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Shawna Andrea Foo

Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Post Doctoral Scholars, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 5302

Shawna Foo is a marine scientist interested in the evolution and ecology of marine ecosystems in a changing climate. Her research began with a focus on the adaptive potential of sea urchins to ocean warming and ocean acidification, with a comparison of species from the poles to the tropics. She also uses natural seawater carbon dioxide vents as windows into the future for studying the effects of ocean acidification and how species might adapt to survive harsh environments. Most recently, her work aims to integrate satellite based coral mapping with benthic surveys to allow an upscaling of reef monitoring in the context of resilience and recovery of corals after bleaching events.


Shawna currently has 23 peer reviewed publications (13 first author), with 540 citations recorded on Google scholar and a h-index of 11. Her average citation rate per publication is 23.5, almost five times the average for the Ecology category (5.1).

Top 5 publications in high impact factor journals:

  1. Foo, S. A., Byrne, M., Ricevuto, E., Gambi, M. C. (2018) The carbon dioxide vents of Ischia, Italy, a natural laboratory to assess impacts of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems: an overview of research and comparisons with other vent systems. Oceanography and Marine Biology - An Annual Review 56, 237-310 [Impact factor: 11.08, 25 citations]

The CO2 vents of Ischia, Italy were the first to be ever investigated in an ocean acidification context and have been a focus of wealth of studies. This is an extensive literature review of these vent systems and is particularly important in determining the way forward in using vent systems as natural laboratories in understanding the impacts of ocean acidification and the outlook of a future ocean.

  1. Byrne, M., Foo, S. A., Ross, P. M., Putnam, H. M. (2019) Limitations of cross and multigenerational plasticity for marine invertebrates faced with global climate change. Global Change Biology 26: 80-102. [Impact factor: 8.9, 7 citations]

This lead-edge review and meta-analysis of the cross and multigenerational plasticity in marine invertebrates in the face of climate change stressors showed that plasticity may not provide sufficient adaptive potential in the face of ocean acidification and warming, with some indication that selective breeding will be important for shellfish resources.

  1. Karelitz, S., Uthicke, S., Foo, S. A., Barker, M., Byrne, M., Pecorino, D., Lamare, M. (2017) Ocean acidification has little effect on developmental thermal windows of echinoderms. Global Change Biology 23: 657-672. [Impact factor: 8.9, 22 citations]

This first research to investigate the impacts of ocean acidification on thermal tolerance for echinoderm species from the poles to the tropics, showed that thermal windows were not reduced by decreased pH. Therefore, temperature is the dominant factor in shaping developmental windows and influencing species’ latitudinal distributions, where ocean acidification has little impact on thermal control of species’ ranges.

  1. Foo, S. A., Asner, G. P. Sea surface temperature and coral reef restoration outcomes. Environmental Research Letters (in press) [Impact factor: 6.2]

This research used published results on coral outplant monitoring to investigate the role of sea surface temperature in the survival rates of outplants. Using remotely sensed temperature data, this research showed that considering temperature conditions of potential outplant sites prior to outplanting could be used as a tool to assess whether a restoration site is appropriate. This is key to maximising and scaling up coral restoration success.

  1. Foo, S. A., Koweek, D. A., Munari, M., Gambi M. C., Byrne, M., Caldeira, K. 2020. Contrasting responses of sea urchin larvae to field and laboratory acidification. Science of the Total Environment 723: 138003. [Impact factor: 5.6]

For the first time, this research assessed the development of genetically identical sea urchin embryos in laboratory and field ocean acidification scenarios. Larvae were raised in situ in a low pH vent system with results contrasted to simultaneously run laboratory experiments. Results were completely unexpected and opposite showing that laboratory results may not necessarily reflect those seen in nature.

Selected other notable publications

  1. Foo, S. A., Dworjanyn, S., Khatkar, M., Poore, A., Byrne, M. (2014) Increased temperature, but not acidification, enhances fertilization success and development in a tropical urchin: potential for adaptation to a tropicalized eastern Australia. Evolutionary Applications 7: 1226-1237. [Impact factor: 5.04, 18 citations]

This research pioneered the use of quantitative genetics to assess a sea urchin’s adaptive potential to ocean warming and acidification. Through assessment of the progeny of many dam-sire crosses, we identified the presence of heritable genetic variance in stress tolerance, where ocean warming would benefit range expansion of this sea urchin in south-east Australia. This paper also won several awards: 2015 John Hunter Research Prize (Distinction in postgraduate research, The University of Sydney) and the 2015 Tony Roach Prize in Marine Environmental Science (Best paper by a young scientist on any aspect of marine or estuarine environmental science, Sydney Institute of Marine Science and NSW Government Office of Environment and Heritage).

  1. Foo, S. A., Byrne, M. (2016) Acclimatization and adaptive capacity of marine species in a changing ocean. In: Barbara E. Curry, editor, Advances in Marine Biology, Vol. 74, Oxford: Academic Press, 2016, pp. 69-116. [Impact factor: 3.37, 54 citations]

This literature review outlined the importance of considering the ability of marine species to adapt to a changing ocean and provided an important framework for scientists to follow in conducting experiments in this area.

  1. Foo, S. A., Dworjanyn, S., Poore, A., Byrne, M. (2012) Adaptive capacity of the habitat modifying sea urchin Centrostephanus rodgersii to ocean warming and ocean acidification: Performance of early embryos. PLoS ONE 7: e42497 [Impact factor: 2.8, 122 citations]

This highly cited research was the first paper to use a quantitative genetics framework to assess the adaptive potential of a marine species to the combined impacts of ocean warming and acidification and determine whether adaptation to one stressor impacted adaptation to another.