Professor Iain Suthers

Professor Iain Suthers

Field of Research
Biological oceanography, plankton, fisheries ecology, eddies

Iain Suthers explores the basis and sustainability of estuarine and coastal ecosystems.  His discoveries in the past 5 years concern the effect of rain and nutrients on zooplankton as a measure of water quality, as well as a supply of fish nutrition.  Iain has published over 150 papers and book chapters on a variety of marine subjects that concern fisheries oceanography (including a recent book on plankton).  He completed his PhD in Canada and post-doctoral work in Norway as well as back home in Australia before taking up a lectureship at UNSW in 1991.  These ecosystem fundamentals become manifest in determining:

  • The environmentally appropriate density of young fish, crabs or prawns for estuarine re-stocking;
  • The ecosystem contribution from design-specific artificial reefs;
  • The effect of drought on estuarine fisheries;
  • The biological significance of salps and krill in the western Tasman Sea; 
  • The Port Stephens CODAR system; and
  • The biological significance of the East Australian Current (EAC) and its eddies. 

His research on the separation of the EAC from the coast off Port Stephens reveals a key region influencing NSW’s climate, fisheries, and red tide production.  Since 2005 Suthers has led 5 research voyages on Australia’s Marine National Facility (RV Southern Surveyor) into the EAC and Tasman Front, and has led the deployments of autonomous ocean gliders to explore the enigmatic eddies of the EAC; he led a trial on the RV Investigator in Nov14; and 14 d voyage in June 2015 to explore frontal eddies.  Iain was leader of the NSW node of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (from 2007-2010), and with his colleague Dr Moninya Roughan he has been one of the major drivers in the remarkable development of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (; and contributed to the design and build of Australia’s new Research Vessel Investigator. 

He has two ARC Linkage Projects with DPI (Fisheries) and 4 other investigators on the Offshore Artificial Reef (2012-2015); and on baitfish and predatory fish (2015-2018); an ARC Discovery Project on zooplankton size (2015-2018).  He and his team were awarded two ARC Large Infrastructure and Equipment Grants in 2010 for a Laser Optical Plankton Counter, and a DIDSON acoustic camera; another with UTS with a flow cytometer and imager.  He has just completed two ARC Discovery projects on salps and eddies of the EAC.

He teaches a third year fisheries and oceanography course, contributes to the 2nd year Vertebrates and Biology of Invertebrates courses; to the to the Masters of Marine Science and Management program and has a laboratory of 5 PhD students in collaboration with Dr Jason Everett and Dr James Smith.

Funding agencies:  Australian Research Council (1 current Discovery Projects, 2 current Linkage Projects), Norwegian Research Council, Environmental Protection Authority (NSW), National Research Facility R.V. FRANKLIN/SOUTHERN SURVEYOR/INVESTIGATOR (7 voyages since 2004), NSW Recreational Saltwater Fishing Trust; Victorian Recreational Fishing Trust.




Evaluating estuarine nursery use and life history patterns of Pomatomus saltatrix in eastern Australia.  Marine Ecology Progress Series.  Accepted 23 Jan 2018  2017

A database of chlorophyll a in Australian waters. Scientific Data (in press)

Don’t Blame It on the Moonlight: Abiotic Drivers of Reproductive Development in an Estuarine-Dependent Prawn.  Estuaries and Coasts DOI 10.1007/s12237-017-0284-4 2017

 Modelling what we sample and sampling what we model: challenges for zooplankton model assessment.  Frontiers in Marine Science.  Accepted 8 March 2017. 2017

Seasonal forecasting of dolphinfish distribution in eastern Australia to aid recreational fishers and managers.  Deep Sea Research II 140: 222-229. 2017

A tale of two eddies: The bio-physical characteristics of two contrasting cyclonic eddies in the East Australian Current System.  Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans 122(3): 2494-2518 2017

Latitudinal and ontogenetic variation in the diet of a pelagic mesopredator (Pomatomus saltatrix), assessed with a classification tree analysis.  Marine Biology 164(4): 75. doi:10.1007/s00227-017-3105-1 2017

Plankton supports the majority of fish biomass on temperate rocky reefs.  Marine Biology 164(4): 73 2017

Modelling the distribution of fish around an artificial reef.  Marine and Freshwater Research 68: 1955-1964 2017

Dispersal of Eastern King Prawn larvae in a western boundary current: new insights from particle tracking.  Fisheries Oceanography 26 Issue: 513-525 2017

Multispecies presence and connectivity around a designed artificial reef.  Marine and Freshwater Research 68: 1489-1500. 2017

Integrated approach to determining stock structure: implications for fisheries management of sardine, Sardinops sagax, in Australian waters.  Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 27: 267-284 2017

Estimating the recreational harvest of fish from a nearshore designed artificial reef using a pragmatic approach.  Fisheries Research 187: 158-167 2017

Influence of latitudinal variation in environmental gradients and population structure on the demography of a widespread pelagic fish, Arripis trutta (Forster, 1801).  Environmental Biology of Fishes, 100(2), 121-135. 2016

Effects of habitat on fish abundance and species composition on temperate rocky reefs. Marine Ecology Progress Series 561: 155-171 2016

A designed artificial reef is among the most productive marine fish habitats: new metrics to address ‘production versus attraction’.  Marine Biology 163 (188): 163-188 2016

Improving consumption rate estimates by incorporating wild activity into a bioenergetics model. Ecology and Evolution 6(8): 2262-2274. 2016

The effects of substrate material and surface orientation on the developing epibenthic community on a designed artificial reef.  Biofouling 32: 1049-1060 2016

Mean hydrography on the continental shelf from 26 repeat glider deployments along Southeastern Australia. Scientific Data 3, 2016

Rethinking the role of salps in the ocean. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31: 720-733 2016

An observation of two oceanic salp swarms in the Tasman Sea: Thetys vagina and Cyclosalpa affinis Marine Biodiversity Records (2016) 9:21 DOI 10.1186/s41200-016-0023-8. 2016

Monitoring boat-based recreational fishing effort at a nearshore artificial reef with a shore-based camera.  Fisheries Research: 181: 84-92 2016

Temperature dependence of fish performance in the wild: links with species biogeography and physiological thermal tolerance. Functional Ecology, 30: 903–912. doi: 10.1111/1365-2435.12618. 2016

Relationship between otolith chemistry and age in a widespread pelagic teleost Arripis trutta: influence of adult movements on stock structure and implications for management.  Marine & Freshwater Research 67: 224-237 2016

Zooplankton abundance and biomass size spectra in the East Antarctic sea-ice zone during the winter-spring transition. Deep Sea Research II  131: 170-181 2016

Fish movement through an estuary mouth is related to tidal flow.  Estuaries and Coasts 39: 1199-1207 2015

Zooplanktivory is a key process for fish production on a coastal artificial reef.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 541: 1-14 2015

Tests of larval retention in a tidally energetic environment reveals complexity of spatial structure in herring populations.  Fisheries Oceanography 24: 553-570. 2015

Fish attraction to artificial reefs not always harmful: a simulation study.  Ecology and Evolution 5: 4590-4602 2015

Modelling the oceanic habitats of two pelagic species using recreational fisheries data.  Fisheries Oceanography 24: 463–477 2015

Zooplankton trophic niches respond to different water types of the western Tasman Sea: a stable isotope analysis.  Deep-Sea Research Part I 104:1-8 2015

Population drivers of a Thalia democratica swarm: insights from population modelling.  Journal of Plankton Research, 37: 1074-1087 2015

Rain-driven changes in fish dynamics: a switch from spatial to temporal segregation.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 528: 267-275. 2015

Cyclonic entrainment of pre-conditioned shelf waters into a frontal eddy. Journal of Geophysical Research – Oceans 120: 677-6915 2015

Foraging intensity of wild mulloway Argyrosomus japonicus decreases with increasing anthropogenic disturbance.   Marine Biology 162: 539-546. 2015

Fine-scale movements, site fidelity and habitat use of an estuarine dependent sparid.  Environmental Biology of Fishes 98: 1599-1608. 2015

Regulated recruitment: native and alien fish responses to widespread floodplain inundation in the Macquarie Marshes, arid-Australia.  Ecohydrology, 8, 148–159. 2015

Entrainment and advection of larval sardine, Sardinops sagax, by the East Australian Current and retention in the western Tasman Front.  Fisheries Oceanography 23: 554-567 2014

Over 75 years of zooplankton in Australia.  Ecology, 95: 3229  - abstract in Ecology  - manuscript in Ecological Archives (click on metadata for text)

The influence of an offshore artificial reef on the abundance of fish in the surrounding pelagic environment.  Marine & Freshwater Research 66: 429-437. 2014

Thermal limitation of performance and biogeography in a free-ranging ectotherm: insights from accelerometry.  Journal of Experimental Biology 217: 3033-3037 2014

Predator driven diel variation in abundance and behaviour of fish in deep and shallow habitats of an estuary.  Estuarine & Coastal Shelf Science 144: 82-88 2014

Top-down pressure on small pelagic fish by eastern Australian salmon Arripis trutta; estimation of daily ration and annual prey consumption using multiple techniques.  J. Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology 459: 190-198 2014

Cyclonic entrainment? The ichthyoplankton attributes of three major water mass types generated by the separation of the East Australian Current.  ICES J. Marine Science 71: 1696-1705. 2014

Response of fish communities to the deployment of estuarine artificial reefs for fisheries enhancement.  Fisheries Management and Ecology  21: 42-56 2014

Relative impact of seasonal and oceanographic drivers on surface chlorophyll a along a Western Boundary Current. Progress in Oceanography, 120: 340-351 2014

The effect of targeted stocking on behaviour and space utilisation of a released finfish,  ICES Journal of Marine Science 71: 1100-1106 2014

Demography and interannual variability of salp swarms (Thalia democratica).  Marine Biology 161: 149-163 2014

+61-2-9385 2065

Room 4113, Level 4, Biological Sciences South (E26), UNSW, Kensington 2052