Dominic Mcafee

Dr Dominic Mcafee

ARC Grant-Funded Researcher B

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

My work centers on the recovery of lost marine ecosystems. This research seeks to understand and leverage the ecological and social complexities of marine socio-ecological systems, so we can develop solutions that ensure marine habitat restoration is both a social and environmental success. My research focuses on four main areas:

o Investigating the role of ecological interactions and technology in accelerating the restoration of lost shellfish reefs.
o Understanding how shellfish ecosystems, particularly oysters, enhance the resilience and function of coastal ecosystems.
o Developing conservation messaging strategies that leverage people’s cognitive biases to enhance public engagement with conservation.
o Understanding the socio-political drivers of conservation successes so they can be disseminated and replicated.

Marine ecology and restoration are my bread-and-butter, but I am deeply fascinated by conservation psychology and what makes conservation efforts successful. I love all things oyster and communicating science to diverse audiences. Naturally, I am part of Australia's Shellfish Reef Restoration Network's communication team.

I work closely with Prof Sean Connell on the restoration of southern Australia's lost shellfish reefs, and on developing strategies that use the cognitive biases of people to enhance public engagement with conservation. This research aims to both improve the way we restore marine habitats and how we communicate their value to the broader public, so we can build the productivity and adaptability of Australia's marine ecosystems through large-scale restoration of oyster reefs of high social value.  

Ostrea angasi reef, Tasmania. Photo: SD Connell

Australia's sole remaining Flat oyster reef in Tasmania. We are working to bring them back. Photo: SD Connell.

The restoration of Australia's lost shellfish reefs

My research focuses on improving the way we restore marine habitats, including strategies to accelerate the rate of restoration. Much of our field research occurs on South Australia's two shellfish reef restorations: Windara Reef - Australia's first large-scale reef restoration (20 hectare), and Glenelg Reef (construction Nov 2020).

We are interested in all aspects of reef restoration, with a primary focus on enhancing the recruitment and survival of oysters to the reef, ensuring it's long-term growth and performance. Projects include developing multi-species restoration approaches that boost oyster performance; understanding the spatio-temporal dynamics of natural recruitment to maximise reef recovery; targeting for restoration the habitat traits that support ecological function, and; developing and testing marine technologies (e.g. underwater speakers) that can accelerate restoration processes. I am happy to discuss any related or new project ideas, and our rapidly developing marine technology research. 

This restoration research is in partnership with South Australia's Department for Environment and Water, while our marine technology work is a research collaboration with environmental engineering NGO, AusOcean

McAfee et al. 2020_Journal of Applied Ecology

Multi‐species restoration accelerates recovery of extinguished oyster reefs. McAfee et al. 2020, Journal of Applied Ecology.

Leveraging the cognitive biases of people to improve effective conservation messaging 

My research with communication scientists looks to bridge the gap between ecology and conservation psychology to develop a communication strategy that ignites public interest. Public engagement provides a foundation for large-scale restoration initiatives as public support legitimises Government investment in restoration. Yet, evidence on the most effective way to communicate conservation issues is limited. Communicating a balance between environmental challenges and optimism for positive environmental change has the potential to improve conservation messaging, and my research examines how the psychological mechanisms of optimism resonates with the intended audience.  

This research seeks to understand the psychological levers and social practices that inform human perspectives and behaviour towards the environment, so we can use this knowledge to enhance public engagement with conservation. I am particularly interested in understanding the socio-cultural perspectives that coastal communities and industries have of marine restoration projects, which can provide clues on what information is likely to resonate and spark greater engagement with restoration efforts. Such knowledge holds promise for not only improving communication of restoration efforts, but with environmental science more generally. Projects take many forms, so get in touch to here more.

McAfee et al. 2019

Everyone loves a success story: optimism inspires conservation engagement. McAfee et al. 2019, BioScience.

Other research interests: Ecosystem based management; tests of ecosystem engineering theory; climate-adaptation strategies for coastal systems; invertebrate physiology; mangrove ecology

Fun in the mud       Fun on the water       Fun with oysters       Fun with chitons       Fun on tropical rocky shores

Research Funding

  • ARC Linkage - Addressing social and ecological constraints to expand marine restoration, co-chief investigator, 2021, $445,822
  • Department for Environment & Water research grant - Research on Shellfish Reef Restoration in South Australia, 2020, $80,000
  • Endeavour Australia Cheung Kong Research Fellowship Award, 2016, $24,500



  • Young Tall Poppy Award for South Australia, 2021
  • University Award for Outstanding Achievement for Excellence in Research by an Early Career Researcher, 2021
  • Eureka Prize Award for Applied Environmental Research, 2020
  • Order of Merit for Early Career Research Excellence, Faculty of Sciences UoA, 2020
  • Tony Roach prize (best marine science paper), Sydney Institute of Marine Science, 2019
  • South Australian Science Awards finalist for Best Research Collaboration, 2018

Course coordination

Course coordinator for Principles & Practice of Research III (SCIENCE 3100) in the BSc Advanced degree, University of Adelaide, 2021.

Guest lecturing

  • Frontiers in Marine Science, University of Adelaide, 2018 - 2021
  • Estuarine health; Oyster aquaculture, University of Hong Kong, 2016
  • Marine Ecology, Macquarie University, 2015 - 2016

Course tutoring

  • Marine environmental issues, Macquarie University, 2015-2017
  • Marine Ecology, Macquarie University, 2014-2015
  • Invertebrate zoology, Macquarie University, 2014
  • Experimental design and data analysis, Macquarie University, 2014
  • Ecology, Macquarie University, 2013-2014
  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2024 Principal Supervisor Expanding the near-shore restoration potential of native oyster reefs using positive species interactions Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Nichole Lindsey
    2024 Principal Supervisor Quantifying the human benefits of community-led marine restoration; mental, emotional, and socio-economic wellbeing of community participation. Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Ms Michelle Margaret Holian
    2024 Co-Supervisor To cull or conserve: do non-native oyster reefs provide biodiversity benefits or valued biological function? Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Miss Samantha Maree George-Neich
    2024 Co-Supervisor How to boost coastal restoration through improved reef design and increased community participation via public engagement Master of Philosophy Master Full Time Ms Lauren Brigitte Woolhiser
    2023 Co-Supervisor Enacting effective marine ecosystem restoration along the South Australian coast. Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Ishtar Raven Kenny
    2022 Co-Supervisor Science Communication: Sharing via Storytelling (Working Title) Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Mollie Hawkes Hohmann
    2021 Co-Supervisor Oyster Reef Restoration Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Lachlan McLeod
    2021 Co-Supervisor Marine invertebrates in changing oceans Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Erin Laura Pichler
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2020 - 2023 Co-Supervisor Enriching Marine Soundscapes to Restore Australia's Lost Native Oyster Reefs Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Brittany Ruth Williams
  • Position: ARC Grant-Funded Researcher B
  • Phone: 0420995406
  • Email:
  • Campus: North Terrace
  • Building: Darling, floor 1
  • Org Unit: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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