Fulton Group - Marine ecology and conservation

Our lab group examines how individuals, species and communities are shaped by their environment, particularly in habitats where they are subject to extreme conditions of wave energy, flow and/or temperature. We work with multiple taxa (plants and animals) from a range of biomes that include coral and rocky reefs.



Chris Fulton

Chris Fulton
Chris completed his PhD on the ecomorphology of coral reef fishes at James Cook University (2005), followed by a post-doctoral...


Selected publications

  • (full publications lists ResearchGateGoogleScholarORCID 0000-0002-1140-1999).
  • Noble, M.M., Fulton, C.J., Pittock, J. 2018. Looking beyond fishing: conservation of keystone freshwater species to protect a diversity of socio-economic values. Aquatic Conservation: Marine & Freshwater Ecosystems doi:10.1002/aqc.2974  Link to paper
  • van Lier, J.R., Wilson, S.K., Depczynski, M., Wenger, L.N., Fulton, C.J. 2018. Habitat connectivity and complexity underpin fish community structure across a seascape of tropical macroalgae meadows. Landscape Ecology doi:10.1007/s10980-018-0682-4 Link to paper
  • Bellwood, D.R., Tebbett, S., Bellwood, O., Mihalitsis, M., Morais, R., Streit, R., Fulton, C.J. 2018. The role of the reef flat in coral reef ecosystems: past, present and future. Ecology and Evolution 8, 4108-4119 Link to paper
  • Wenger, L.N., van Lier, J.R., Fulton, C.J. 2018. Microhabitat selectivity shapes the seascape ecology of a carnivorous macroalgae-associated tropical fish. Marine Ecology Progress Series 590, 187-200 Link to abstract
  • Wilson, S.K., Depczynski, M., Fisher, R., Holmes, T.H., Noble, M.M., Radford, B.T., Rule, M., Shedrawi, G., Tinkler, P., Fulton, C.J. 2018. Climatic forcing and larval dispersal capabilities shape the replenishment of fishes and their habitat-forming biota on a tropical coral reef. Ecology & Evolution 8, 1918-1928 Link to paper
  • King, A.J., George, A., Buckle, D.J., Novak, P.A., Fulton, C.J. 2018. Efficacy of remote underwater video cameras for monitoring tropical wetland fishes. Hydrobiologia 807, 145-164 Link to paper
  • Fulton, C.J., Wainwright, P.C., Hoey, A.S., Bellwood, D.R. 2017. Global ecological success of Thalassoma fishes in extreme coral reef habitats. Ecology & Evolution 7, 466-472 Link to paper
  • Ord, T. J., Summers, T. C., Noble, M. M., Fulton, C. J. 2017. Ecological release from aquatic predation is associated with the emergence of marine blenny fishes onto land. American Naturalist 189, 570-579 Link to paper
  • Wilson, S.K., Depczynski, M., Holmes, T.H., Radford, B., Tinkler, P., Fulton, C.J. 2017. Climatic conditions and nursery habitat quality provide indicators of reef fish recruitment strength. Limnology & Oceanography 62, 1868-1880 Link to paper
  • van Lier, J. R., Harasti, D., Laird, R., Noble, M. M., Fulton, C. J. 2017. Importance of soft canopy structure for labrid fish communities in estuarine mesohabitats. Marine Biology 164, 45 Link to paper
  • Every, S.L., Pethybridge, H.R., Fulton, C.J., Kyne, P.M., Crook, D.A. 2017. Niche metrics suggest euryhaline and coastal elasmobranchs provide trophic connections among marine and freshwater biomes in northern Australia. Marine Ecology Progress Series 565, 181-196
  • Starrs, T., Starrs D., Lintermans M., Fulton C.J. 2017. Assessing upstream invasion risk in alien freshwater fishes based on intrinsic variations in swimming speed performance. Ecol Freshw Fish 26, 75-86 Link to paper
  • Noble, M.M., Fulton, C.J. 2017. Habitat specialisation and sensitivity to change in a threatened crayfish occupying upland streams. Aquat Conserv Mar Freshw Ecosys 27, 90-102 Link to paper
    Media coverage: A big Australian crayfish, pretty and in trouble, Murray crayfish high country hideout under threat, Murray crayfish numbers drop by 90pc, Aussie river crayfish plummet due to habitat loss
  • Fulton, C. J., Noble, M. M., Radford, B., Gallen, C., Harasti, D. 2016. Microhabitat selectivity underpins regional indicators of fish abundance and replenishment. Ecological Indicators 70, 222-231 Link to paper Link to graphical abstract & blog
  • Wilson, S.K., Depczynski, M., Fulton, C.J., Holmes, T.H., Radford, B., Tinkler, P. 2016. Influence of nursery microhabitats on the future abundance of a coral reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 283, 20160903 Link to paper
  • Wernberg, T., Bennett, S., Babcock, R. S., de Bettignies, T., Cure, K., Depczynski, M., Dufois, F., Fromont, J., Fulton, C. J. et al. 2016. Climate-driven regime shift of a temperate marine ecosystem. Science 353, 169-172 Link to paper
    Media coverage: New Scientist, The Guardian, ABC News, Washington Post, The Atlantic
  • Wilson, L.J., Fulton, C.J., Joyce, K.E., Radford, B.T.M., Fraser, C.I. 2016. Climate-driven changes to ocean circulation and their inferred impacts on marine dispersal patterns. Glob Ecol Biogeog 25, 923-939 Link to paper
  • Every, S.L., Pethybridge, H.R., Crook, D.A., Kyne, P.M., Fulton, C.J. 2016. Comparison of fin and muscle tissues for analysis of signature fatty acids in tropical euryhaline sharks. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 479, 46-53 Link to paper
  • Lim, I.E., Wilson, S.K., Holmes, T.H., Noble, M.M., Fulton, C.J. 2016. Specialisation within a shifting habitat mosaic underpins the seasonal abundance of a tropical fish. Ecosphere 7, e01212 Link to paper
  • Starrs, D., Ebner, B.C., Fulton, C.J. 2016. All in the ears: unlocking the early life history biology and spatial ecology of fishes. Biological Reviews 91, 86-105 Link to paper
  • Cinner, J.E., Pratchett, M.S., Graham, N.A.J., Fulton, C.J. et al. 2016. A framework for understanding climate change impacts on coral reef social-ecological systems. Region Environ Change 16, 1133-1146 Link to paper
  • Ebner, B.C., Fulton, C.J., Donaldson, J.A., Schaffer, J. 2016. Distinct habitat selection by freshwater morays in tropical rainforest streams. Ecol Freshw Fish 25, 329-335 Link to paper
  • Kramer, M.J., Bellwood, O., Fulton, C.J., Bellwood, D.R. 2015. Refining the invertivore: diversity and specialisation in fish predation on coral reef crustaceans. Mar Biol 162, 1779-1786 Link to paper
  • Pink, J.R., Fulton, C.J. 2015. Fin spotting: efficacy of manual and video-based visual assessments of reef fish swimming behaviour. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 465, 92-98 Link to paper
  • Ebner, B.C., Fulton, C.J., Cousins, S., Donaldson, J.A., Kennard, M.J., Meynecke, J.-O., Schaffer, J. 2015. Filming and snorkelling as visual techniques to survey fauna in difficult to access tropical rainforest streams. Marine & Freshwater Research 66, 120-126 Link to paper
  • Wilson, S.K., Fulton, C.J., Depczynski, M., Holmes, T.H., Noble, M.M., Radford, B., Tinkler, P. 2014. Seasonal changes in habitat structure underpin shifts in macroalgae-associated tropical fish communities. Marine Biology 161, 2597-2607 Link to paper
  • Pratchett, M.S., Hoey, A.S., Cvitanovic, C., Hobbs, J.P.A., Fulton, C.J. 2014. Abundance, diversity and feeding behaviour of coral reef butterflyfishes at Lord Howe Island. Ecology & Evolution 4, 3612-3625 Link to paper
  • Noble, M.M., Pratchett, M.S., Coker, D.J., Cvitanovic, C., Fulton, C.J. 2014. Foraging in corallivorous butterflyfish varies with wave exposure. Coral Reefs 33, 351-361 Link to paper
  • Fulton, C.J., Depczynski, M., Holmes, T.H., Noble, M.M., Radford, B., Wernberg, T.H., Wilson, S.K. 2014. Sea temperature shapes seasonal fluctuations in seaweed biomass within the Ningaloo coral reef ecosystem. Limnology & Oceanography 59, 156-166 Link to paper
  • Cvitanovic, C., Fulton, C.J., Wilson, S.K., van Kerkhoff, L., Cripps, I.L., Muthiga, N. 2014. Utility of primary scientific literature to environmental managers: an international case study on coral-dominated marine protected areas. Ocean Coast Manag 102, 72-78 Link to paper
  • Layton, C., Fulton, C.J. 2014. Status-dependent foraging behaviour in coral reef wrasses. Coral Reefs 33, 345-349 Link to paper
  • Pink, J., Fulton, C.J. 2014. Right tools for the task: intraspecific modality in the swimming behaviour of coral reef fishes. Marine Biology 161, 1103-1111 Link to paper
  • Starrs, D., Davis, J.T.D., Schlaefer, J., Ebner, B.C., Eggins, S.M., Fulton, C.J. 2014. Maternally-transmitted isotopes and their effects on larval fish: a validation of dual isotopic marks within a meta-analysis context. Canadian Journal of Fisheries & Aquatic Sciences 71, 387-397 Link to paper
  • Pratchett, M.S., Chong-Seng, K.M., Feary, D.S., Hoey, A.S., Fulton, C.J., Nowicki, J.P., Dewan, A.K., Walker, S.P.W., Berumen, M.L. 2014. Butterflyfishes as a model group for reef fish ecology: important and emerging research topics. In: Pratchett, M.S., Berumen, M.L., Kapoor, B.G. (eds) Biology of Butterflyfishes. CRC Press, Boca Raton. Link to book
  • Starrs, D., Ebner, B.C., Eggins, S.M., Fulton, C.J. 2014. Longevity in maternal transmission of isotopic marks in a tropical freshwater rainbowfish and the implications for offspring morphology. Marine & Freshwater Research 65, 400-408 Link to paper
  • Walker, J.A., Alfaro, M., Noble, M.M., Fulton, C.J. 2013. Body fineness ratio as a predictor of maximum prolonged-swimming speed in coral reef fishes. PLoS ONE 8, e75422. Link to paper
  • Fulton, C.J., Binning, S.A., Wainwright, P.C., Bellwood, D.R. 2013. Wave-induced abiotic stress shapes phenotypic diversity in a coral reef fish across a geographical cline. Coral Reefs 32, 685-689. Link to paper
    Media coverage: Reef fish sink or swim in climate change watersIncreasing wave energy threatens reef fish
  • Starrs, D., Ebner, B.C., Fulton, C.J. 2013. Can back-calculation models unravel complex larval growth histories in a tropical freshwater fish? Journal of Fish Biology 83, 96-110. Link to paper
  • Donaldson, J.A., Ebner, B.C., Fulton, C.J. 2013. Flow velocity underpins microhabitat selection by gobies of the Australian Wet Tropics. Freshwater Biology 58, 1038-1051. Link to paper
  • Fulton, C.J., Johansen, J.L., Steffensen, J.F. 2013. Energetic extremes in aquatic locomotion by coral reef fishes. PLoS ONE 8, e54033. Link to paper
  •       Media coverage: Tiny reef fish is surprise speedster, Robo-wrasseFast fish speed up potential for better ocean robots,Fastest fish can help develop submarine technologyTiny fish's swimming skill could speed up submarines, Tiny reef fish among ocean's fastest, Faster than tuna?
  • Cvitanovic, C., Wilson, S.K., Fulton, C.J. et al. 2013. Critical research needs for managing coral reef Marine Protected Areas: perspectives of academics and managers. Journal of Environmental Management 114, 84-91. Link to paper
  • Heatwole, S.J., Fulton, C.J. 2013. Behavioural flexibility in coral reef fishes responding to a rapidly changing environment.Marine Biology 160, 677-689. Link to paper
  • Noble, M.M., van Laake, G., Berumen, M., Fulton, C.J. 2013. Community change within a Caribbean coral reef marine protected area following two decades of local management. PLoS ONE 8, e54069. Link to paper
    Media coverage: Reef fish holding on despite loss of corals, Saba marine park thrives.
  • Fulton, C.J., Starrs, D., Ruibal, M.P., Ebner, B.C. 2012. Counting crayfish: active searching and baited cameras trump conventional hoop netting in detecting Euastacus armatusEndangered Species Research 19, 39-45. Link to paper Link to video (Goobarragandra River) Link to video (Cotter River)
    Media coverage: Crayfish talesBig-smoke fibs exposedMurray cray TVVideo could save murray crayfish stars, ABC Splash
  • Edmunds, R.C., Smith-Keune, C., van Herwerden, L., Fulton, C.J., Jerry, D.R. 2012. Exposing local adaptation: synergistic stressors elicit population-specific lactate dehydrogenase-B (ldh-b) expression profiles in Australian barramundi, Lates calcariferAquatic Sciences 74, 171-178. Link to paper
  • Starrs, D., Ebner, B.C., Lintermans, M., Fulton, C.J. 2011. Using sprint swimming performance to predict upstream passage of the endangered Macquarie perch in a highly regulated river. Fisheries Management and Ecology 18, 360-374. Link to paper
    Media coverage: Caring for Macca
  • Edmunds, R.C., van Herwerden, L., Fulton, C.J. 2010. Population-specific locomotor phenotypes are displayed by barramundi, Lates calcarifer, in response to thermal stress. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 67, 1068-1074. Link to paper
  • Fulton, C.J. 2010. The role of swimming in reef fish ecology. In: Domenici, P., Kapoor, B.G. (eds) Fish swimming: an eco-ethological perspective. Chapter 12, Science Publishers, Enfield. Link to book chapter
  • Bellwood, D.R., Fulton, C.J. 2008. Sediment-mediated suppression of herbivory on coral reefs: Decreasing resilience to rising sea levels and climate change? Limnology and Oceanography 53, 2695-2701. Link to paper
    Media coverage: Turf wars: sand and corals don't mix
  • Fulton CJ. 2007. Swimming speed performance in coral reef fishes: field validations reveal distinct functional groups.Coral Reefs 26, 217-228. Link to paper
    Media coverage: Fast fish 'fly' through the waterHow reef fish use their fins to 'fly' underwater
  • Fulton CJ, Bellwood DR, Wainwright PC. 2005. Wave energy and swimming performance shape coral reef fish assemblages. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 272, 827-832. Link to paper
    Media coverage: Science in a flap over fish.

Technical Reports

  • Pink J, Moore A, Starrs T, Lintermans M, Fulton CJ (2011) Angry when outnumbered: Behavioural aggression inGambusia holbrooki is conditional upon temperature and relative abundance. Report to Murrary-Darling Basin Authority, Canberra.
  • Fulton CJ, Starrs D, Ruibal M (2010) Distribution, abundance and habitat-use of upland river populations of Murray River crayfish (Euastacus armatus). Report to Bulk Water Alliance and ACTEW Corp.
  • Starrs D, Fulton CJ, Starrs T (2009) Predicted passage of native and alien freshwater fish in the Cotter River, ACT using measures of swimming speed performance. Report to Future Water Program, ActewAGL.
  • Ruibal M, Fulton CJ (2009) Status of Murray River crayfish (Euastacus armatus) in the Cotter and Murrumbidgee Rivers within the Australian Capital Territory. Report to Future Water Program, ActewAGL.
  • Fulton CJ (2008) Review of swimming performance of native and alien fishes in the Cotter River: assessing migratory barriers and fishway designs. Report to Future Water Program, ActewAGL.
  • Fulton CJ, Cummin KL (2008) Swimming speed performance in the endangered Macquarie Perch: the importance of size and duration of activity. Report to Future Water Program, ActewAGL. 
  • Ruibal M, Fulton CJ (2008) A synthesis of current knowledge on the population biology and ecology of Murray River crayfish (Euastacus armatus) in the ACT. Report to Future Water Program, ActewAGL.

News & events


The Fulton group welcomes new PhD student Alex Chen, who will be researching sources and pathways of macroalgae-based production in the Ningaloo reef ecosystem.
January is not normally thought of as a teaching-heavy month, but RSB members were involved in a number of outreach events early this year.
Chris Fulton has won a 2017 Thomas Davies Research Grant from the Australian Academy of Science.
Lucy won the Gilbert Whitley Award at the ASFB conference in Hobart for an outstanding talk on her Honours research on the consequences of seaweed habitat specialisation in reef fishes.



ANU Science on Location: Ningaloo Reef

ANU Science On Location: Ningaloo Reef

Spectacular Ningaloo Reef is a World Heritage Site and the world's second largest fringing coral reef. Researchers from Chris Fulton's lab are revealing how seaweed acts as a critical nursery for many of Ningaloo’s baby fish.
Chris Fulton

Chris Fulton

The Fulton Lab explores patterns of aquatic biodiversity in relation to environmental variability across space and time.
ANU Honours student Isis Lim and her supervisor Dr Chris Fulton of the Research School of Biology surveying fish and seaweed habitat at Ningaloo. (Photo: Mae Noble)

The secret sanctuaries of Ningaloo reef

You might think seaweed is the annoying stuff that washes up on beaches, and gets caught in your boat motors, paddle or fishing gear. But ANU marine scientists have revealed that seaweeds are vital to the world’s second largest fringing coral reef, Ningaloo, on the west coast of Australia.

Updated:  11 December 2018/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB