Program & Agenda

Keynotes and Plenaries

Opening Plenary Session by President Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr., Republic of Palau

Date: Monday, 20 June 2016   Time: 08:00 - 09:30
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: President Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr., Republic of Palau

President Remengesau is the first Palauan to be elected as President three times. He was first elected President in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004. Constitutionally limited to two consecutive presidential terms, Remengesau was elected in 2008 as Senator in the Palau National Congress (Olbiil Era Kelulau) where he served until his election as President again in 2012.

In 2014, the voice for the environment in the United Nations system, the United Nations Environmental Programme, awarded Remengesau with its top accolade, The Champion of the Earth award, for his visionary leadership in strengthening Palau’s economic resilience by spearheading national initiatives to protect its biodiversity. President Remengesau is now spearheading a historic effort in the establishment of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, signed into law on October 28, 2015. This large scale marine protected area covers 100% of Palau’s waters (over 600,000 square km) and includes an 80% no-take reserve and a 20% protected domestic fishing zone, providing even greater protection for Palau’s environment while further enhancing Palau’s tourism revenues. The world’s sixth largest fully protected marine area, the Palau National Marine Sanctuary is Palau’s contribution to preserving the world’s ocean resources.

The 2016 Darwin Medal Award Presentation to Jack Randall

Date: Monday, 20 June 2016   Time: 13:15 - 14:00
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Jack Randall

The Recipient of the 2016 Darwin Medal is John (Jack) Randall, of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i. The Medal is the Society's most prestigious honor, awarded only once every 4 years, to an eminent scientist, based on their lifetime's achievements. Previous winners have been David Stoddart, Peter Glynn, Ian MacIntyre, Charlie Veron, Terry Hughes, Jeremy Jackson.

Jack Randall has, since his career began some 70 years ago, made a quite remarkable contribution to coral reef science by tackling the identification of the thousands of species of reef fish, which, when as a student he began diving, were very poorly known. At that time, while many species had never been described, reef fish taxonomy was nevertheless riddled with synonyms, because so many widespread species had been described multiple times by different authors working in multiple, widely scattered places. It is very largely due to Jack, and his many younger collaborators whom he inspired to take up the challenge, that the global reef fish fauna has become so well-known.

During his years or research Jack has undertaken 177 field expeditions, to reef locations throughout the tropics. At the time of his nomination he had published 878 papers, and at the age of 91 had 5 more in press and 6 more submitted. He has described 30 new genera and 815 new fish species of fish and is particularly proud of the high percentage of his new species (97%) that have stood the test of time. His age now restricts his ability to travel internationally, so it is a happy coincidence that he is receiving the award in the year ICRS has come to Hawaii.

For more information about Jack Randall visit

About the Award: The Darwin Medal, the most prestigious award given by ISRS, is presented every four years at the International Coral Reef Symposium. It is awarded to a senior ISRS member who is recognized worldwide for major scientific contributions throughout their career.

Palau Leads the Way by Basing Policy on Biology

Date: Tuesday, 21 June 2016   Time: 08:00 - 09:00
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Charles Birkeland

Presentation Description: Birkeland reports on how the fisheries policies of Palau uniquely fit the life-history traits and ecology of coral-reef and pelagic fishes, and so the Palauans are working with, not against, their fisheries. Some of the policies of Palau are being emulated by other tropical countries.

Biographical Information: Charles Birkeland is a naturalist that has been studying coral reefs for 46 years. From 1970-1975, he was a post-doc in Panamá at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. From 1975-2000, he was a faculty member at the Marine Laboratory of the University of Guam. From 2000 to the present, he is an associate of the Department of Biology at the University of Hawai’i.

Ocean as Heritage: The Role of Culture + Science in Protecting Papahānaumokuākea

Date: Tuesday, 21 June 2016   Time: 12:45 - 13:45
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Aulani Wilhelm

Presentation Description: When Papahānaumokuākea was inscribed by UNESCO as the world’s first mixed natural and cultural marine World Heritage Site it was also the first of its kind to honor indigenous relationships to the sea and the importance of global ocean heritage. Despite the ocean comprising over two-thirds of the surface of the globe, marine protected areas are often overlooked and undervalued for their tangible and intangible cultural heritage and their role in maintaining both natural and cultural diversity on the planet. Large-scale marine protected and marine managed areas are important conservation locations that encompass expansive seascapes, fluid understandings of cultural areas, and various configurations of international boundaries. These connections to people and histories can serve as valuable motivations for communities to take action to safeguard the ocean and should be more deeply examined. By recognizing the inextricable link between nature and culture, indigenous and scientific knowledge are both valued and utilized in the evolving management framework of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage Site.

Biographical Information: Aulani Wilhelm has spent 20 years in natural resource management, primarily ocean conservation, and led the designation of what has become the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and World Heritage site, one of the largest protected areas on Earth and first of its kind to honor indigenous relationships to the sea and the importance of global ocean heritage. Wilhelm is currently Senior Vice President, Center for Oceans for Conservation International. She founded Big Ocean, a global network of marine protected areas spanning >8 million km2 of ocean; is Chair of the IUCN-WCPA Large-Scale Marine Protected Area Task Force; and served as an advisor to UNESCO’s Marine World Heritage Programme. Prior to joining Conservation International she served as Director of Ocean Initiatives for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Embracing a World of Subtlety on Coral Reefs - Peter Mumby

Date: Wednesday, 22 June 2016   Time: 08:00 - 09:00
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Peter Mumby, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Presentation Description: Historically, many researchers have enjoyed the ‘luxury’ of studying relatively intact coral communities. Where studies focused on damaged reefs, the sites chosen were usually severely impacted, such as following the effects of recent cyclones, blast fishing or acute pollution. In other words, our science has tended to represent the extremes of reef health. Yet, the cumulative effects of multiple stressors are reducing the diversity of reef environments, yielding a few truly spectacular reefs, and a large proportion of pretty degraded ecosystems. Increasingly, we will have to target management interventions towards reefs that no longer differ dramatically in their state: When faced with a limited portfolio of reef health, how do we target activities meaningfully? The good news is that the advent of resilience-based management is, in part, directing research towards understanding the subtleties of reef drivers and dynamics. I will review drivers of reef resilience and functioning and describe how science and management can advance in an increasingly ‘subtle’ world. In some instances this will require us to revisit how and what we monitor.

Biographical Information: Professor Peter Mumby is a reef ecologist at the University of Queensland. Prior to undertaking a Ph.D., Peter worked as a practitioner of conservation planning in Belize and discovered first-hand the limited scientific basis of conservation. In 1997, Peter completed a Ph.D. at the University of Sheffield, which helped develop the use of remote sensing tools for coral reef assessment. He then obtained a NERC Post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Newcastle and began focusing on ecological processes. This was followed by a Royal Society Fellowship at the University of Exeter during which time Peter began combining ecological modelling with field experiments, observational studies and spatial datasets. Eventually, the chilly British winters drove Peter to the University of Queensland (2010).

Peter’s research has an ecosystem-level perspective, integrating studies of algae, corals, sponges, fish, food webs, connectivity and disturbances. Where possible, Peter tries to undertake research that will help manage coral reefs. He has contributed research on MPA effects, larval and ontogenetic connectivity, reef resilience, ecosystem functioning, and fisheries. In 2015 Peter was awarded the inaugural ISRS award for a mid-career scientist. He is also the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation, the Rosenstiel Award, and Marsh Award for marine conservation. Peter is happiest at a depth of 10 m with a camera or transect line.

Afternoon Plenary Session - Nancy Knowlton

Date: Wednesday, 22 June 2016   Time: 12:45 - 13:45
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair of Marine Science, Department of Invertebrate Zoology National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA

Biographical Information: Dr. Nancy Knowlton holds the Sant Chair in Marine Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC and is senior scientist emeritus at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Her research centers on the diversity and conservation of life in the ocean. She is the author of National Geographic’s best-selling Citizens of the Sea, was the founding director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal website, and contributes regularly to the global ocean conversation via @seacitizens. Her current research uses state of the art molecular methods to find out what really lives in the sea, and she is actively engaged in spreading messages of conservation hope through the #OceanOptimism initiative that she helped launch in 2014. She is a winner of the Peter Benchley Prize and the Heinz Award, and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 2013.

Presentation Description: Coral reefs are often referred to as the rainforests of the sea, in large part because of their remarkable diversity. Moreover, the harder we have looked over the last few decades, the more diversity we have found. Yet most of this diversity, hidden in the cracks and crevices of reefs, is still undocumented, and few attempt to study it because it is difficult to do. Recently, however, advances in sequencing technologies and sampling methods have made it possible to explore coral reef diversity in a comprehensive fashion. One pressing question for today is to what extent reef diversity is threatened by reef degradation. These new methods are providing us with the opportunity to find out. Whether losing considerable portions of coral reef diversity matters to how reefs function, however, remains an open and challenging question.

A Changing Climate for Coral Reefs - Janice M. Lough

Date: Thursday, 23 June 2016   Time: 08:00 - 09:00
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Janice M. Lough, Senior Principal Research Scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, MC, Queensland, Australia

Presentation Description: Climate is changing for tropical coral reef ecosystems which are already showing their vulnerability with the relatively modest increases in global average temperatures observed to date. In this presentation I will describe how the thermal environment is changing for tropical coral reefs and the historical insights we gain from natural archives of growth and paleoclimate obtained from annually-banded massive coral skeletons. I will also consider what the 2015 Paris pledge to constrain global warming to 'well below 2.0℃' and ideally 'limit to 1.5℃' means for the thermal environments of coral reefs.

Biographical Information: Janice Lough is a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS, Townsville) and Adjunct Professorial Research Fellow and Partner Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Reef Studies, James Cook University. She is a climate scientist who has been publishing on issues related to climate change for over 30 years. Janice has a BSc in Environmental Sciences from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. She completed a Ph.D. on tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures and climate in sub-Saharan Africa in 1982 at the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia. She held an NSF-funded post-doctoral position at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research, University of Arizona, from 1982 to 1986. In 1986, she came to AIMS for a two-year postdoctoral position working with environmental records from corals and has been a research scientist at AIMS since 1988. Current research activities focus on: 1) obtaining annual proxy environmental and growth records from massive corals over the past several centuries; this places current changes in an historical context, and 2) assessing how climate is already changing for tropical marine ecosystems; climate change is not a future event, significant warming of the tropical oceans has already occurred with observable consequences for coral reefs.

Morning Opening Session: A Facilitated Discussion on Specific Actions for Addressing Climate Change and Its Impacts on Coral Reefs

Date: Friday, 24 June 2016   Time: 08:00 - 09:00
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C


  • Joshua Cinner
  • Ruth Gates
  • Ove Hoegh-Guldberg
  • Terry Hughes
  • Nancy Knowlton

Challenge: Developing a blueprint, road map and timeline for the Coral Reef Science and Policy Communities.

Closing Plenary Session / President's Talk

Date: Friday, 24 June 2016   Time: 12:45 - 13:45
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C

Speaker: Ruth D. Gates, Ph.D., Director and Researcher, Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, Kaneohe, HI, USA

Report Out Session

Date: Friday, 24 June 2016   Time: 16:15 - 18:00
Location: Kalakaua Ballroom A/B/C