Tiffany Simpson

After graduating Tiffany secured a postdoc position at Curtin University, now working on validating molecular diagnostic assays of high priority marine pests.

Biodiversity, biosecurity and management of sessile invertebrate assemblages in Western Australia (PhD 2017)

I completed a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation and Management at the University of Kentucky (USA) in 2004. I then completed a Master’s of Applied Science in Tropical Marine Ecology at James Cook University in 2006. My research involved documenting an outbreak of crown-of-thorns starfish in Papua New Guinea and the impact than it had on the coral reef community. Over the last few years I have been working with the Department of Fisheries in coordinating the WA Fish Kill Incident Response Programme and the Introduced Aquatic Organisms Response Training.

My interests span a broad range of marine science topics including tropical ecology, marine conservation and the ecological impacts of disturbance and climate change. As a PhD student at the University of Western Australia my research focus on benthic introduced marine species. Specifically, I use the invasive ascidian Didemnum perlucidum as a model species to test hypotheses about the mechanisms that underpin the success and impact of invasive species in fouling assemblages.

Supervisors: Thomas Wernberg, Justin McDonald (DoF), Dan Smale (MBA-UK).

D. perlucidum (photo: DoF)

The invasive colonial ascidian Didemnum perlucidum (photo: DoF)


  • 2006: M.Sc. (Tropical Marine Ecology), James Cook University, Australia
  • 2004: B.Sc. (Natural Resource Conservation and Mgt.), University of Kentucky, USA

Peer reviewed papers

5. Simpson TJS, Smale DA, McDonald JI, Wernberg T (2017) Large scale variability in the structure of sessile invertebrate assemblages in artificial habitats reveals the importance of local-scale processes. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology, 494, 10-19.

4. Simpson TJS, Dias PJ, Munoz J, Snow M, Berry T (2017) Real-time PCR detection of Didemnum perlucidum (Monniot, 1983) and Didemnum vexillum (Kott, 2002) in an applied routine marine biosecurity context. Molecular Ecology Resources, 17(3) 443–453.

3. Dias PJ, Simpson, T, Hitchen Y, Lukehurst S, Snow M & Kennington WJ (2016) Isolation and characterization of 17 polymorphic microsatellite loci for the widespread ascidian Didemnum perlucidum (Tunicata, Ascidiacea). Management of Biological Invasions, 7(2), 189-191

2. Simpson TJ, Wernberg T, McDonald J (2016) Distribution and localised effects of the invasive ascidian Didemnum perlucidum (Monniot 1983) in an urban estuary. PLoS One, 11(5) e0154201.

1. Pratchett MS, Schenk TJ, Baine M,  Syms C, Baird AH (2009). Selective coral mortality associated with outbreaks of Acanthaster planci L. in Bootless Bay, Papua New Guinea. Marine Environmental Research. 67: 230-236

Technical Reports and other publications

6. Simpson T (2015) PERSPECTIVE: the little squirt that can pack an environmental punch. Science Network WA.

5. Chatfield K & Schenk T (2010). Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Island Fish Kill Incident Response Manual. Department of Fisheries. Occasional Publication No. 64

4. Chatfield K, Birrell J, Hollingworth K, Turner S & Schenk T (2010) Christmas Island and Cocos (Keeling) Islands Introduced Aquatic Organism Incident Response Manual. Department of Fisheries Occasional Publication No. 62

3. Melville-Smith R, Johnston D, Schenk T, Glencross B, Thomson A, Miller M & Fisher S Appendix III: Biochemical profiles of western rock lobsters held under aquaculture conditions compared to animals in the wild. In: Melville-Smith, R., Johnston, D., Maguire, G., and Phillips, B. (2009) Establishing post-pueruli growout data for western rock lobsters. Final report to Fisheries Research and Development Corporation on Project No. 2003/213. Fisheries Research Contract Report No. 19, Department of Fisheries, Western Australia. p 92-111.

2. Schenk T (2006). Dynamics of an outbreak population of crown-of-thorns starfish (A. planci L.) in Bootless Bay, Central Province, Papua New Guinea. Department of Marine and Biological Sciences, James Cook University. Townsville, QLD. 20pp.

1. Schenk T, Pratchett M, Syms C & Baird A (2006). Assessment of Acanthaster planci populations in Bootless Bay, PNG: Preliminary results. MIRC Research Report Series 3, 4pp. Published by the Motupore Island Research Centre, University of Papua New Guinea.

Media appearances

  • Albany Advertiser 20 March 2014 [pdf].
  • Albany Advertiser 21 November 2013 [pdf].

Yeeehaaa… bluegrass, beer and KFC the real way! An (almost) native of Kentucky, US of A, Tiff continues the string of pearls that is the WernbergLab ethnic cooking appreciation series, with a fried chuck even Colonel Sanders would’ve envied!


Dwarfing the calorie intake of a super-sized maccas meal, we finished off with a decadent desert of deep south, deep fruit, pies including the Peach Cobbler. Awesome spread and impeccable hosting by Tiff & Dan!













2017 Tiffany Simpson IMG_6738