Lecture: “Responses of marine organisms to global change”, 12 May 2015, Townsville, Australia

Presented by Dr Sue-Ann Watson, Research Associate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University

Date & time: Tuesday, 12 May 2015, 11:30-12:30

Location: Building 19, Room #106, James Cook University, Townsville, Australia


Global change, including ocean acidification and warming, poses a serious threat to marine life. Ocean chemistry is changing 100 times faster than any period in the last 650,000 years and the oceans are already 30 % more acidic than 250 years ago. The effects of ocean acidification include reductions in growth, and altered development and physiological processes in marine organisms. Marine invertebrates are fundamental to global ecosystem function and provide significant goods and services to human societies; however, they are particularly susceptible to ocean acidification, especially highly calcifying taxa such as molluscs, echinoderms and corals. I will present research on the effects of ocean acidification, warming and calcium carbonate saturation state on both calcifying and non-calcifying organisms including acute responses, transgenerational acclimation and potentially adaptive responses. I will also show that ocean acidification impairs marine invertebrate behaviour including essential predator-escape responses, and discuss potential mechanisms. This previously unrecognized impact of ocean acidification on invertebrate behaviour could have far-reaching consequences for ecological processes and ecosystem function. Determining the capacity for rapid acclimation and evolutionary adaptation in life-history, physiological and behavioural traits is now critical for predicting the future consequences of global change on marine organisms.


Sue-Ann Watson is a research associate at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University. Her research focuses on the ecological effects of global change, particularly ocean acidification, and evolutionary responses to environmental gradients in marine organisms. Her broad research interests include ecology, behaviour, physiology and the potential for acclimation and adaptation to environmental change, particularly in marine invertebrates. Sue-Ann received her doctorate from the University of Southampton National Oceanography Centre in collaboration with the British Antarctic Survey, and recently led an Ocean Acidification symposium at the 2014 Australian Marine Sciences Association conference.

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