Robert Mason was awarded the Fulbright Queensland Scholarship.
Robert Mason was awarded the Fulbright Queensland Scholarship.
21 March 2013

A Queensland PhD candidate in marine biology has received a prestigious boost to his research on the world’s “critically endangered” coral reef ecosystem.

Robert Mason, a student at The University of Queensland, was today awarded the Fulbright Queensland Scholarship at the 2013 Fulbright presentation dinner at Parliament House in Canberra.

Mr Mason said the scholarship, sponsored by the Queensland Government and Queensland universities, would allow him to visit the University of Hawai'i at Manoa for a year to further his research in coral bleaching.

“Coral reefs are a critically endangered ecosystem, but one that also supports the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people globally,” said Mr Mason.

“Due to climate change, they are expected to suffer severe degradation over the coming century that I hope to address in my current and future career.

“The research which shows a link between ocean acidification and coral bleaching is new. Therefore, it is not known why this effect occurs at the physiological level or the conditions under which this effect will occur.

“My aim is to determine why this happens, because this knowledge will help us to take ocean acidification into account when we are attempting to predict coral bleaching and to understand its ecological impacts.

This line of enquiry is very important, as ocean acidification will steadily increase in severity over the next 50 years,” he said.

The University of Hawai'i at Manoa has a strong research tradition examining biological and physical processes on coral reefs. There, Mr Mason will use an experimental aquaria system purpose-built for modifying ocean acidification and temperature. The results will be useful for understanding and managing the threats facing areas such as the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Triangle of Southeast Asia.

The Australian Fulbright Program was established in 1949 through a bi-national treaty signed by the Australian and US governments and is funded by both the US and Australian governments and a generous group of sponsors and donors.

About 50 scholars travel between Australia and the US each year to experience each other’s lifestyles, act as cultural ambassadors and further their academic careers through the Fulbright Program.

At the 2013 presentation dinner, 26 scholars were presented with Fulbright Scholarships and one with an Anne Wexler Scholarship. They were presented by Federal Minister the Hon Chris Bowen MP and the US Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich,

Media profiles and individual photos of each Fulbright Scholar are available from the Commission's website:

Media: Janelle Kirkland, UQ Communications, 07 3346 0561 or