fernando de Noronha, and Saint Helena Island looking at fish zoogeography and undescribed and endemic fish species. However, when I was appointed to a Leverhulme Teaching Fellowship to help establish a MSc in Tropical Coastal Management at Newcastle University, my research focus changed to the science underpinning coastal management in the tropics, research on fishery and other human impacts on coral reefs, applications of remote sensing technologies to coastal management, and latterly the natural recovery processes of reefs and coral reef restoration science.
My interest in coral reef restoration started in the Maldives in the late 1980s where coral mining had left some reefs in a persistent degraded state for decades. I became involved again in 2004 with the GEF/World Bank funded Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management programme (a multi-million dollar international drive to investigate some of the most pressing problems facing coral reefs), where I chaired the Restoration and Remediation Working Group from 2004-2010, and led one team in the European Commission funded REEFRES project (2005-2008). The former project resulted in Reef Restoration Concepts and Guidelines (published in four languages) and a Reef Rehabilitation Manual for managers. The latter involved a six-country consortium (Israel, Italy, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, UK) of coral reef researchers focused on asexual propagation of corals in in-situ nurseries for reef restoration. With pressures on corals from local human impacts and climate change getting ever greater, it is great to have the opportunity to participate in CoralAssist.