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Byron Shire
September 20, 2021

SCU’s Peter Harrison acknowledged with Distinguished Professorship

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An eminent and internationally recognised leader in coral reproductive ecology and restoration, Professor Peter Harrison has been honoured by Southern Cross University with the title Distinguished Professor.

For more than 40 years Professor Harrison has been leading coral research efforts on Australia’s World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef and on many reef regions around the world.

Peter Harrison measures coral larvae concentrations on Heron Island in December 2020. Photo Southern Cross University.

The Distinguished Professorship – the University’s highest academic honour – acknowledges and rewards sustained, outstanding performance. Professor Harrison is the inaugural recipient.

The award-winning and fervent coral reef and marine science advocate is recognised internationally as an eminent researcher, pioneer and expert in the field of coral reproduction and larval restoration.

As a strong advocate for the integration of science and conservation, he is actively mentoring the next generation of marine scientists to safeguard the future of the Great Barrier Reef.

Vice Chancellor Professor Tyrone Carlin said Southern Cross University was privileged to award its first Distinguished Professorship to Peter Harrison. ‘The intention of this scheme is to allow us to shine a spotlight on particularly sustained and meritorious academic leadership at the professorial level, to celebrate that contribution and to provide a platform for building upon it to create an enduring legacy.

‘Peter has achieved so much and contributed significantly over a very long period of time. He is a deeply worthy recipient of this honour, and I feel that it is a genuine privilege to be in a position to extend the offer of this appointment.

‘I look forward to seeing Peter capture the essence of this appointment to build his enduring legacy to Southern Cross University and the community.’

In an international scientific first in 1981, Professor Harrison – then a PhD candidate – jointly discovered that many coral species reproduce synchronously, over just a few nights each year, on the Great Barrier Reef.

Peter Harrison on Heron Island. Photo Southern Cross University.

Inspired by this natural phenomenon (called mass coral spawning), Peter Harrison spent many years developing and refining a novel coral larval restoration technique to harness the trillions of egg and sperm bundles released by many coral species. Now known commonly as Coral IVF, the technique has been used successfully in the Philippines and more recently on the Great Barrier Reef and has restored breeding coral populations on damaged sections of reefs.

As well as being awarded multiple prizes for excellence in scientific research, Professor Harrison has a distinguished record of teaching excellence at Southern Cross and a significant track record of higher degree research supervision. He actively involves and supports research students in all facets of his coral larval restoration and other marine science work.

In collaboration with Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Dexter dela Cruz, Professor Harrison first trialled the Coral IVF technique in the Philippines and successfully restored breeding coral populations on highly degraded reefs within two to three years.

Distinguished Professor Peter Harrison said he is delighted to accept this great honour.

‘I look forward to building on the successes so far for the University and the Great Barrier Reef to ensure the legacy is enduring.

‘There are a lot of new and exciting projects and important research by research students and staff in my team, and we are constantly evolving the restoration techniques to be more successful for future larger-scale reef trials’.

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