Project Manta Ningaloo Reef

Expedition Briefing


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The Research

Ningaloo Reef is one of the world’s least disturbed coral reef ecosystems and boasts very high biodiversity and iconic megafauna that support an important wildlife interaction tourism industry. While past research has focused on megafauna, little is known about the organisms and ecosystems that support them. Whale sharks and manta rays feed largely on plankton, yet little is known about the food webs that drive plankton blooms. Turtles feed on benthic plants and animals, but these components of the food web are poorly understood. Top order reef predators such as reef sharks aggregate adjacent to key manta ray aggregation sites off Coral Bay, both dependent on the ongoing health of the surrounding coral reef and its benthic inhabitants. The understanding of the habitat on which these top predators rely and the species, which coexist within it is crucial in protecting this pristine reef. Thus, there is clearly a need to investigate the ecological processes that drive the diverse Ningaloo lagoon.

The tourist settlement of Coral Bay is located near the middle of the 280 km-long Ningaloo Reef and is adjacent to Bateman Bay, which is the location of a manta ray wildlife interaction industry. Bateman Bay is a unique ecosystem, consisting of a large sandy lagoon with good connectivity to oceanic waters that supply nutrients and plankton that support manta ray aggregations. It has extensive shallow sand flats where dugongs, turtles and tiger sharks are frequently found, as well as critical habitats for the health of megafauna, such as cleaning stations. The diversity of habitats and megafauna, the availability of the local research station, and proximity to the settlement of Coral Bay, makes this an ideal site for studying the complex ecological systems of Ningaloo Reef.

The Coral Bay Research Station has been operating since 2004 and is the only research facility on the Ningaloo Reef. The Research Station has supported researchers and students from many institutions from around the world working on a range of topics. It has been the base for several large-scale research programs, including habitat mapping and biodiversity studies funded by the CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship; an internationally-funded coral restoration program; and several manta ray projects, most recently the industry- and government-supported Project Manta. With year-round accessibility and supported by Murdoch University, the Research Station makes an ideal base for long-term studies on ecosystem functioning and health.

Research Aims

This research program is taking an ecosystem approach, examining the dynamics of lagoon organisms and food webs, as well as the physical environment. High priority habitats that are being targeted at present include the shallow sand flats and megafauna cleaning stations. This provides an essential baseline for monitoring the health of the Ningaloo lagoon, and examining the impacts of climate change and the impacts of human presence, pollution (i.e. plastics) and tourism. Key components, which participants will be involved in, include:

  • Surveying stingrays and small sharks in intertidal and shallow lagoon ecosystems
  • Sampling and determining zooplankton diversity and abundance in areas frequented by manta rays and microplastics concentrations in the water
  • Monitoring human numbers and activity, including tourism, recreational fishing and pollution impacts
  • Surveying fish diversity and abundance at cleaning stations frequented by key marine wildlife
  • Contributing to manta ray ID database image processing

How You Will Help

Your time will be split equally among 4 key activities:

  1. Snorkel Activities from a Small Boat.
    • Benthic surveys: Record presence of benthic rays, sharks, and record the densities of benthic invertebrates such as echinoderms across shallow lagoon sand flats. Sample the substrate to investigate seasonal presence of microphytobenthos.
    • Cleaning stations surveys: Act as a spotter for manta rays, photograph manta rays, observe and record manta ray behavior, and help download and deploy acoustic listening stations.
  2. Tows From a Small Boat.
    • Foraging area surveys: Participate in the collection of plankton to determine the productivity at locations within and external to sanctuary zones by conducting plankton tows.
    • Microplastics surveys: Conduct surface tows to examine microplastic concentrations in the local environment.
  3. Land/Inshore Activities.
    • Shark surveys: Walk about a kilometer to conduct visual surveys of a shallow lagoon where blacktip and grey reef sharks as well as several ray species aggregate. Enter survey data into the database that forms part of a larger Department of Parks and Wildlife monitoring program.
    • Ray surveys: A team will undertake snorkel surveys of stingray diversity and abundance along the shore, whilst collecting evidence of stingray feeding activity on the sand flats at low tide.
    • Macro and microplastics surveys: Conduct macro- and microplastic surveys adjacent to beaches where manta rays aggregate, complementing boat-based sampling.
  4. Laboratory Based Activities.
    • Photo-identification: Participate in the photo identification and collation of database information from various sources. Enter manta ray log book and photo data into the manta ray electronic database, download images from each snorkeler onto laptop computers, compare each new manta ray record to previously identified manta rays to determine if the animal is new, use the photographs and video taken for new animals to draw the identifying marks and spots of the manta ray and add it to the collective database. (There may even be the opportunity to name your own manta ray!).
    • Plankton Processing: Identify and count plankton collected in the tows, using a microscope.

As an Earthwatch participant, you will spend a significant amount of time each day assisting scientists with data collection. Some of this work will be repetitive, but it is fundamental to our scientific understanding of nature. Ecosystems are incredibly complex. The only way to begin to unravel this complexity is by designing good experiments, and carefully collecting as much data as possible. Without the work of thousands of dedicated scientists, we would know nothing about climate change, the effects of pollution, the thinning of the ozone layer, the extinction of species, or how to find cures for diseases or improve crops.

This is your chance to be part of the scientific effort, to find solutions to pressing environmental and cultural problems, and to enjoy the beauty and diversity of nature as you work.


Life in the Field


Participants will receive a safety briefing on Day 1 of the project. All research methodologies and participant activities will be outlined and explained at the start of the project, and participants will be able to practice the use of research equipment where appropriate in the inshore lagoon adjacent the Coral Bay settlement before research activities begin.

The Earthwatch scientists will give the team a more detailed on-site project briefing when you arrive.

Participants do not need any prior training in research methodologies. All methods, tasks and use of equipment will be outlined and demonstrated at the beginning of the project.

Since Coral Bay is a remote location it is important to highlight potential dangers and hazards and any procedures to be followed in the unlikely event of an emergency.


Transport from the airport to Coral Bay will be provided in a small people mover. The transfer takes approximately two hours.

Participants who have driven themselves to the project may not drive whilst on the project. This includes driving to and from Coral Bay. Participants who ignore this policy and do drive or ride in another participant’s vehicle during the project will be doing so at their own risk and will not be covered under the Earthwatch insurance policy for the expedition.


Once participants have received facility inductions and settled into the accommodation at Coral Bay, a further project and safety briefing will be conducted. This briefing will specifically highlight any safety issues and sort out basic operating procedures including timetables for breakfast, lunch and dinner, cleaning and planned field activities.


The boat team will be under the general supervision of the vessel master, observing vessel and snorkeling safety regulations as set out by Earthwatch Policies. In water snorkeling research activities including key species counts and manta ID photographic collection will have training prior and be conducted within safe distances of the vessel.

Land based activities will involve lab-based training prior to and during activities. Shark and ray surveys will include in field training in the first instance and continue with minimal supervision on subsequent occasions. Log on/off procedures will be explained during initial training.

Any potential hazards or dangers will be discussed daily especially in relation to updated weather conditions.

All participants and project staff will wear wetsuits, fins, snorkel and masks. There will be sun exposure risks for all participants whilst traveling on the boat, therefore snorkelers should be extra cautious. High factored waterproof reef safe sunblock should be worn on exposed areas, and hats should be worn whilst on the boat.

For further information on Earthwatch Snorkeling operations please contact the Earthwatch Australia office: +61 (0) 3 9016 7590. During each evening a summary of activities from that day will be undertaken and any problems or issues raised and discussed.

Weather and research needs can lead to changes in the daily schedule. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

  • Day 1: Arrival Day
    • 2:45 p.m. Arrive at Learmonth Airport and meet the team. Drive to Coral Bay
    • 4:30 p.m. Arrive at Coral Bay—Settle into accommodation
    • 4:45 p.m.–6:15 p.m. Orientation of site and safety briefing
    • 6:15 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Free time until dinner
    • 7:00 p.m.–8:00 p.m. Dinner
  • Day 2: Training Day
    • 7:00 a.m.–8:00 a.m. Breakfast
    • 8:00 a.m.–8:30 a.m. Depart accommodation
    • 8:30 a.m.–11:00 a.m. Introduction to the research and the project
    • 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Training and swim/snorkel test
    • 12:30 p.m.–2:00 p.m. Lunch
    • 2:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. Shark/Ray/Macro- and microplastic surveys
    • 6:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Free time for showers, personal activities
    • 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Dinner

Teams will be on a rotating daily roster whereby each team participates in all activities as below. Morning and afternoon activities will switch when additional team members are present, whereby the am land based team will do afternoon boat based activities and the am boat based team will switch and do lab-based activities in the afternoon. Below is simply a guide.

  • Days 3–7: Fieldwork Days: Snorkel Team
    • 6:00 a.m.–7:30 a.m. Breakfast
    • 7:45 a.m.–8:15 a.m. Depart accommodation
    • 8:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Snorkeling activities and tows
    • ~12:00 p.m.–12:30 p.m. Lunch on the water or back at the accommodation
    • 12:30 p.m.– 2:30 p.m. Snorkeling activities and tows
    • 2:30 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Travel back to the research station
    • 3:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m. Free time for showers, personal activities
    • 4:00 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Laboratory work
    • 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Dinner
    • 7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. Presentations on selected nights or other activities such as photo ID work and data processing
  • Days 3–7: Fieldwork Days: Land Team
    • 6:00 a.m.–7:30 a.m. Breakfast
    • 7:45 a.m.–8:15 a.m. Depart accommodation
    • 8:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Shark/Ray/Macro- and microplastic surveys
    • ~12:00 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Lunch
    • 1:00 p.m.–3:00 p.m. Photo ID work
    • 3:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m. Shark/Ray/Macro- and microplastic surveys
    • 5:00 p.m.–5:30 p.m. Photo ID work
    • 5:30 p.m.–6:30 p.m. Free time for showers, personal activities
    • 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. Dinner
    • 7:30 p.m.–9:00 p.m. Presentations on selected nights or other activities such as photo ID work and data processing
  • Day 8: Departure Day
    • Morning Breakfast, pack and tidy up, depart and return to Learmonth Airport


Accommodations and Food

Teams will be staying in a holiday home on the edge of Coral Bay settlement. The holiday home is less than 5 minutes’ walk to the Coral Bay Research Station, where some activities are conducted.

* Please note that not every expedition has couples’ or single's accommodations available. Please call or email Earthwatch to check for availability prior to reserving your space(s) on the team.

The home is equipped with basic facilities and sleeps up to eight guests. The teams will have access to the laboratory and office facilities at the research station, including computer and Internet.

The kitchen is equipped with a large refrigerator, a gas stove and a sink connected to running water. The home’s freshwater supply is derived entirely from rainwater. Consequently, visitors are asked to conserve water at all times and restrictions may be put in place during prolonged dry periods.


There are three bedrooms in the house, with a total number of eight beds. Most of the beds are comfortable bunk bed style. There may be the possibility of a private room with double bed for a couple, so please contact Earthwatch to find out if this is available. Linen is provided.

* Earthwatch will honor each person’s assertion of gender identity, respectfully and without judgement. For both teen and adult teams, where logistics dictate single-sex accommodations or other facilities, participant placements will be made in accordance with the gender identity the participant specified on their Earthwatch Participant form and/or preferences indicated in discussions with Earthwatch.


There is one bathroom with shower and a separate toilet in the house. This will be shared between all participants. Showers must be kept to a minimum time (three minutes) as Western Australia is a very dry area and the drinking water supply comes from rainwater tanks. The shower room has laundry facilities.


Participants are asked to conserve energy wherever possible to help conserve power consumption. Additionally, due to changes in load demand, this may result in low level surges in the power supply. It is recommended that if visitors are using sensitive electronic equipment to bring surge protection boards.


Coral Bay Research Station offers the use Internet free of charge on your personal laptops. Mobile phone reception is good for Telstra and Optus.

Communication between teams of participants on-site will be via UHF radio.


Travel to field locations will vary depending on activities each day. Travel will be via boat or on foot with a maximum travel time by boat of one hour to the field location.


Earthwatch will provide all food during your stay at the research site.

Participants and staff will be responsible for making their own continental breakfasts in the morning.

Lunch will be had in the field, and participants and project staff will be expected to make their own sandwiches in the morning before departing. Fruit and snack foods (e.g., muesli bars) will be available to pack as well.

Participants will have dinner together at a local restaurant. Meals will be pre ordered. Please be aware that guests will not have the option to choose from the menu. Please indicate any dietary requirements on your participation form and we will try to cater to these.

Housekeeping will be shared, with small teams assigned to duties each day. Tasks may include washing and drying dishes, sweeping the kitchen floor, wiping benches, cleaning the bathroom, packing away chairs and tables after meals etc. A roster with full tasks will be established on the first day of the project.

The following are examples of foods you may find in the field. Variety depends on availability. We appreciate your flexibility.

  • Breakfast: Cereal, toast and spreads.
  • Lunch: Sandwich meats, spreads and salads, cheese, fresh fruit, muesli bars.
  • Dinner: Pastas, fish and chips, steak sandwiches, burgers, salads.
  • Snacks: Crackers, fruits, sweet biscuits, and muesli bars.
  • Water: Fresh drinking water will always be available at the accommodation quarters. Water should not be wasted.
  • Beverages: Coffee, tea, milk, fruit juices / cordial, water.

Please alert Earthwatch to any special dietary requirements (e.g., diabetes, lactose intolerance, nut or other food allergies, vegetarian or vegan diets) as soon as possible, and note them in the space provided on your volunteer forms.

Accommodating special diets is not guaranteed and can be very difficult due to availability of food, location of field sites, and other local conditions.

Project Conditions

The climate in Coral Bay is warm and dry throughout the year. Summer months (December to February) can be hot with temperatures reaching the early 40° Celsius. During May the average temperature is from 16° Celsius to 29° Celsius with a small amount of rainfall. At this time of year the water temperature is around 20–24° Celsius. During October the average temperature is from 16° Celsius to 33° Celsius and usually there is very little rainfall. At this time of year the water temperature is around 20–24° Celsius.


For weather and region-specific information, please visit and search for your project location.


Note the following are averages.

  • Typical water temperature:
    • 19–22°C /66–72°F (May Team)
    • 20–24°C /68°–75°F (October Team)
  • Typical water visibility: 2–10m / 6.6–33ft
  • Typical maximum water depth: 3–30m /9.8–98.4ft
  • Site type: Fringing Reef
  • Snorkels Initiated from: Boats
  • Timing of snorkels: During the day

Essential Eligibility Requirements


The project can be very demanding physically, due to strong currents and sea swell. Those who are prone to seasickness should bring preventative treatments with them. If you feel nauseous, it is best to stay in the water rather than get back on board the vessel, as the rocking of the boat is likely to make you feel worse.


Please keep in mind that conditions may change and the project could potentially be more or less strenuous than these points indicate.

All participants must be able to:

  • Follow verbal and/or visual instructions independently or with the assistance of a companion.
  • Enjoy being outdoors all day in all types of weather, in the presence of wild animals and insects.
  • Sit for 2–5 hours per day (travel via boat, working in the lab, evening lectures).
  • Walk for up to 5 km a day to and from land-based research sites.
  • Help carry research equipment.
  • Swim/Snorkel 2–3 times a day for 90 minutes each.
  • Work on a boat for 2–6 hours a day.
  • Adhere to the briefing guidelines, be aware of your own limitations, and apply common sense while participating.
  • Take an active role in your own safety by recognizing and avoiding hazards if and when they arise (including, but not limited to, those described in Earthwatch materials and safety briefings). Comply with project staff instructions and recommended safety measures at all times.
  • Be able to effectively communicate with the staff if you are experiencing distress or need assistance.
  • Be comfortable being surrounded by a language and/or culture that is different from your own.
  • Be able to get along with a variety of people from different backgrounds and ages, often in close proximity, for the duration of your team.

In order to assist on the research boat, you will need to be relatively fit and agile. Although research boats may have a canopy for shading, sun protection is required for this and other field activities. Depending on winds, the trip may be bumpy and participants may feel cold on the return trip after being in the water all day. An all-weatherproof or windbreaker jacket may be advisable.


In order to participate in the project, you should have had some snorkeling experience. Snorkeling experience is important as it teaches you important fin technique, and how to clear your mask under difficult conditions. Having this experience should also mean that one is likely to feel more comfortable in open water with strong currents. The risks involved with snorkeling and duck diving are similar to those experienced when diving. Therefore, we do require that participants visit a General Practitioner and get their approval for their suitability on this project. The doctor’s form to be signed will be provided at the time of booking.

Health and Safety


The nearest medical care is the Coral Bay Nursing Post. The service operates 24 hours on call and is open Monday to Friday. For more serious injuries participants would be transferred to Exmouth Hospital Emergency department. This would take approximately 2 hours driving from Coral Bay. For life threatening injuries, Royal Flying Doctors will be called and participants will be airlifted from the Coral Bay directly to Exmouth or Carnarvon hospital.


Project staff are not medical professionals.


All scientists and research assistants are qualified in CPR and hold a First Aid / oxygen provider certificate. All Earthwatch Team Leaders are qualified in CPR and hold a First Aid certificate.

Earthwatch has a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency hotline number. Someone is always on call to respond to messages that come into our live answering service.


Please be sure your routine immunizations are up-to-date (for example: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps, rubella and varicella) and you have the appropriate vaccinations for your travel destination. Medical decisions are the responsibility of each volunteer and his or her doctor. Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization for guidance on immunizations.

If traveling from countries or region where yellow fever is endemic, you must have a certificate of vaccination.


Hydrophobia, discomfort in or around boats; uncontrolled inner ear infections, conditions that reduce or limit your ability to equalize pressure in one’s ears; conditions that affect balance, blood clotting issues and/or any condition that interferes with or limits a participant’s swimming or breathing should be considered carefully. If you are pregnant, you should inform your doctor prior to snorkeling. If you suffer from motion or seasickness and intend to treat this with either over-the-counter or prescribed medication, please discuss the use and side effects with your doctor.

  • Medical Complaints. Due to the remoteness of the area and the time it takes to evacuate, those who may require quick access to medical care due to any medical complaints should not take part in this project.
  • Allergies. Those with known allergies to dust, grasses, mammals, plants or insects (including mosquitoes and sandflies) should bring appropriate medications in order to participate on this project. Those with severe bee-sting allergies should bring an Epi-Pen and carry it with them at all times.
  • Back or neck problems. Those with chronic or constant back or neck pain should be aware that some days may require traveling on the boat in bumpy conditions and should reconsider their ability to participate.
  • Knee or ankle problems. This project requires bending and lifting as well as participants to walk over uneven and steep terrain.
  • Physical limitations. Participants with physical limitations should be aware that the work involved generally requires a good level of fitness.

Project Risks and Precautions


Vehicles will be driven on sealed roads to Coral Bay Research Station. All vehicles are equipped with airbags, seatbelts, spare tires, first aid kit with Emergency Response Plan and mobile phone. Only experienced project staff will drive vehicles and they will obey all road rules. Passengers and driver will be instructed to wear seat belts at all times whilst the vehicle is in motion. Participants are not allowed to drive (including their own vehicles) whilst on an Earthwatch team.

Working in boats

Boats are well maintained, and include, UHF radio, life preservers, emergency flares, fire extinguisher, and a first aid kit. Life jackets are available for all passengers. All participants and project staff will be wearing wetsuits, which assist with buoyancy. All participants must be able to swim. The boat is only used in daylight hours and only when sea state is acceptable to the skipper. The skipper is certified and experienced in driving boats in the area. Boat communications include EPIRB, flares, UHF radio and mobile phones. There is a communications plan with the research station outlining boat return time, destination and people manifest.

Slips and Trips

Participants are instructed to be careful when embarking and disembarking the vessel and should hold onto the handrail or sides of boat. Participants should always wear dive booties or thick soled shoes when walking out on the reef and boarding the boat.


Only participants with appropriate swimming abilities and fitness are allowed to participate in the research. Participants are paired up so that a strong snorkeler is matched with a weaker snorkeler. An experienced project staff member is always present, in order to supervise snorkelers. Participants will wear wetsuits, which provide buoyancy. During the safety briefing participants learn snorkeling safety signals, and are advised how to use them if they run into trouble.

Poisonous and stinging marine animals

There is potential for participants or staff to be stung or bitten by some species of marine life present. For e.g. stone fish, cone shells, sea snakes, stingrays, and various jellyfish. Participants should wear wetsuits, flippers and mask, which will provide protection from most stinging wildlife. Participants are instructed not to pick anything up or touch dangerous creatures. If participants are stung they should alert project staff and apply first aid according to what has caused the sting. Participants should wear booties or some closed footwear when walking in the water and shallow reefs in the bay.


There is a risk of encountering a dangerous shark on the project. Sharks will most likely demonstrate aggressive behavior before they strike. If a shark is spotted and displaying aggressive behavior, all participants will evacuate the water as quickly as possible.

Heat-related illnesses, dehydration

Participants should bring waterproof sunscreen. Participants should drink plenty of water throughout the day. If participants start to feel unwell they should notify a project staff member immediately, get out of the water as quickly as possible, and rest in a shaded area, whilst cooling themselves with water.

Coral rubble and sharp shells

Participants should not go barefoot when walking around base camp or when walking out on the reef.

Gas stove

Participants may be cooking on gas stoves and the risk of burns is possible. Participants will be briefed about the cooking facilities and warned to take care when using any gas elements.


Venomous snakes are found around Coral Bay. If participants come across a snake, they should not try to catch it or kill it. Participants should back away from the snake and let it be. Participants will be briefed on snakes on arrival and advised to wear closed in shoes when walking around the island.

Travel Planning


Learmonth Airport, Exmouth, Australia

* Additional information will be provided by Earthwatch to meet your team. Please do not book travel arrangements such as flights until you have received additional information from Earthwatch.


Earthwatch strongly recommends that travelers investigate their destination prior to departure. Familiarity with the destination’s entry/exit requirements, visas, local laws, and customs can go a long way to ensuring smooth travel. The U.S. Department of State's Traveler’s Checklist and Destination Guides are helpful resources. For LGBTI travelers, the U.S. Department of State's LGBTI Travelers page contains many useful tips and links.


Entry visa requirements differ by country of origin, layover, and destination, and do change unexpectedly. For this reason, please confirm your visa requirements at the time of booking and, again, 90 days prior to travel. Please apply early for your visa (we recommend starting 6 months prior to the start of your expedition). Refunds will not be made for volunteers cancelling due to not obtaining their visa in time to meet the team at the rendezvous. You can find up to date visa requirements at the following website:

If a visa is required, participants should apply for a TOURIST visa. Please note that obtaining a visa can take weeks or even months. We strongly recommend using a visa agency, which can both expedite and simplify the process.

Generally, passports must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry and a return ticket is required.


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  • Cassata, L. and L. B. Collins (2008). Coral reef communities, habitats, and substrates in and near sanctuary zones of Ningaloo Marine Park. Journal of Coastal Research 24(1): 139-151.
  • Jaine, F. R., Couturier, L. I., Weeks, S. J., Townsend, K. A., Bennett, M. B., Fiora, K., & Richardson, A. J. (2012). When giants turn up: sighting trends, environmental influences and habitat use of the manta ray Manta alfredi at a coral reef. PLoS One, 7(10), e46170.
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  • O’Shea, O. R., Thums, M., van Keulen, M., Meekan, M. (2012). Bioturbation by stingrays at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Marine and Freshwater Research, 63(3), 189-197.
  • Van Keulen, M. and M. W. Langdon (2011). Ningaloo Collaboration Cluster: Biodiversity and ecology of the Ningaloo Reef lagoon. Perth, Murdoch University.
  • Venables, S., McGregor, F., Brain, L., & van Keulen, M. (2016). Manta ray tourism management, precautionary strategies for a growing industry: a case study from the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia. Pacific Conservation Biology, 22(4), 295-300.
  • Webster, F. J., et al. (2015). Macroalgae inhibits larval settlement and increases recruit mortality at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. PLoS One, 10(4), e0124162.
  • Introduction to Marine Biology. George Karleskint, Richard Turner, James Small. (2006) Brooks/Cole, USA.
  • The Blue Planet (BBC)