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Dr Sue-Ann Watson

Sue-Ann is Senior Curator (Marine Invertebrates) at the Queensland Museum Network, based at the Museum of Tropical Queensland campus in Townsville. Her position is co-appointed with the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University.

Sue-Ann works on a range of marine invertebrates (animals without backbones) including molluscs (e.g. snails, clams, cephalopods), echinoderms (e.g. sea urchins, sea cucumbers, sea stars), crustaceans (e.g. hermit crabs) and brachiopods. Some of her favourite study species – jumping snails, giant clams and pygmy squid – are all found here in North Queensland.

Her research focuses on the responses of marine organisms to change, both in space (along natural evolutionary gradients) and time (responses to environmental change). She is particularly interested in large scale evolutionary patterns and ecological trends in marine invertebrates and the effects of stressors such as ocean acidification, warming and water quality impacts including light availability (turbidity), nutrients and salinity on invertebrates, corals and fishes. Sue-Ann’s broad research interests include ecology, physiology, behavior, biogeography and the potential for acclimation and adaptation to change in marine organisms.

She has been the recipient of a number of awards including Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year (2014) and was a finalist in the Australian Museum Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Research (2015). 

Most recently, Dr Watson has contributed to the Museum of Tropical Queensland's biodiversity exhibition Natural Curiosity: Discovering the secrets of Queensland's greatest collections

Twitter @watsonsueann


Latest Research

Smart growth: Marine snails know how to budget their housing costs

For nearly 50 years, researchers have been stumped as to why sea shells from warm tropical waters are comparatively larger than their cold-water relatives.  New research, led by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Coral CoE) at James Cook University, suggests that it all comes down to ‘housing cost'. The paper Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles is published in the journal Science Advances.

Click here to read the full publication

Research Publications

Spady B, Munday P and Watson S (2018) Predatory strategies and behaviours in cephalopods are altered by elevated CO2. Global Change Biology, 24 (6). pp. 2585-2596

Watson S, Allan B, McQueen D, Nicol S, Parsons D, Pether S, Pope S, Setiawan A, Smith N, Wilson C and Munday P (2018) Ocean warming has a greater effect than acidification on the early life history development and swimming performance of a large circumglobal pelagic fish.Global Change Biology, 24 (9). pp. 4368-4385

Allan B, Domenici P, Watson S, Munday P and McCormick M (2017) Warming has a greater effect than elevated CO2 on predator prey interactions in coral reef fish. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Biological Sciences, 284 (1857). pp. 1-9 

Allen J, Schrage K, Foo S, Watson S and Byrne M (2017)The effects of salinity and pH on fertilization, early development and hatching in the Crown-of-Thorns seastar. Diversity, 9 (1). pp. 1-14

Ferrari M, McCormick M, Watson S, Meekan M, Munday P and Chivers D (2017) Predation in high CO2 waters: prey fish from high-risk environments are less susceptible to ocean acidification.Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57 (1). pp. 55-62

Torda GDonelson J, Aranda M, Barshis D, Bay L, Berumen M, Bourne D, Cantin N, Foret S, Matz M, Miller DMoya A, Putnam H, Ravasi T, van Oppen M, Vega Thurber R, Vidal-Dupiol J, Voolstra C, Watson S, Whitelaw E, Willis B and Munday P (2017) Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals. Nature Climate Change, 7. pp. 627-636

Watson S, Fabricius K and Munday P (2017) Quantifying pCO₂ in biological ocean acidification experiments: a comparison of four methods. PLoS ONE, 12 (9). pp. 1-16

Watson S, Morley S and Peck L (2017) Latitudinal trends in shell production cost from the tropics to the poles. Science Advances, 3 (9). pp. 1-8

Watson S, Fields J and Munday P (2017) Ocean acidification alters predator behaviour and reduces predation rate. Biology Letters, 13. pp. 1-5

Wessels W, Sprungala S, Watson SMiller D and Bourne D (2017) The microbiome of the octocoral Lobophytum pauciflorum: minor differences between sexes and resilience to short-term stress. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 93 (5). pp. 1-13

Heinrich D, Watson SRummer J, Brandl S, Simpfendorfer CHeupel M and Munday P (2016) Foraging behaviour of the epaulette shark Hemiscyllium ocellatum is not affected by elevated CO2. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 73 (3). pp. 633-640

Moya A, Howes E, Lacoue-Labarthe T, Foret S, Hanna B, Medina M, Munday P, Ong J, Teyssié J, Torda G, Watson SMiller D, Bijma J and Gattuso J (2016) Near-future pH conditions severely impact calcification, metabolism and the nervous system in the pteropod Heliconoides inflatus. Global Change Biology, 22 (12). pp. 3888-3900





Senior Curator (Marine Invertebrates)


PhD (University of South Hampton)

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