Sue-Ann is an Associate Professor in the Marine Biology and Aquaculture team within the College of Science and Engineering at James Cook University and a Senior Scientist and Curator (Marine Invertebrates) for the Queensland Museum, based at the Queensland Museum Tropics in Townsville. Sue-Ann is appointed to the Species Technical Committee, Queensland to assess species at risk of extinction using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List framework. She is President for the Australian Marine Sciences Association (AMSA) North Queensland Branch and an Advisory Committee member for Invertebrates Australia.

Sue-Ann's role provides a partnership with the Queensland Museum, and she actively translates research knowledge to education and action through government and non-government agencies and communities. Examples include policy briefings, presentations to members of the Royal Family, museum exhibitions (physical and web-based), life-long learning, and national and international media outreach (TV, radio, online and in print).

Sue-Ann’s 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, biodiversity, and the potential for acclimation and adaptation to change in marine organisms.  

Research organisms include: bivalve and gastropod molluscs (oysters, giant clams, jumping snails, cone snails, pteropods), crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), hard and soft corals, crustaceans, sea urchins, fish (coral reef fish, kingfish, barramundi), brachiopods and sea cucumbers.

Research sites include: Australia, Singapore, French Polynesia, Antarctica, Arctic, UK, deep sea (Crozet Islands and North Atlantic abyssal plain), Falkland Islands and New Zealand.

Sue-Ann is originally from the UK and studied for a BSc (Hons) degree in Biology from the University of Nottingham and MSc in Oceanography from the National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton. With the University of Southampton and British Antarctic Survey, Sue-Ann researched evolutionary trends across latitudinal gradients in marine invertebrates to determine how adaptive traits change along environmental gradients from the tropics to the poles for her PhD, in collaboration with the National University of Singapore, University of Melbourne and James Cook University.

PhD projects are available in my group and enquiries are welcome. Please submit a cover letter (1 page maximum) letter detailing your suitability and interest, academic transcript and a CV with contact details of two referees by email.

Sue-Ann's website

Coral Reef Studies website

Museum website

Example 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.  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.


JCU Media Release


  • AG1007: Introduction to Plants and Animals for Veterinary Science (Level 1; TSV)
  • BS1007: Introduction to Biodiversity (Level 1; TSV)
  • MB2080: Invertebrate Biology (Level 2; TSV)
  • MB3200: Marine Conservation Biology (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5004: Marine Conservation Biology (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB5380: Invertebrate Biology (Level 5; TSV)
  • Invertebrates, fishes, ecology, physiology, behaviour, global change, ocean warming, ocean acidification, water quality, light availability, nutrients, resource availability, salinity, carbonate chemistry
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2023 - Australian Marine Science Association (AMSA) Emerging Leader in Marine Science award
  • 2023 - Queensland Women in STEM Prize - Judges' Award (overall winner)
  • 2019 to 2020 - Women in Leadership Australia scholarship award (Executive-Ready programme)
  • 2018 - Australian Marine Sciences Association North Queensland Communication Award
  • 2016 - Science meets Parliament scholarship award
  • 2015 - Rising Star of Queensland Science (Queensland Government)
  • 2015 - Australian Museum Eureka Prize: Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher finalist (Australian national science awards)
  • 2014 - Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year - overall winner
  • 2016 to 2017 - Institute for Pacific Coral Reefs / Institut des Récifs Coralliens du Pacifique (IRCP) Fellowship, Mo’orea, French Polynesia
  • 2015 to 2016 - Lizard Island Yulgilbar Foundation Fellowship, Australia

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 61+ research outputs authored by A/Prof Sue-Ann Watson from 2009 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Queensland Museum - Contract Research

Understanding the Effects of Global Change on Marine Invertebrates.

Indicative Funding
$107,000 over 4 years
This project aims to determine how global environmental change, including climate change, ocean warming, marine heatwaves, ocean acidification and water quality affect a suite of marine invertebrates (other than coral), including major invertebrate groups (molluscs and echinoderms) from the Great Barrier Reef, other Queensland waters and beyond. This project will advance understanding of the consequences of rapid environmental change on marine invertebrate groups.
Sue-Ann Watson (Research Division)
Marine invertebrate; Global change; Climate change; Mollusc; Echinoderm; Great Barrier Reef

Queensland Government - Women's Research Assistance Program (WRAP)

Effects of global change on marine invertebrates QLD WRAP

Indicative Funding
$7,800 over 2 years
This research will continue to determine the effects of global change on marine invertebrates, including the effects of the recent global ocean heating events that caused major bleaching and coral mortality on the Great Barrier Reef.
Sue-Ann Watson (Research Division)
Marine Invertebrates; Ocean Acidification; Carbon Dioxide; Global Change; Temperature; Giant Clam

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Shifting biotic interactions: the indirect effects of climate change on coral community dynamics (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Combating summer mortality in abalone: Can a little bit of stress be beneficial? (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit Research Data Australia.


The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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