Position available for Research Assistant: Global Ecosystem Atlas.

February 2024

We are recruiting for the position of Research Assistant: Global Ecosystem Atlas. The position will be based in the Global Ecology Lab at James Cook University's Townsville campus. For more information about this position please refer to the opportunities page on this site. 

New paper in Nature Ecology & Evolution on the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) 

February 2024

Our Progress article in Nature Ecology and Evolution explains how the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems contributes to implementing the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and monitoring it's progress towards 23 important targets (for 2030) that aim to achieve four global conservation goals (for 2050). Led by Prof Emily Nicholson at the University of Melbourne, the paper shows how the Red List of Ecosystems can help the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity to achieve these targets and goals. Read the paper here

A conservation status assessment of Rakhine's Mangrove ecosystems (Myanmar).

 January 2024

Congratulations to finished PhD student Dr Calvin Lee for publishing his last PhD paper. The analysis used a diverse range of indicators - including historical analyses, static maps and dense-time series analysis of earth observation archives - to assess this ecosystem as Critically Endangered. Calvin now works at the University of Hong Kong as a Post-doctoral Researcher in the Global Ecology and Remote Sensing Lab (see his website here).

Access the paper here

New Paper on the projected retreat of coastal habitat in response to warming trends published in Nature.

 September 2023

This paper outlines the probable exposure of coastal ecosystems to relative sea level rise based on current warming trends. It reveals that widespread retreat of coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, saltmarshes and reef islands, is likely to occur at warming levels above 1.5°C. An associated news article was also published in response to this new paper.

Access the paper here

See the news article here.

News Article on China's coastal megafauna

August 2023

Nick was recently quoted in a news article in Nature about the status of China’s coastal megafauna. Nick’s comments focus on a new paper, published in Science Advances [read here], which revealed that China’s large coastal species are not being adequately protected by conservation measures. 

You can read the news article here

The Australian Saltmarsh map is now available

June 2023

Alex and the Global Ecology Lab have developed the first wall-to-wall, nationally consistent and updateable map of Australia's saltmarsh ecosystems. This was an extensive and collaborative effort involving JCU, Clean Energy Regulator, UNSW, Digital Earth Australia and more than 25 coastal researchers from 15 different institutions.

The remote sensing classification approach developed in this project uses a set of nationwide remote sensing-derived covariate layers (spectral and physical) to support a random forest algorithm tasked with assigning every 30-m pixel in the mapping region to one of the target classes (‘saltmarsh’ and ‘saltflat’). This supervised remote sensing classification model is supported by a training dataset consisting of 31,660 point records developed using a combination of in-situ data submitted by experts and high-resolution image interpretation.

The datasets can be visualized through this link. The visualization app contains several layers, including a probability layer, extent layers for each of the target ecosystems, and the occurrence data used to train our remote sensing models. 

For more information about this dataset, please contact Dr. Alejandro Navarro

New 2023 IUCN Situation Analysis of the Yellow Sea coastal habitats now available

April 2023

More than 10 years ago Nick was involved in writing the influential 2012 IUCN Situation Analysis on East and Southeast Asian Intertidal Habitats report. The 2012 report was one of the first major international collaborative efforts to support conservation of the critical habitats fringing the Yellow Sea region of East Asia. 

This new report, again co-authored by Nick and a team of international authors, is the result of extensive cooperative efforts from around the Yellow Sea. It reports the drastic changes in coastal policy and protection that have seen a range of improvements to the status of the Yellow Sea's vital coastal ecosystems. However, the report reveals that urgent efforts are still required to conserve habitats and tackle the remaining and emerging threats across this region. 

Our continued work to support the conservation of coastal ecosystems around the world remains a fundamental focus of the work we do here in the Global Ecology Lab. 

You can read the new report here

News & views published in Nature

February 2023

This invited contribution summarises an outstanding new analysis of the global change of wetlands over the past few centuries. Read the paper here

coastTrain paper published

December 2022

This paper documents a global reference dataset that combines our work on Allen Coral Atlas, Global Mangrove Watch, Global Tidal Wetlands Change and Global Tidal Flats. The open-access dataset can be used to develop large-scale maps, validate existing maps and support coastal conservation activities. Read the paper here. 

New ecosystem typology published in Nature

October 2022

Today we published a new paper which introduces a new system for classifying any ecosystem on Earth.  This was a massive international effort with more than 100 scientists and more than 5 years in development. The paper describes an ecosystem classification scheme designed to support global efforts to estimate the status of the world's ecosystems, supporting efforts to assess the CBD Conservation Targets, Sustainable Development Goals and act as the base to complete the first global Red List of Ecosystems. Read the paper here and explore the typology at 

Publication of The State of the World's Mangroves

September 2022

We contributed two chapters to the 2022 State of the World's Mangrove report, edited by Marice Leal and Mark Spalding. Our chapters focus on (1) how our new global datasets support an improved understanding of tidal wetland change and (2) how to assess risks to mangrove ecosystems at the global scale using the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems categories and criteria. Read the full report here.

New Global Mangrove Watch paper published in Remote Sensing

July 2022

The Global Mangrove Watch is a flagship high-resolution dataset on mangrove extent and change. The GMW analysis was developed using L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) by Pete Bunting and a growing team of contributors. The GMW data have been vital for assessing large-scale mangrove dynamics, supporting systematic conservation planning and as an indicator to assess global conservation targets. Read our new paper on the latest version of GMW here and interact with the version 3.0 data on the GMW website (

Global tidal wetland analysis published in Science

May 2022

After three years of extensive model development and collaborations, we have published the paper "High-resolution mapping of losses and gains of Earth’s tidal wetlands" in Science. The paper advances more than 10 years of work to better map change of tidal wetlands at large scales, developing a monitoring approach for detecting the distribution of tidal wetlands as well as the ecosystem type and timing of their change over a 20 year period. Read the paper here or visit the project website.  Media releases are also available at JCU and The Nature Conservancy.

Maldives ecosystem typology

February 2022

This month we delivered the report "Maldives: Applying the IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology" to our funders, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Maldives. The report details the systematic application of the new IUCN Global Ecosystem Typology to marine and terrestrial ecosystems that occur within the Maldives EEZ. Authored by Maren Toor and Nick Murray (JCU), together with a group of experts with extensive field experience across all of the natural and anthropogenic environments in the Maldives, this report establishes the baseline necessary to assess conduct a national-scale assessment of the risk of collapse of the ecosystems of the Maldives. Read the full report here.

How can we manage the trade-off between coastal restoration and ecosystem losses?

February 2022

Expanding mangroves and the growing number of coastal wetland restoration projects in Asia present a unique challenge for managing coastal environments. In this new paper, led by Chi-Yeung Choi and published in Conservation Biology, we discuss the potential conflicts between coastal restoration and afforestation projects with maintaining critical tidal flat habitats that support one of world's major bird migrations. We also offer a range of management strategies to better manage this difficult trade-off. Read the paper here. 

Developing Australia's first nationally consistent map of saltmarshes

December 2021

We have been funded by the Clean Energy Regulator to develop Australia's first nationally consistent map of saltmarsh. The map will be developed using remote sensing methods developed in the ARC fellowship project Assessing risk to coastal ecosystems with new earth observation models. Read more about the maps and methods at 

IORA Blue Economy Forum

November 2021

We delivered a training workshop on "Earth Observation for Conservation" at the IORA Forum - Earth Observation for an Indian Ocean Blue Economy Workshop. The workshop gave participants an opportunity to learn remote sensing classification models via our free online app Read more about IORA and the Indian Ocean Blue Carbon Hub here.

Singapore Geospatial Festival 2021

September 2021

Nick Murray presented the talk "Losses and Gains of Earth's intertidal ecosystems" at the Singapore Geospatial Festival. The festival included a session on the use of Google Earth Engine in Asia and developed a suite of great resources and trainings, see here.

Post-doc opportunity in the lab

July 2021

We have a new post-doctoral research fellow opportunity in the lab. The position focuses on contributing to a continent-wide effort to map the distribution and change of Australia’s saltmarsh ecosystems, working with collaborators at Geoscience Australia, Clean Energy Regulator and University of New South Wales. Find out more about the position and apply online here 

Scientific foundations for an ecosystem goal

August 2021

An effective and meaningful ecosystem goal is necessary to meet global environmental agendas, however, no synthesis of the scientific basis and criteria have previously been established to develop this goal. In the paper, led by Prof Emily Nicholson, which was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution yesterday, we discuss the components needed to develop an effective ecosystem goal, the indictors necessary to monitor this goal, and our recommendations for indicator selection. Read the paper here.

A new classification system for coral reefs

August 2021

Any mapping project requires clear definition of map classes. Emma Kennedy's new paper, published in Scientific Data today, develops and describes Reef Cover, a reef classification scheme that underpins the Allen Coral Atlas. Read the paper here.

Managing data freshness

June 2021

Data freshness, a poorly reported aspect of data quality, is a pervasive problem in ecology and conservation where, in some cases, datasets developed decades are go are still used to support environmental decisions. We introduce this issue in the fields of ecology and conservation and propose solutions in our new paper published in Trends in Ecology & Evolution. Read the paper here.

Training data for global ecosystem mapping

Training data remains one of the most time consuming and difficult components of any global ecosystem mapping project. In a new paper led by Chris Roelfsema (UQ), we introduce the expert-driven workflow to generate training and validation data for the global scale mapping of coral reefs being conducted for the Allen Coral Atlas. Read the paper here.

Ramsar wetlands of international importance

After nearly five decades since the Ramsar Convention was signed, Prof Richard Kingsford and co-authors take a look at lessons learnt for wetland conservation and key challenges for improving the effectiveness of the Ramsar Site Network.  Read our new paper here.

Shorebird habitat at risk in mainland China

Congratulations to UQ PhD student Micha Jackson, who recently published her work in the Journal of Environmental Management. The analysis examines the area of tidal flat loss between 2000-2015 and maps the increasing extent of invasive Spartina alterniflora in coastal mainland China.  Read the paper here.

Mapping mangrove ecosystem degradation

Congratulations to PhD student Calvin Lee for publishing his recent work mapping mangrove degradation with earth observation data in Remote Sensing. Calvin used a conceptual model of mangrove degradation to identify key variables that were ultimately used to model the distribution of mangrove ecosystem degradation across the Rakhine region of Myanmar. Read about the model development, its practical application, and the case studies here.

Global maps of forest ecosystem integrity

In a new paper published in Nature Communications led by Hedley Grantham, we generated a globally consistent index of forest condition as determined by the degree of anthropogenic modification. With this we found that only 40.5% of forests globally have high landscape-level integrity and only 27% of that area is located within designated protected areas. Read the paper here.

Myanmar ecosystems paper published

Our new paper detailing the outcomes of a 3-year project to identify and assess the status of Myanmar's natural ecosystems has just been published in Biological Conservation. We worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society local team and a large group of ecosystem experts estimate risks to more than 60 of Myanmar's terrestrial ecosystems. This is the scientific publication arising from the recently launched Threatened Ecosystems of Myanmar report. Read the paper here.

Global analysis of tidal flat conservation

Today a new paper on the conservation of tidal flats, led by honours graduate Narelle Hill (University of Queensland), was published in Conservation Biology. We analysed the performance of protected areas in conserving tidal flat ecosystems worldwide. Read the paper in Conservation Biology here.

New global mangrove typology

We have a new paper on the global distribution of mangrove forest ecosystems. Led by Tom Worthington at Cambridge University, we classified and mapped mangroves according to their biophysical and geomorphic setting. The paper sets up a baseline for assessing variation in mangrove ecosystem services and for informing appropriate mangrove restoration strategies. Read the paper published in Scientific Reports here.

Deep learning for reef mapping

A collaboration with Remote Sensing Research Centre (University of Queensland) and the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (Asner Lab, Arizona State University) has led to a new, global scale analysis of the distribution of coral reefs.  This exciting paper from the Allen Coral Atlas project was led by Jiwei Li, Nick Fabina and Greg Asner, and describes how we used convolutional neural networks to generate a coral reef probability map from high spatial resolution Planet Dove imagery. Read the paper here.

Threatened ecosystems of Myanmar launched

After 3 years, 4 field trips, >3500-kms of Myanmar traversed, and 3 workshops with local experts, we are pleased to launch the Threatened Ecosystems of Myanmar report. The report develops a new ecosystem typology for Myanmar (64 ecosystems described), develops a national ecosystem map using Sentinel-2 and Landsat-8 data analysed in Google Earth Engine, and assesses each ecosystem under the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems criteria. The project was conducted in with the Wildlife Conservation Society. Read the 350+ page report here. A preprint of our first paper is here.

Featured in Science

This week a special issue of Science focuses on the dynamics of mud and sediment at the global scale (Science: a world of mud). The feature "Mud on the move" includes a striking new visualisation of the data underlying Figure 1 of our paper The global distribution and trajectory of tidal flats (Nature, 2019). Read mud on the move here.

GEO-GEE scheme success

Today, The Group on Earth Observations (GEO) and Google Earth Engine (GEE) have announced 32 projects from 22 countries that will be awarded $3 million USD towards production licenses and $1 million in technical support from EO Data Science to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges using open Earth data. I am very pleased to report that our free and open-access remote sensing app Remap ( was one of these projects. The scheme will allow us to deliver several key improvements aimed at giving non-experts the tools needed to map and identify ecosystem change. Read more about the program here.

Big data for mangrove conservation

We have published a new paper detailing how big data can support mangrove conservation. The huge team of authors, led by Tom Worthington (Cambridge University/The Nature Conservancy), describe how new and emerging datasets can be assembled to support policy action and on-the-ground conservation. Read the paper here.

Dense-time series remote sensing

A new paper by Calvin Lee, whose PhD focuses on the use of remote sensing in conservation, was just published. The paper develops a new method for estimating significant trends in the area of an ecosystem by developing classified maps of entire archives of satellite images. Calvin demonstrates the method in northern Myanmar.  Read the paper here.

Mapping coral reefs globally

The first paper from the Allen Coral Atlas is now online. Mitch Lyons led the paper that describes the remote sensing framework that is being implemented to develop the world's most high resolution and accurate maps of coral reef benthic and geomorphic environments.  Read the paper here.

Associate Editor

Happy to begin as an Associate Editor at Remote Sensing in Ecology and Conservation (RSEC) in early 2020. RSEC is an open access journal focusing on multidisciplinary research from the interface between remote sensing science and ecology and conservation. Read more about RSEC here.

Australian Antarctic Science grant success

We have just been funded by an Australian Antarctic Science grant for the project Assessing risks to Antarctic terrestrial and nearshore ecosystems (2019-2022). Our team, led by Prof David Keith (UNSW) and including co-investigors Prof Steven Chown (Monash), Dr Justine Shaw (UQ), Dr Jonny Stark (AAD) and Dr Aleks Terauds (AAD), will develop spatial distribution models, diagnostic models and data reviews of to conduct a comprehensive systematic risk assessment to terrestrial and nearshore ecosystems in Antarctica.

Moving to James Cook University

After post-doctoral positions at the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science (UQ), the Remote Sensing Research Centre (UQ) and the Centre for Ecosystem Science (UNSW), Nick will commence as a Senior Lecturer at James Cook University (JCU) in early September 2019. See my JCU portfolio here. 

Australian scientist in the running for APEC Science Prize

A researcher whose work assesses the conservation challenges and management risks associated with sea level rise has been chosen as Australia’s nominee for the US$25,000 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE). Dr Nicholas Murray from UNSW Sydney was selected by an expert panel ... Read the story here (Australian Academy of Sciences) and here (The Australian). 

Shortlisted for Robert May Prize 2018

Our paper on Remap - our free online app for remote sensing - was shortlisted for the Robert May Prize in Methods in Ecology Evolution. Use Remap for quickly making maps with Landsat data thanks to the power of Google Earth Engine. Read more here.

ARC Linkage Success

We have just been funded under the ARC Linkage scheme for the project A global standard for the status of Wetlands of International Importance. Led by Prof Richard Kingsford, the project brings together a large research team from academia, NGOs, and governments to develop a new standard to assess and report ecological condition of internationally important wetlands listed under the Ramsar Convention. Read more here

Editing a special issue of Remote Sensing

Dr Mitchell Lyons (University of New South Wales), Professor Stuart Phinn (UQ) and I are editing a special issue of Remote Sensing. We are particularly interested in operational remote sensing for ecosystem monitoring, such as habitat mapping, the extraction of biophysical variables, the detection of biological and ecological parameters, detecting changes and disturbances, assessing risk, assessing the efficacy of management actions, and providing evidence for compliance with regulations and policy. Read more here.

Redlistr R package

Today we published a paper in Ecography describing our new Redlistr R package. Development of the package was led by PhD student Calvin Lee, and allows users to compute the spatial metrics required for the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems and IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Redlistr has already been installed a few thousand times. Read the paper here.

Featured in The Guardian

Our analysis of the global distribution and change of tidal flats was featured in The Guardian yesterday. I discuss how we applied a machine learning classifier to the entire Landsat archive to map the distribution of one of the last unmapped coastal ecosystems and what it could mean for tidal flat conservation. Read the story here

Featured in Hakai Magazine

Our new paper in Nature is featured in Hakai magazine. This is the story of tidal flats, their global distribution as discovered by machine learning and remote sensing, and how their losses are impacting shorebird populations around the world. Read the story here

Nature paper published

Our new Nature paper reports the global distribution and change of the intertidal zone. Our high-resolution maps are first maps of tidal flats, which we show are similar in extent to mangroves and are declining. The paper is a result of a grant we received from Google in 2016, aimed at solving the problem of mapping an ecosystem that is frequently obscured by the tide. Read more here.


Yesterday I received the great news that I have been awarded a Discovery Early Career Research Award (DECRA) by the Australian Research Council. The award it to support research contributing to a global ecosystem risk assessment for coastal ecosystems, and includes aims related to remote sensing, coastal ecosystem modelling and risk modelling. Read more here

Featured in the New York Times

This week an important article on migratory shorebirds that features some of my research was published in the New York Times

Joining the Allen Coral Atlas

I've just joined the team developing the Allen Coral Atlas, a collaboration between Planet, University of Queensland, Carnegie and Vulcan. I'll be contributing cloud-based machine learning expertise to analyse a high-resolution global mosaic of Planet imagery to enable the production of high-resolution maps of coral reefs for the entire globe. Read more about the project in a recent National Geographic article here and on the project website here.

Global mangrove restoration

Congratulations to Tom Worthington and Mark Spalding (and many others!) from The Nature Conservancy on the launch the global mangrove restoration potential project, for which I contributed via a few workshops. Read more about the project here, read the technical report here and explore the map viewer.

New book chapter

I have a new book chapter in Allison Leidner (NASA) and Graeme Buchanan's (RSPB) recently launched book, Satellite Remote Sensing for Conservation Action. My chapter is on the use of remote sensing for conserving East Asia's declining coastal wetlands. Find the book here.

ARC Linkage Success

We recently received the exciting news that our ARC Linkage Grant was successful. The project Ecosystem risk assessment: new solutions to the global biodiversity crisis aims to develop a typological framework for the world’s ecosystems, and undertake the first global risk assessment for ecosystems. Read more about risk assessment here.

Featured in Nature

Nature's recent article Ecology’s remote-sensing revolution features me and my work using remote sensing to investigate ecological questions at the global-scale. The article starts "When ecologist Nicholas Murray started digging into remote-sensing data for ..." Read more.

REMAP reaches 9k users

Some recent press coverage has pushed the number of users using our Google-funded free online remote sensing software ( to more than 9,000 users in less than a year since its launch.

New STOTEN paper

Our paper on the use of remote sensing for ecosystem risk assessment was just published in Science for the Total Environment. The paper was an output from a workshop that included Emily Nicholson, Nathalie Pettorelli, David Keith and Richard Lucas. Read it here.

New RSEC paper

We have published a review on using remote sensing for monitoring ecosystem functions. In particular, the review proposes the adoption of a set of definitions and a typology for ecosystem functions, and outlines how these functions could be monitored using earth observation. Read it here.

New animations of coastal wetland data

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology have recently produced a range of documentaries that highlight the alarming plight of migratory shorebirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway. The most recent video includes incredible visualisations of the remotely sensed data delivered in our 2014 Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment paper.

Launching REMAP

In 2016 we received funding from Google to develop a cloud-based online remote sensing application that allows users to quickly develop classified maps for any location on Earth from Landsat data. After 15 months of work, we are pleased to launch remap, the remote ecosystem monitoring and assessment pipeline ( The paper describing REMAP was published in Methods in Ecology and the Environment, read it here.

New paper in Nature Communications

In a new paper led by Colin Studds we demonstrate that shorebird species in Australia and New Zealand that are declining most rapidly are those that spend the most time in the Yellow Sea, where their tidal mudflat habitat is Endangered. Read more here and a nice write up of what's causing the world's shorebirds to decline here.

Google intertidal project

We have been funded by Google to to produce the first global map of tidal flat ecosystems. We plan to use the immense power of Google Earth Engine and nearly 1 million Landsat images to develop the maps, which will represent the first ever map of the global intertidal zone.

Eureka prize

Last night we were awarded the 2015 Eureka Prize for Environmental Research! Read more about the award, for the work of the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems team towards assessing risks to ecosystems, here

Australian Geographic

Some of my work was featured in a four part feature by the Ann Jones of the ABC on the alarming plight of migratory shorebirds. The radio documentary is available on ABC, with the long-format article here (flying for their lives) and the a story in Australian Geographic