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Dr David Feary


To be utterly truthful I majored in Marine Biology during my BSc at the University of Auckland as I surfed. However, I found that understanding more than just where the next swell was going to be hitting was pretty interesting. Once finishing my BSc I undertook a Masters (investigating mechanisms of species maintenance within Tripterygiidae) at the University of Auckland with Assoc Prof Kendall Clements.

The warmer waters of the tropics then called, and I moved to Australia to undertake a PhD at James Cook University on the role of coral loss in structuring reef fish community dynamics (graduating 2008) supervised by the dream team of Prof. Geoffrey Jones, Assoc Prof. Mark McCormick and Dr Glenn Almany. This was followed by a 3 year postdoctoral fellowship in Dubai working within a United Nations University – INWEH program headed by Prof. Peter Sale. During this postdoc I worked on a range of projects, though my passion for understanding the dynamics important in structuring reef fish communities saw me undertake work within Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman.

In 2011 I took up a UTS Chancellor's Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Prof. David Booth studying the ecological role of range shifting fish species in structuring temperate ecosystems. However, my interest in examining whether there are global patterns in the mechanisms structuring reef fish communities has resulted in ongoing projects in the Middle East, Singapore, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.


PhD Marine Ecology, James Cook University, awarded September 2008
Masters Marine Biology, University of Auckland, 2001
BSc Zoology, University of Auckland, 1998

Career development
Jan 2011 (3 years) Chancellors Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Technology Sydney
Examining the mechanisms of influx and potential importance of tropical vagrants (tropical fishes that move south in summer months) in structuring fish assemblages in cooler temperate waters of SE Australia.
Dec 2009 – Nov 2010 Senior Marine Environmental Consultant, URS Corporation – Abu Dhabi
Head marine gas and oil consultant, responsible for supervision and mentoring of three environmental consultants
Aug 2007 – Nov 2009 Postdoctoral Fellow, United Nations University INWEH – Dubai
The primary goal of this project was to design and implement a long-term environmental monitoring program (EMP) and management plan for marine waters surrounding the Palm Development Projects within Dubai. Ecological and environmental research was carried out to determine the nature of these newly developed ecosystems and how they respond to weather and other environmental variables.

Visiting research fellowship
2011/2012 Visiting Research Scholar: New York University (Abu Dhabi); Nanyang Technological University (Singapore)
2009 Visiting Research Scholar, Windsor University, Canada (2 months)

Fellowships and scholarships (with salary)
2011-14 Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, University of Technology Sydney (3 years full-time salary inc. $45K research support + $30K travel fellowship)
2007-10 Postdoctoral Fellow, United Nations University – INWEH (3 years full-time salary, inc. US4m research support)
2003-07 James Cook University, Postgraduate Research Award (3 years full-time salary)

Awards, prizes and travel grants (selected)
2011 Early Career Research Grant, University of Technology, Sydney ($24,946)
2007 Best student paper, Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies ($1000)
2006-2007 James Cook University Graduate Research Scholarship ($1500 per year)
2006 Australian Coral Reef Society for best student presentation at national conference ($300)
2005 Australian Coral Reef Society Fellowship ($2000); The Nature Conservancy, PNG ($9900)
2004 Australian Coral Reef Society Terry Walker Award ($2500); Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Science for Management Award ($1000)
2003 James Cook University Merit Research Grant for examining effects of coral loss on reef fish communities on Great Barrier Reef ($19000)

Image of David Feary
Associate of the Faculty, School of Life Sciences
Associate Member, Centre for Environmental Sustainability
B. Sc, M.Sc, PhD
+61 2 9514 4068

Research Interests

The role of extreme environments in structuring tropical reef fish communities
Mechanisms facilitating range shifts of tropical fish species into temperate ecosystems
Effects of ocean acidification on finfish fisheries species
Behavioural impacts of marine protected area development on fish community structure
Functional structuring of temperate reef fish communities

Other professional development
Senior editor for Special Issue in Marine Pollution Bulletin encompassing papers discussing the current marine research within the Arabian Gulf (due to be published July 2012)
Co-organiser (with 2 colleagues) of Coral Reefs of the Gulf conference Abu Dhabi 17-19 Jan 2012
Co-participant (led by Prof Peter Sale) within international workshop on “Managing Coastal Seas for the 21st Century” July 2012


Feary, D.A., Burt, J.A., Cavalcante, G.H. & Bauman, A.G. 2012, 'Extreme physical factors and the structure of gulf fish and reef communities' in Riegl, B.M. & Purkis, S.J. (eds), Coral Reefs of the Gulf, Springer, Netherlands, pp. 163-170.
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Burt, J.A., Bartholomew, A. & Feary, D.A. 2012, 'Man-made structures as artificial reefs in the gulf' in Riegl, B.M. & Purkis, S.J. (eds), Coral Reefs of the Gulf, Springer, Netherlands, pp. 171-186.
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Chapter 10 (Burt et al.) acknowledges the fact that the spectacular economic development in the Gulf region has created miles of arti fi cial reef habitat and explores the dynamics, and conservation value, of man-made habitats. The following section reviews the systematics and taxonomy of some major animal and plant groups found on coral reefs.

Journal articles

Feary, D.A., Pratchett, M.S., J Emslie, M., Fowler, A.M., Figueira, W.F., Luiz, O.J., Nakamura, Y. & Booth, D.J. 2014, 'Latitudinal shifts in coral reef fishes: Why some species do and others do not shift', Fish and Fisheries, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 593-615.
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© 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Climate change is resulting in rapid poleward shifts in the geographical distribution of many tropical fish species, but it is equally apparent that some fishes are failing to exhibit expected shifts in their geographical distribution. There is still little understanding of the species-specific traits that may constrain or promote successful establishment of populations in temperate regions. We review the factors likely to affect population establishment, including larval supply, settlement and post-settlement processes. In addition, we conduct meta-analyses on existing and new data to examine relationships between species-specific traits and vagrancy. We show that tropical vagrant species are more likely to originate from high-latitude populations, while at the demographic level, tropical fish species with large body size, high swimming ability, large size at settlement and pelagic spawning behaviour are more likely to show successful settlement into temperate habitats. We also show that both habitat and food limitation at settlement and within juvenile stages may constrain tropical vagrant communities to those species with medium to low reliance on coral resources.
Feary, D.A., Fowler, A.M. & Ward, T.J. 2014, 'Developing a rapid method for undertaking the World Ocean Assessment in data-poor regions - A case study using the South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem', Ocean and Coastal Management, vol. 95, pp. 129-137.
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The United Nations Environment Program, World Ocean Assessment, requires rapid assessment of the state of marine ecosystems at regional scales, yet a practical method for achieving this in data-poor regions has not been developed. We present a method that is capable of synthesising information across a broad range of ecosystem components in a timely manner, while also overcoming the paucity of empirical data available at large spatial scales. We develop a hierarchical and adaptable assessment framework that encompasses 'Biodiversity', 'Ecosystem health' and 'Environmental pressure' components, which are further divided into parameters (representing the structure and/or function of each component) and indicators (which indicate the spatial distribution of the assessed parameter). We argue that this framework is best utilised within an expert elicitation process. To determine the validity of this framework in undertaking a WOA, this approach was applied to the South China Sea Large Marine Ecosystem during a 3-day pilot workshop held in Bangkok, Thailand, 2012. Forty-five experts from 11 countries in the region participated in assessing the biodiversity, ecosystem health and environmental pressures structuring 104 pre-identified ecosystem variables. The majority of areas within the SCS were graded as 'Poor' in terms of their biodiversity, with biodiversity in decline within 64% of these variables. In contrast, most areas were graded as 'Good' for ecosystem health, with 51% of variables considered stable in terms of ecosystem health. However, most areas were graded as 'Poor' for ecosystem pressures, with pressures either stable or increasing. Ecosystem variables in 'Poor' or 'Very Poor' condition in Most (80%) of areas were identified as conservation priorities. These variables were primarily associated with groups of taxa, including elasmobranch fauna, inner-shelf demersal fishes, squid and large invertebrate species inhabiting reefs (e.g., giant clam). A range of i...
Vergés, A., Steinberg, P.D., Hay, M.E., Poore, A.G.B., Campbell, A.H., Ballesteros, E., Heck, K.L., Booth, D.J., Coleman, M.A., Feary, D.A., Figueira, W., Langlois, T., Marzinelli, E.M., Mizerek, T., Mumby, P.J., Nakamura, Y., Roughan, M., van Sebille, E., Gupta, A.S.E., Smale, D.A., Tomas, F., Wernberg, T. & Wilson, S.K. 2014, 'The tropicalization of temperate marine ecosystems: climate-mediated changes in herbivory and community phase shifts', Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society, vol. 281, no. 1789, p. 20140846.
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© 2014 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved. Climate-driven changes in biotic interactions can profoundly alter ecological communities, particularly when they impact foundation species. In marine systems, changes in herbivory and the consequent loss of dominant habitat forming species can result in dramatic community phase shifts, such as from coral to macroalgal dominance when tropical fish herbivory decreases, and from algal forests to 'barrens' when temperate urchin grazing increases. Here, we propose a novel phase-shift away from macroalgal dominance caused by tropical herbivores extending their range into temperate regions. We argue that this phase shift is facilitated by poleward-flowing boundary currents that are creating ocean warming hotspots around the globe, enabling the range expansion of tropical species and increasing their grazing rates in temperate areas. Overgrazing of temperate macroalgae by tropical herbivorous fishes has already occurred in Japan and the Mediterranean. Emerging evidence suggests similar phenomena are occurring in other temperate regions, with increasing occurrence of tropical fishes on temperate reefs.
Feary, D.A., Burt, J.A., Bauman, A.G., Al Hazeem, S., Abdel-Moati, M.A., Al-Khalifa, K.A., Anderson, D.M., Amos, C., Baker, A., Bartholomew, A., Bento, R., Cavalcante, G.H., Chen, C.A., Coles, S.L., Dab, K., Fowler, A.M., George, D., Grandcourt, E., Hill, R., John, D.M., Jones, D.A., Keshavmurthy, S., Mahmoud, H., Moradi Och Tapeh, M., Mostafavi, P.G., Naser, H., Pichon, M., Purkis, S., Riegl, B., Samimi-Namin, K., Sheppard, C., Vajed Samiei, J., Voolstra, C.R. & Wiedenmann, J. 2013, 'Critical research needs for identifying future changes in Gulf coral reef ecosystems', Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 406-416.
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Expert opinion was assessed to identify current knowledge gaps in determining future changes in Arabian/Persian Gulf (thereafter 'Gulf') coral reefs. Thirty-one participants submitted 71 research questions that were peer-assessed in terms of scientific importance (i.e., filled a knowledge gap and was a research priority) and efficiency in resource use (i.e., was highly feasible and ecologically broad). Ten research questions, in six major research areas, were highly important for both understanding Gulf coral reef ecosystems and also an efficient use of limited research resources. These questions mirrored global evaluations of the importance of understanding and evaluating biodiversity, determining the potential impacts of climate change, the role of anthropogenic impacts in structuring coral reef communities, and economically evaluating coral reef communities. These questions provide guidance for future research on coral reef ecosystems within the Gulf, and enhance the potential for assessment and management of future changes in this globally significant region. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Burt, J., Feary, D., Usseglio, P., Bauman, A. & Sale, P.F. 2010, 'The Influence of Wave Exposure on Coral Community Development on Man-Made Breakwater Reefs, with a Comparison to a Natural Reef', Bulletin of Marine Science, vol. 86, no. 4, pp. 839-859.
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