Catherine Head Ph.D.

University of Oxford


Our project takes an interdisciplinary approach to investigating reef biodiversity, connectivity and productivity.

Our main goal, in collaboration with Professor Rob Dunbar’s team at Stanford University, is to contribute to the understanding of the conservation value of the Indian Ocean Region’s reefs. I am particularly interested in how coral populations are connected within this region through their larvae dispersal and how this influences their recovery from major disturbances such as the recent 2015 & 2016 global mass coral bleaching event. Additionally, my team and I are also aiming to form a picture of plankton bio-geography patterns around the atolls.

I have always been fascinated by the diversity of life on coral reefs, much of which remains unidentified. I am investigating this question to help explain recovery patterns and to potentially identify networks of coral connectivity which may be hotspots for more intensive protection in the future. I also look to increase our understanding of the true diversity of life which reefs in the Chagos Archipelago support and increase our understanding of what drives these community composition patterns.

We intend to widen this study out to other areas in the Indian ocean in the future to investigate the idea of this region being a stepping-stone across the Indian ocean for coral dispersal.

I believe that by better understanding how reefs are connected and how they function we can enhance our ability to protect these valuable and beautiful ecosystems and mitigate the effects of climate change. Although this can only be achieved alongside a reduction in global climate emissions.

Catherine Head


2018 Present
Post-doctoral researcher and co-principle investigator at Institute of Zoology & University of Oxford
2017 Present
Stipendiary Lecturer for St Peter’s College, University of Oxford
2015 Present
Committee member of Reef Conservation UK
2016 2017
Post-doctoral researcher at University of Oxford & Science coordinator for Nekton
2012 2015
NERC Case funded Ph.D. at University of Oxford & Case partner ZSL studying diversity of coral associates
2005 2011
Variety of roles in marine conservation sector

My Project

  • Island Reef Connections
    The Conservation Value of Coral Reef Biodiversity for the MPA surrounding the Chagos Archipelago

Other interests

Tropical coral reefs are the most diverse marine ecosystem and sadly also one of the most threatened. In addition to my research in the Indian Ocean Region, I am involved in a coral barcoding pilot project at London Zoo to identify the corals in the aquarium collection. I also have teaching responsibilities for Biological Sciences undergraduates at St Peter’s College, University of Oxford.

Moreover, I am a committee member for Reef Conservation UK organizing an annual symposium for reef researchers and conservationists. In 2016 we hosted the European Coral Reef Symposium (ECRS) at University of Oxford.

My Publications

Load more