Sue-Ann’s research focuses on the effects of environmental stressors on marine organisms including invertebrates, corals and fishes. She is particularly interested in the effects of multiple stressors such as ocean warming, ocean acidification and water quality impacts including light availability (turbidity), nutrients and salinity. Sue-Ann’s broad research interests include ecology, physiology, behaviour 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.



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.


JCU Media Release

CoralCoE Media Release

  • Invertebrates, fish, ecology, physiology, behavioural ecology, climate change, ocean warming, ocean acidification, water quality, light availability, nutrients, resouce availability, salinity, carbonate chemistry
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2015 - Australian Museum Eureka Prize: Macquarie University Eureka Prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher finalist (Australian national science awards)
  • 2015 - Rising Star of Queensland Science (Queensland Government)
  • 2014 - Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year
  • 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 38+ research outputs authored by Dr Sue-Ann Watson from 2009 onwards.

Current Funding

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

PADI Foundation - Research Grant

Effects of Elevated CO2 on Squid Behaviours and Physiology

Indicative Funding
We will investigate the potential for transgenerational plasticity of behaviours, as well as life-history traits, in bigfin reef squid (Sepioteuthis lessoniana) at near-future projected CO2 levels. Results will determine for the first time if cephalopods can potentially adapt to ocean acidification.
Blake Spady, Sue-Ann Watson and Philip Munday (College of Science & Engineering and ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Cephalopod; Behaviour; Transgenerational Plasticity; Ocean Acidification; Life-history

Institute for Pacific Coral Reefs - Research Grant

Behavioural effects and acclimation capacity of marine invertebrates to ocean acidification

Indicative Funding
Marine invertebrates and fundamental to global ecosystem function: however, recent discoveries have shown ocean acidification alters their behaviour. The complex impacts of these changes on invertebrates and the potential for species to acclimate behaviour to changing ocean chemistry remain unknown. This project will assess marine invertebrate behaviour and the potential for acclimation to better understand the effects of rising carbon dioxide on marine ecosystems. This information will improve the capacity to understand and mitigate the effects of global change.
Sue-Ann Watson (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies)
Marine Invertebrates; Ocean Acidification; Climate Change; Carbon Dixoide; Behaviour; Acclimation

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.

  • The Effects of Projected Future CO2 on Cephalopod Behaviours and Physiology (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • The Impact of Ocean Acidification on Ecological Processes that Structure Coral Communities (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

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


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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  1. Prof Mark McCormick
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  3. Dr Aurelie Moya
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  4. Prof Philip Munday
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  5. Dr Jodie Rummer
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