Coleen Suckling


After living by the coast for most of her life, Dr. Suckling was intrigued by the ocean’s forces of nature and how such an exotic range of marine organisms could exist in this vast environment. This led towards her passion for studying Marine Biology and Oceanography as an undergraduate and Graduate M.S. student in Bangor University, UK (1999-2003).

Following her Masters course, she wanted to gain experience in industry as well as research before embarking into Ph.D. training and therefore pursued such a path. She stayed in Mozambique for one year working as a hatchery technician in a semi-intensive shrimp hatchery where she was Supervisor of the maturation and spawning departments. She then moved to Scotland to work as a Support Scientist in the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban. This position was employed with the EU funded project SPIINES2 (Sea Urchins in integrated systems: their nutrition and roe enhancement) where she managed a sea urchin research hatchery and conducted research on feed development, carotenoid biosynthesis, and the sea-cage cultivation of laboratory larval reared edible sea urchins (2005-2008).

She then moved to study towards her Ph.D. in the University of Cambridge and with the British Antarctic Survey on the long-term effects of ocean acidification on marine (temperate and Antarctic) benthic organisms (2008-2012). Using these skills for building and implementing manipulative climate change research aquaria, she worked as a Post-Doctoral Researcher investigating the physiological responses of intertidal crab species under forecasted salinity and ocean acidification conditions in Bangor University (2012-2015). This role then lead her into her first Academic teaching position as a Lecturer in Marine Biology and the Director of the Master of Science Degree Program (2015-2018). She is excited to now have moved across the Atlantic to the University of Rhode Island, USA, where she is working as Research Faculty (since 2018) towards sustaining seafood production and ecosystems.


Dr. Suckling is a marine eco-physiologist, and her research is focused on understanding how commercially and ecologically important organisms interact and respond to differing conditions, with the goal to ensure future sustainability of seafood and ecosystems.

Her research focuses on three main themes:

  1. Predicting animal responses to climate change: Her work has shown that animal responses differ when: 1) different rates of introduction to pH are used; 2) the focus is on different sections of the life cycle (e.g. juveniles only, planktotrophic larvae only; 3) when exposure time is increased from short to medium and long term; 4) when the focus is across more than one generation; and 5) when environmental parameters are considered as single and multiple interacting stressors. By providing evidence and methodological recommendations, this body of work has changed the standards for laboratory-controlled experimentation.
  2. Plastic pollution: Her research has advanced this field by improving experimental design by using environmentally relevant concentrations and types of microplastics and providing new tools towards management strategies by using marine invertebrate dietary habit as a sensitivity indicator to microplastic exposure. Her work has also shown the fundamental links between climate change and marine plastic pollution as two long term connected anthropogenic pressures on marine ecosystems and society.
  3. Enhancing aquaculture practices and emerging species: In addition to the above research, she uses this information to identify resilient species and focus on enhancing their cultivation. Sea urchins form a primary focus as a model species in her research. Her work has furthered our knowledge of how carotenoids are biochemically utilized by the sea urchins towards market colors of the edible gonad tissue and optimized hatchery production in national and international commercial hatcheries.

Dr. Suckling’s goals and outputs stem from her previous aquaculture industrial and academic research experience drawn internationally across her career, with specific training and expertise in marine organismal biology, reproduction, physiology (e.g. oxygen consumption, cellular energy allocation, osmoregulation, acid-base buffering, RNA:DNA), adult and offspring development, ecology, animal husbandry (> 16 years experience, spanning across echinoderms, crustaceans, mollusks, fish), hatchery operations (>15 years) and manipulative aquatic design, construction and implementation (> 15 years experience) for single and multi-stressor experiments (ocean acidification, temperature, salinity, oxygen, microplastics). She works with stakeholders such as growers, decision making organizations and NGOs to ensure her work has impact.


Ph.D., Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge, UK, 2013
MSc, Marine Biology, Bangor University, UK, 2004
BSc, Marine Biology and Oceanography, Bangor University, UK, 2002

Selected Publications

Ford, H, Jones, N, Davies, AJ, Godley, B, Jambeck, J, Napper, I, Suckling, CC, Williams, G. Woodall, L, Koldeway, H. (2022). The fundamental links between climate change and marine plastic pollution. Science of the Total Environment. 806: 150392.

Suckling, CC, (2021). Responses to environmentally relevant microplastics are species-specific with dietary habit as a potential sensitivity indicator. Science of the Total Environment. 751: 142341

Suckling, C.C., Terrey, D, Davies, A.J. 2018. Optimising stocking density for the commercial cultivation of sea urchin larvae. Aquaculture. 488: 96-104.

Kerrigan, D. & Suckling, C.C. 2018. A meta-analysis of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture: Extractive species growth is most successful within close proximity to open-water fish farms. Reviews in Aquaculture. 10: 560-572.

Whiteley, N, Suckling, CC, Ciotti, BJ, Brown, J, McCarthy, ID, Gimenez, L, Hauton, C. 2018. Sensitivity to near-future CO2 conditions in marine crabs depends on their compensatory capacities for salinity change. Nature Scientific Reports 8: 15639.

Suckling, C.C., Clark, M.S., Richard, J., Morley, S.A., Thorne, M.A.S., Harper, E.M., Peck, L.S. 2015. Adult acclimation to combined temperature and pH stressors significantly enhances reproductive outcomes compared to short-term exposures. Journal of Animal Ecology, 84 (3): 773-784. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12316.

Suckling, C.C., Clark, M.S., Beveridge, C., Brunner, L., Hughes, A., Cook, E., Davies, A.J., Peck, L.S. 2014. Experimental influence of pH on the early life-stages of sea urchins II: increasing parental exposure times gives rise to different responses. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development. 58 (3): 161-175. DOI:10.1080/07924259.2013.875951.

Suckling, C.C., Symonds, R.C., Kelly, M.S., Young, A.J. 2011. The effect of artificial diets on gonad colour & biomass in the edible sea urchin Psammechinus miliaris. Aquaculture, 318: 335-342.