Plenary Speaker Portraits

As highlights of the 15th ICRS 2022 scientific program, plenary events with lectures by leading scientists from different areas of the coral reef community will take place daily.

Below you will find the portraits of our outstanding plenary speakers.

Dr. Nancy Knowlton - Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

For over 40 years, Dr. Nancy Knowlton has studied and worked to protect ocean biodiversity. She was a professor at Yale University (1979 - 1984), staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panamá (1984 - 1998), professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1998 - 2007), and Sant Chair of Marine Science at the Smithonian`s National Museum of Natural History (2007 - 2019). She was the founding director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at Scripps, co-led the coral reef program within the Census of Marine Life, chaired the synthesis panel of the World Bank’s targeted research for coral reefs program, and has served on the boards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Coral Reef Alliance. She is the author of Citizens of the Sea, an elected member of the US National Academy of Sciences, and currently serves on the Global Board of The Nature Conservancy.

In 2020, she received the highest award of the International Coral Reef Society: The Darwin Medal. During the opening ceremony of the ICRS 2022 in Bremen, Germany, she will receive the award from the president of the International Coral Reef Society Prof. Dr. Andréa Grottoli. We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Nancy Knowlton as an award winner and plenary speaker at the upcoming ICRS meeting.

Prof. Dr. Hans-Otto Pörtner - University of Bremen & AWI

Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner’s work covers the effects of global warming, ocean acidification, and hypoxia on marine ecosystems, animals, and molecular as well as physiological bases of ecological processes. His research interests also span mechanisms setting thermal tolerance, as well as temperature dependent biogeography and evolution. Professor Pörtner is a full professor at Universität Bremen and head of the section ‘Integrative Ecophysiology’ at the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). He has served several roles (lead author, coordinating lead author) in previous Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment cycles and currently serves as Co-Chair of the IPCC Working Group II (Impacts and Adaptation). His commitment to understanding the effects of changing climate factors on marine life are particularly important to ICRS 2022 trying to tackle the challenging future of coral reefs.

Prof. Natalie Ban - University of Victoria

Trained in geography, resource management and environmental studies, Professor Natalie Ban works on management and conservation of biodiversity, in consideration of the communities and people that depend on these resources. Her research group, Marine Ethnoecology Research at the University of Victoria, investigates the complex relationship between people and the environment (ethnoecology). Specifically, her focus lies in marine and coastal systems, their conservation and sustainable use. Professor Ban has worked on incorporating human use of resources into conservation planning and investigated the ecological effectiveness of regional conservation efforts. Her research has involved partnerships with communities, organizations and governments. ICRS 2022 aims to link social and ecological aspects of marine conservation and, like Professor Ban’s research, promote stewardship for better future development.

Prof. Dr. Raquel Peixoto - King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KAUST

Prof. Dr. Raquel Peixoto is an associate professor at KAUST (King Abdullah University of Science and Technology), a pioneer on Coral Probiotics development and a co-chair of the ICRS coral conservation committee. Prof. Peixoto's research has outlined the protocols and proved the concept that the manipulation of coral-associated microorganisms, using Beneficial Microorganisms for Corals (BMCs), is possible and can increase the host's resilience and resistance against environmental threats. This pioneering work has contributed to pave the way for new approaches to reveal and explore mechanisms of marine microbiology and symbiotic interactions. Besides, she is founder and chair of the Beneficial Microbes for Marine Organisms network (BMMO). One of her main goals is to promote a powerful international platform where basic knowledge can be strengthened and transformed into products to be used for marine ecosystems and sustainable development, as part of her projects on coral reef protection, restoration and rehabilitation. 

Prof. Nick Graham - Lancaster University

As a Royal Society University Research Fellow, Professor Graham focuses on large-scale ecological and social-ecological coral reef issues in terms of climate change, human use and resilience. Professor Graham is the Chair in Marine Ecology at Lancaster University, UK. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. His research assesses the long-term impacts and ecological ramifications of climate induced coral bleaching on fish assemblages and fisheries. Professor Graham has increasingly worked with social scientists to assess methods of natural resource management. His efforts are in line with the objective of ICRS 2022 to bridge the gap between natural and social sciences, to develop solutions for the global coral reef crisis.

Dr. Katharina Fabricius - Australian Institute of Marine Science

A dedicated coral reef ecologist since 1988, Dr. Katharina Fabricius aims to better understand how coral reef ecological processes are affected by environmental disturbances from ocean acidification and terrestrial runoff of sediments and nutrients. Dr. Fabricius is a Senior Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). Her research examines ecological effects of ocean acidification in benthic ecosystems, as well as cumulative impacts of water quality and climate change. She uses shallow volcanic CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea as a natural laboratory to investigate organisms’ responses to elevated CO2. In 2016, Dr. Fabricius received the Eminence in Research Award by the International Coral Reef Society. Her commitment to understanding the impacts of ocean acidification are of particular importance for ICRS 2022, as it aims to facilitate the progress and development of potential solutions.

Prof. Iliana Baums - Pennsylvania State University

Professor Iliana Baums combines field experiments with molecular techniques to study the ecology and evolution of corals. In 2004, she was awarded the Smith Prize for the most original piece of research at the University of Miami, where she received her PhD. She was named a Humboldt Fellow in 2014. Baums is currently a Professor of Biology at the Pennsylvania State University where her lab studies the evolutionary ecology of cold- and warm water corals and their symbionts. Her lab is developing the temperate coral, Astrangia poculata as a new model system. She is committed to translating her results into tools and methods for coral restoration and conservation. Her interdisciplinary research focusing on the interactions between organism as well as the environment contributes to ICRS 2022 efforts to create a multifaceted conference that works together to protect coral reef ecosystems.

Prof. Jorge Cortés-Núñez - University of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the countries on our planet that is particularly important in terms of biodiversity and protection of nature. In 2019, the country received the title "Champion of the Earth 2019" from the United Nations. Professor Jorge Cortés has been conducting research here for over 40 years. He is a specialist in coral reefs and marine biodiversity and has studied the main tropical coastal-marine ecosystems, coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests, with an emphasis on coral reef ecology, and natural and anthropogenic impacts on those ecosystems. In recent years his interest has moved to deeper waters with a focus on the diversity and interaction of organisms in the deep ocean. He is also the project leader of the ACG-GDFCF-CIMAR marine biodiversity, or BioMar-ACG project.

Throughout his academic career, he has trained hundreds of professionals and researchers. He has published more than 300 scientific and popular papers. Jorge Cortés has been a key reason why Costa Rica has been able to position itself so favorably on the world map. Professor Jorge Cortés has received many awards, including the National Science Prize of Costa Rica, as well as the 2021 Eminence in Research Award from the International Coral Reef Society.

Prof. Jody Webster - University of Sydney

Professor Jody Webster’s research on sedimentology and stratigraphy is focused on climate change and carbonate sedimentology, with a particular interest in coral reef systems. At the University of Sydney he is a coordinator of the Geocoastal Research group, which focuses on connecting geocoastal research with marine ecology and coastal engineering. Professor Webster has a keen interest in understanding how climatic changes, past and future, alter sediment transport from the coast to reef sites. Since coral reefs are sensitive to sediment fluxes, it is important to understand how sediment accumulation can influence reef development and evolution. His direction of research is essential for future coastal development and land use management. ICRS 2022 seeks to improve our understanding of coral reefs not only to protect them, but to facilitate sustainable coastal development and best practice solutions.