black background with many round pink coral bundles

Reef spawning research 2021

Research on the narrow window of opportunity for recovery on the Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef annual mass spawning is an important time of year when corals and other reef animals reproduce. It is one of the most extraordinary natural phenomenon on the planet.  

Corals, guided by seasonal warming, moon phases and tides, release egg and sperm into the water around the same time to create new corals. The event usually takes place on a handful of nights following the full moons in October and November, and mostly under the cover of night. 

Coral spawning provides a narrow window of opportunity for recovery on the Reef, as well as the scientists working to understand how reefs can resist and recover from disturbances, and how we can help. 

Coral spawning creates a hive of activity in the AIMS National Sea Simulator (SeaSim), as scientists study this crucial period in the life of a coral. Prior to spawning, corals are brought from the Reef to the SeaSim, so corals spawn on the reef and in SeaSim at the same time. 

This year, AIMS scientists and collaborators are focused on research on reef recovery, adaptation and restoration for a warming future. 

Learn more about Reef spawning research in the SeaSim


What's happening in SeaSim?

Below are just some of the spawning projects underway at AIMS this season, with many taking place in the National Sea Simulator. Stay tuned for more!

Learn more about reef spawning in the National Sea Simulator.


Science to help coral reefs in a warming world 

AIMS is involved in major projects focused on helping coral reefs survive climate change. 

Our scientists are: 

  • continuing our research to understand the natural capacity of corals and reefs to adapt to warming oceans,  

  • investigating a number of ways we can enhance corals’ ability to resist bleaching, and   

  • developing methods to scale up and fast track coral recovery.

Researchers watch for coral spawning under red light in the SeaSim


Learn more about Australian Government-funded Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program, and the Australian Coral Reef Resilience Initiative.  

Meet the spawning team

AIMS' research in coral spawning and the early life history of corals and other tropical invertebrates has been underway for over two decades. Our world-class team have contributed significantly to the fundamental understanding of coral reproduction and adaptation, and their efforts are now geared to research on how we can help coral reefs into a warming future.

Below are some of AIMS' lead scientists involved in spawning research.