Dr Pat Hutchings, Australian Museum

Senior Principal Research Scientist –

Marine Invertebrates Collection

Dr Pat Hutchings










Pat Hutchings has studied polychaetes (seaworms) for many years and is interested in their taxonomy, their habits and their roles in marine ecosystems. This has led to her being involved in marine park management and the conservation of coastal ecosystems .

She has published extensively both in the scientific and popular literature.

Over the years she has supervised many students both Australian and international as well as having had several postdocs working in her lab.

For more information see the Australian Museum website for more details and a list of publications.

 Research undertaken in our region:

I have undertaken extensive research in the SE Australia, included a year long study of Merimbula and Pambula lakes, a 3 year survey of Twofold Bay to look at introduced marine pests. I have also dived along this coast collecting polychaetes.

 Presentation title: The wonders of seaworms- -a personal perspective

The need for long term data sets and the role of polychaetes in coastal benthic ecosystems, their diversity and the presence of introduced species

Personal objectives as regards science:

To study the diversity of polychaetes and to disseminate this information as widely as possible.

Your Perspective on science and its value to/for communities:

We need to work together to protect and conserve our marine ecosystems especially in the light of increasing human population and climate change, this is especially true for coastal ecosystems

Web info:


I am interested in all aspects of polychaete biology especially their systematics, ecology and reproductive ecology. Since being appointed my research has focussed on describing the Australian polychaete fauna especially the family Terebellidae, as well as working on the phylogeny of the polychaetes using both molecular and morphological techniques. I also have been interested in polychaetes which live in coastal environments especially those living in seagrass beds.

In addition to my interest in polychaete systematics, I have been heavily involved in studying the bioerosion of coral substrates both within Australia as well as in French Polynesia. As reefs continue to be threatened by anthropogenic impacts such as increasing water turbidity and eutrophication this has had major impacts on the rates and agents of bioerosion, which may lead to changes in the balance between reef growth and reef destruction. At one of our study sites in French Polynesia the rate of reef destruction far exceeds the rate of growth and loss of reef framework is occurring. In addition as reefs are subjected to increasing water temperatures and with it an increasing incident of bleaching events often leading to coral death, this also has the potential for increasing rates of bioerosion and loss of reef framework. Polychaetes are one of the earliest colonisers of recently killed coral colonies and facilitate the substrate for colonisation by other borers such as sponges and bivalves.

I have had a long time involvement with the Australian Coral Reef Society and the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, which both host annual scientific conferences as well as supporting students with research grants. Both of these societies are concerned with the conservation of Australian ecosystems and their biodiversity.

Currently I am involved in the CReefs program which is attempting to document the polychaete biodiversity of three selected Australian coral reef sites, Ningaloo, Lizard and Heron Island, especially of the Terebellida.

Over the years I have supervised several PhD and MSc students and have adjunct positions at the Universities of New South Wales, Sydney and Queensland.


  1. BSc Special Hons (London)
  2. PhD University of Newcastle upon Tyne UK
  3. DSc University of Newcastle upon Tyne UK

I became interested in polychaetes while an undergraduate at Queen Mary’s College, University of London in the 1960’s and I undertook a PhD on the reproductive biology of a species of polychaete Melinna cristata (F. Ampharetidae) at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. This species forms dense colonies off the NE coast of England and is an important fish food for some commercially important species of fish. In 1970, I arrived in Sydney to take up a position at the Australian Museum, where I have continued to work ever since.


Memberships and Awards

  1. Senior Vice President of the Royal Zoological Society of NSW
  2. Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society NSW
  3. Councillor of the Australian Coral Reef Society
  4. Member of the Ecological Society of Australia
  5. Member of the Australian Marine Science Association
  6. Awarded Silver Jubilee medal in July 2010 by Australian Marine Sciences Association for contributions to marine sciences

Membership of Editorial Boards

  1. Taxon editor for Zootaxa
  2. Marine Pollution Bulletin
  3. Pacific Conservation
  4. Australian Zoologist

International Polychaete Conference 2013

To be held at the Australian Museum, Sydney:


International Polychaete Conference 2013 Sydney Australia

Selected Research Projects

  1. Phylogeny and Biodiversity of Terebellidae – Systematics and biogeography of Australian terebellida, More
  2. Bioerosion of coral substrates, 2010 More
  3. Polychaete fauna of coral reefs: morphological and molecular characterisation and keys to species, 2009 More
  4. Are some fan-worms (Sabellidae: Polychaeta) cryptic or introduced species? 2009 More
  5. Introduced marine pests and their taxonomy, 2008 More
  6. Systematics and phylogeny of Sabellida (Polychaeta) Pat Hutchings, 2008 More 
  7. Review of the scaleworm polychaetes (Acoetidae) of the Australasian region Anna Murray, 2005 More