The CBE Applauds Dr. Elizabeth Madin

On July 9th, the CBE team welcomed Dr. Elizabeth Madin, a postdoctoral fellow funded jointly by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Australian Research Council (ARC) based in Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The photo above shows (left to right) Yunguang (YG) Chen, CBE Research Associate, Maren Farnum, CBE Research Associate, Dr. Elizabeth Madin, and Pat Johnston, CBE/NOEP Data Manager.  

Dr. Madin’s research runs along two lines currently: The effects of human behavior on fish populations in the Great Barrier Reef and how predation risk shapes seascapes.  For the former, she works with teams of divers that survey both temperate and tropical reefs, and her main question is does human activity (mainly fishing) of top-level level predators or keystone species impact the various trophic levels of biodiversity? What she found is that unless there is catastrophic “scorched earth” level of overfishing, there is little effect on the trophic cascade.   Hurray!   Good news of the ocean surviving our actions!

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This type of research is highly intensive, requires lots of people and supplies, and samples a relatively small area.   Her second line of research involves use of remote imaging to do larger scale observation at a lower cost. Within any coral reef system there appear “grassy halos”: areas just outside the reef where the herbivores graze, making a mowed lawn effect in circles around the feeding area.   These halos can appear around a single rock or entire reefs.   Using google earth (Google Earth Outreach) and drones (, a large area can be surveyed and changes in the grassy halos observed.   Her work now is to isolate the variables in the changes of grassy halos, and create a protocol that can be used by organizations around the world.   This model could potentially change the face of coral reef surveys, creating a larger swath of information at a fraction of the cost. She is also trying to get citizen science into the model (Zooniverse).  


The CBE applauds Dr. Madin’s work, and we hope to continue a long and fruitful friendship! To find out more about Dr. Elizabeth Madin, visit her website: