Underwood, James

Dr James Underwood

To address the science gaps in the genetics and resilience of coral reefs in northwest Australia and facilitate the effective transfer of this knowledge to management agencies in the region.

Contact Information

Phone 08 6369 4001
Int +61 8 6369 4001
Email junderwo@aims.gov.au


My research focuses on the genetic and ecological connectivity of coral reef organisms including hard corals and fish. I have worked at AIMS for ten years alongside coral and fish ecologists, and I have always been passionate about linking genetics, which deals with the fundamental building blocks of evolution, with the fundamental ecology of coral reef resilience, persistence and ecosystem health. This passion has also led to productive collaboration with management agencies (WA DPaW and WA Fisheries) as I look to effectively transferring our connectivity knowledge into tangible and effective management strategies and outcomes. I am also an Adjunct Research Fellow at the UWA Oceans Institute, and currently maintain strong collaborative links with UWA, CSIRO, and West Australian Museum.


My scientific career began in the population genetics of coral reefs with a PhD in the School of Animal Biology in UWA.


Genetic signatures through space and time in remote and recovering populations of a brooding hard coral
Extrinsic and intrinsic barriers to gene flow are semipermeable in brooding and broadcast spawning corals in the Kimberley wilderness
Multiple molecular markers reveal hidden diversity and habitat partitioning in cryptic, sibling species of cardinal fish at remote coral atolls
Spatio-temporal genetic change and reproductive isolation among bleached hard corals that spawn in different seasons


AMSA Annual Conference symposium coordinator.


Gilmour JP, Underwood JN, Howells EJ, Gates E, Heyward AJ (2016) Biannual spawning and temporal reproductive isolation in Acropora corals. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150916

Underwood JN, Wilson SK, Ludgerus L, Evans RD (2013) Integrating connectivity science and spatial conservation management of coral reefs in north-west Australia. Journal for Nature Conservation 21:163-172

Underwood JN, Travers MJ, Gilmour JP (2012) Subtle genetic structure reveals restricted connectivity among populations of a coral reef fish inhabiting remote atolls. Ecology and Evolution 2:666-679.

van Oppen MJH, Bongaerts P, Underwood JN, Peplow LM, Cooper TF (2011) The role of deep reefs in shallow reef recovery: an assessment of vertical connectivity in a brooding coral from west and east Australia. Molecular Ecology 20:1647-1660.

Underwood JN (2010) Development and optimisation of ten novel microsatellite loci in three multiplex PCR panels for the Wolfie Cardinalfish (Cheilodipterus artus). Conservation Genetics Resources 2:261-264

Underwood JN, Smith LD, van Oppen MJH, Gilmour JP (2009) Ecologically relevant dispersal of a brooding and a broadcast spawning coral at isolated reefs: implications for managing community resilience. Ecological Applications 19:18-29.

Underwood JN (2009) Genetic diversity and divergence among coastal and offshore reefs in a hard coral depend on geographic discontinuity and oceanic currents. Evolutionary Applications 2:222-233.

Underwood JN (2009) Characterisation of ten polymorphic microsatellite loci in a coral reef fish (Chromis margaritifer). Conservation Genetics Resources 1:491-493.

Underwood JN, Smith LD, van Oppen MJH, Gilmour JP (2007) Multiple scales of genetic connectivity in a brooding coral on isolated reefs following catastrophic bleaching. Molecular Ecology 16:771-784.

van Oppen MJH, Underwood JN, Muirhead AN, Peplow L (2007) Ten microsatellite loci for the reef-building coral Acropora millepora (Cnidaria, Scleractinia) from the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Molecular Ecology Notes 7: 436-438

Underwood JN, Souter PB, Ballment E, Lutz AH, van Oppen MJH (2006) Development of 10 polymorphic microsatellite markers from herbicide-bleached tissues of the brooding pocilloporid coral Seriatopora hystrix. Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 176-178.