People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Jennifer Donelson

Jennifer Donelson

Associate professor and ARC Future Fellow

BSc, BSc (Honours), PhD

James Cook University, Townsville

+61 (0)7 4781 6291

Full contact details

Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies
James Cook University
Townsville  QLD 4811
Email: Jennifer.Donelson@my.jcu.edu.au
Office: Building DB-32 Room 118
Phone: +61 (0)7 4781 6291



Dr Jennifer Donelson is a marine ecologist currently an ARC Future Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies located at James Cook University in Townsville. Her research focuses on the capacity of marine fish to cope in the face of changing environmental conditions through acclimation and adaptation. Jennifer completed her PhD in 2012 at James Cook University, before undertaking a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney from 2013-2016. She then returned to James cook University in 2016 to undertake a collaborative fellowship between King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, Saudi Arabia and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.


Research interests

I have broad interests in the ecology and early life history of marine fishes, as well as the potential for animals to cope with future climate change. My research to date has focused on the ecological impacts of climate change to marine fishes and the potential for species to acclimate to the predicted environmental changes. To tackle these questions I use temperature controlled aquarium systems to maintain fish under elevated temperatures for years and generations to test the longer term impacts of warming ocean on marine fish. I utilize state of the art aquariums systems at both Sydney Institute of Marine Science and James Cook University to test the impacts of elevated sea water temperature.

My research concentrates on understanding the importance and prevalence of developmental plasticity, when fish experience warmer conditions in the first months of life, as well as the potential for acclimation across generations, when parents and grandparents are kept under elevated temperature conditions for their entire life. My continuing research will expand our knowledge of how marine fishes throughout Eastern Australia (temperate to tropical) may cope with climate change through both developmental and transgenerational acclimation.


Current projects and research topics

More information:

Personal web page

JCU Research portfolio



Journal articles

See Google Scholar page for a full and up to date list.


Australian Research Council Pandora

Partner Research Institutions

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Coral Reef Studies