Sue Morrison is well recognised as a mainstay of the fish community in Western Australia and beyond. She has a highly sought-after expertise on the identification and distribution of fishes. Sue has also provided immeasurable support for hundreds of other research projects and new species descriptions.
Originally from the UK, Sue studied at the University of Bristol before emigrating to Australia in 1977. Sue’s career started with histology, microscopy, radiography, cytogenetics and immune-histochemistry in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Western Australia. During that time she completed her MSc on Cellular changes during environmental adaptation in the catfish Cnidoglanis macrocephalus. Following a short stint at the CSIRO conducting cytogenetic studies on weeds, Sue was appointed to the position of Collection Manager of Fishes at the Western Australian Museum in 1994. Apart from a three year secondment to a joint WA Fisheries/WA Museum research project (2002-2006), Sue held this position for more than 20 years, until her retirement in 2015. Sue worked with two of Australia’s most respected fish taxonomists – Gerry Allen and Barry Hutchins and was herself Acting Curator from 2007 until 2011. Sue started SCUBA diving in 1974 and is still a very active diver and highly skilled underwater photographer. Sue has co-authored (and photographed for) four books highlighting the marine environments of Western Australia and introducing marine science, taxonomy and conservation messages to a popular audience.
Sue’s contribution to Australian ichthyology is outstanding, however only a part of it is easily measurable. For two decades, Sue was one of the strengths of the WAM Fish Section, although her efforts were often unseen. The organisation of the fish collection and associated database is testament to the critical role Sue has played at the Museum. While this might not be considered the glamourous side of marine science, Sue always prioritised the welfare of the collection and accuracy and quality of the associated data. The impact of this is easily overlooked, but during her tenure Sue managed the addition of more than 40,000 specimens into the fish collection at WAM – all with extensive metadata. The quality and accessibility of these records has supported the publication of innumerable papers by hundreds of marine researchers. With Sue’s input, these data have been used in biodiversity assessments for marine park planning, ecological studies and for the description of some 400 new species by the world’s taxonomists. This includes two of Australia’s best known fish taxonomists, ex-WAM Curators Gerry Allen and Barry Hutchins.
Sue has also made an enormous contribution in her own right. Her incredible knowledge of the fish fauna of Western Australia had led her to be involved in many projects and fieldtrips over her career and that is reflected in the fact that nearly 7% of the fish collection at WAM is ‘collected by’ or ‘identified by’ Sue – that is 1 in every 14 jars on the shelves! These contributions have added greatly to our understanding of the biodiversity and biogeography of the fishes of Western Australia.
Some of her significant projects include:
- Fishes of central Kimberley islands (1996)
- Fish monitoring of the decommissioned HMAS Swan artificial reef (1997 – 2002)
- Four popular marine natural history books (1998 – 2006)
- Development of biodiversity and habitat monitoring systems for key trawl fisheries in Western Australia (2002 – 2005)
- Fishes of the North-west Shelf atolls (2006)
- Fishes of the Kimberley and offshore atolls (2009 – 2014)
Moore, G. and Morrison, S. (2009). Fishes of three North West Shelf atolls off Western Australia (Rowley Shoals), Scott and Seringapatam Reefs. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement No. 77: 221-255.
Moore, G., Morrison, S., Hutchins, J.B., Allen, G.R. and Sampey, A. (2014). Kimberley marine biota. Historical data: fishes. Records of the Western Australian Museum Supplement 84: 161-206.
Richards, Z., Kirkendale, L., Moore, G., Hosie, A., Huisman, J., Bryce, M., Marsh, L., Bryce, C., Hara, A., Wilson, N., Morrison, S., Gomez, O., Ritchie, J., Whisson, C., Allen, M., Betterridge, L., Wood, C., Morrison, H., Salotti, M., Hansen, G., Slack-Smith, S. and Fromont, J. (2016). Marine Biodiversity in Temperate Western Australia: Multi-Taxon Surveys of Minden and Roe Reefs. Diversity 8: 7.
Morrison, S. and Storrie, A. (1999). Wonders of Western Waters. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia.
Morrison, S., Storrie, A. and Morrison, P. (2006). The Turquoise Coast. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia.
Kangas, M. I. Morrison, S.M., Unsworth, P. Lai,E., Wright, I. and Thompson, A. (2007) Development of biodiversity and habitat monitoring systems for key trawl fisheries in Western Australia. Final FRDC report - Project 2002/038. Fisheries research report No. 160.
Morrison, P. and Morrison, S. (2009). Fish monitoring of the decommissioned HMAS Swan artificial reef, Dunsborough, Western Australia. Unpublished Report.
Sue within a glycerol bath to preserve a rare megamouth specimen
A 3am nap while trawl sampling in Shark Bay, WA