Reef Matters Seminar Series

David Blakeway

Reef patterns: form, scale and processes


Many coral reefs exhibit striking geometric patterns when viewed from above. Contemporary research indicates that these patterns are examples of biotic self-organisation, in which large-scale structure emerges spontaneously from local-scale ecological processes. Under the assumption that the best-defined reef patterns signify the most influential ecological processes, identifying mechanisms of pattern generation in coral reefs can potentially provide many fundamental insights into reef ecology. In this talk I describe a case study investigating potential mechanisms of pattern generation in lagoon reefs of the Houtman Abrolhos Islands, Western Australia. I also highlight some intriguing and understudied reef patterns elsewhere, including within the Great Barrier Reef lagoon. Lastly, I advocate for researchers to consider if, and how, biotic self-organisation may be operating at their own research sites.


David Blakeway is an independent researcher, consultant, and commercial diver based in Perth, Western Australia. After stints in farming and commercial fishing, he studied marine biology and geology at James Cook University and the University of Miami, followed by a PhD in coral reef geomorphology at the University of Western Australia. Dave went on as a Postdoctoral researcher in intertidal ecology at California State University, Los Angeles. Currently, Dave operates Fathom 5 Marine Research, a small Perth-based marine environmental survey consultancy. His research interests include reef-related applications of geomorphology, ecology, complexity and complex adaptive systems theory, scientific biography, and scientific history.