About the project


Between 2006 and 2011 the Ningaloo Research Program gathered data and information on the Ningaloo coastal region of Western Australia. This intense program of collaborative research produced an unprecedented wealth of knowledge about the iconic area including discovery of new marine species, predictions on the effects of human behaviour, and coastal and marine park management.

The Ningaloo Research Program was a collaboration between the Western Australian Marine Science Institution (WAMSI), CSIRO’s Ningaloo Collaboration Cluster, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, the WA Departments of Environment & Conservation and Fisheries and a number of universities (Murdoch, Curtin, UWA, Edith Cowan, Australian National University and University of Queensland). Significant effort was also put into working with local communities and enterprises.

The outcomes produced by these researchers substantially increased knowledge about Ningaloo and its biodiversity, laying a good foundation for ongoing research and management in the region.

The intent of the research program was to provide information that could be used to assess and modify current management strategies, where appropriate, to ensure the sustainability of valued marine resources and human communities far into the future.


The research has:

  • produced computer models that act like “flight simulators” and will assist planners and managers to play out different scenarios and management options which evaluate the potential impacts on the economy, the community, tourism and natural resources; and assist to resolve trade-offs between development and conservation;
  • identified detailed patterns of activities of people along the coast and how those relate to access roads and other infrastructure;
  • produced highly accurate and detailed maps of the physical and biological components of the reef, lagoon and terrestrial systems;
  • studied the impacts of tourism on the park to predict the potential effects of different development plans on environmental, economic and social outcomes • worked with a wide range of stakeholders to identify what information and key communication processes are required for integrated coastal management to be improved and maintained for the long term.

Research Articles

Boschetti F, de la Tour A, Fulton, E., Little LR. 2010. Interactive modelling for natural resource management. Environmental Modelling & Software 25, 1075-1085.

Cassata L,  Collins  LB,  2008.  Coral  reef  communities,  habitats,  and  substrates  in  and  near  Sanctuary Zones of Ningaloo Marine Park. Journal of Coastal Research: Vol. 24, No. 1 pp. 139–151.

Cerutti-Pereyra F., Thums M., Austin C. M., Bradshaw C. J. A., Stevens J. D., Babcock R. C., Pillans R. D., Meekan M. G. (2014) Restricted movements of juvenile rays in the lagoon of Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia – evidence for the existence of a nursery. Environ Biol Fish 97, 371–383.

Collins, Lindsay B. 2010. Controls on Morphology and Growth History of Coral Reefs of Australia’s Western Margin, in Morgan, W.A. et al (ed), SEPM Special Publication 95: Cenozoic Carbonate Systems of Australasia. pp. 195-217. USA: Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM).  ISBN 9781565763029

Collins,  L.B.  2011:  Reef  Structure.  In:  David  Hopley  (ed.)  Encyclopedia  of  Modern  Coral  Reefs,  Springer.

Collins,  L.B.  2011:  Western  Australian  Reefs.  In:  David  Hopley  (ed.)  Encyclopedia  of  Modern  Coral Reefs, Springer.

Cvitanovic C, van Puttena EI, Hobday AJ, Mackay M, Kelly R, McDonald J, Waples K, Barnesh P (2018) Building trust among marine protected area managers and community members through scientific research: Insights from the Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia. Marine Policy

Cvitanovica c, McDonald J, Hobday A.J., (2016) From science to action: Principles for undertaking environmental research that enables knowledge exchange and evidence-based decision-making Journal of Environmental Management 2016, 183(3), 864;

Johansson CL, Bellwood DR, Depczynski M (2010) Sea urchins, macroalgae and coral reef decline: a functional evaluation of an intact reef system, Ningaloo, Western Australia. Mar Ecol Progr Ser 414: 65-74

Little R, Thebaud O, Fulton B. 2014. Evaluation of management strategies in Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. International Journal of Sustainable Society (IJSSOC), Vol. 6, No. 1/2, 2014 DOI:10.1504/IJSSOC.2014.057892

Twiggs  EJ,  and  Collins  LB  2010.  Development  and  demise  of  a  fringing  coral  reef  during  Holocene environmental change. Marine Geology 275, 20-36.

Wilson, SK, Depczynski M, Fisher R, Holmes TH, O’Leary RA, Tinkler P (2010) Habitat associations of juvenile fish at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia: the importance of coral and algae. PloS One 5 (12): e15185.



Program: WAMSI 2006-2011

Completed: 2007

Location: Ningaloo Marine Park

Project Leader: Dr Chris Simpson (DEC)

Project Contact:

Dr Kelly Waples (DBCA)



Final Report

Fact Sheet: Overview

Fact Sheet: species inventory

Fact Sheet: Ecosystem interactions

Symposium 2007

Progress report

Symposium 2008

Student day 2009