Dr Joanne Porter


Senior Lecturer

School of Life Sciences

Phone: +44 (0)1856 852251

Research profile


Rates, patterns and divergence times among the Bryozoa: integrating fossil, molecular and morphological data

Current NERC funding (NE/E015298/1) in collaboration with colleagues at the Natural History Museum, London is targeted on the study of phylogenetics and phylogeography in marine Bryozoa (colonial invertebrates).

Work is underway to construct phylogenetic trees for the Bryozoa using a range of genes, both nuclear and mitochondrial. Morphological and reproductive characters can then be mapped on to the phylogenetic framework and inferences made regarding the evolution of certain characteristics (eg. Larval type).

The overall aim of this work is to clarify relationships between major groupings within the Bryozoa as groupings to date are based largely on morphological characteristics with little understanding of the genetic basis for such characters. Such information is an invaluable resource on which to base decisions regarding both future scientific research directions and appropriate conservation measures for these organisms.

Another project examining cryptic speciation and evolutionary rates in the Celleporella hyalina complex is currently being funded by the Welsh Assembly Government CIRRE initiative in collaboration with Prof. Roger Hughes, Bangor University and Dr. Andrea Waeschenbach at the NHM.

Natural product chemistry of marine Bryozoa and their bacterial symbionts

Dr Jasmine Sharp worked on this aspect of bryozoan biology as part of her PhD studies. Jasmine’s research involved analysis of the biofilms growing on bryozoan colonies, the response of bryozoan larvae to different age biofilms, bacterial communities associated with bryozoan colonies (using Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis) and anti-microbial assays/quorum sensing tests of bryozoan extracts. This research was initiated with a Nuffield Newly Appointed Lecturer grant.

Further funding through a Centre of Excellence in Technology and Industrial Collaboration award in collaboration with Dr Mike Winson (Aberystwyth University) allows continuation and development of this research with the aim of developing a sustainable and environmentally sensitive approach to utilization of marine resources for pharmaceutical and biotechnological purposes.

Marine monitoring of bryozoan populations

Research is underway with colleagues from Countryside Council for Wales based at the Skomer Marine Nature Reserve. This research is to develop improved methods for monitoring the condition of MNR’s by SCUBA and underwater quadrat photography to assess abundance and condition of 3-D erect bryozoan colonies and to analyse long term datasets collected at the reserve since 1984.

This research has recently expanded to collaborations with Italian researchers, Silvia Cocito, Anna Occipinti Ambrogi and Chiara Lombardi to look at the phylogeography of UK and Mediterranean Pentapora colonies.

Work using panel arrays to look at recruitment, reproductive characters and carbonate deposition of Bryozoa over longer time scales has been initiated in the UK, with a view to using bryozoans as models for studying climate change.

Selected publications

Peer-reviewed papers (selected)

S. Tompsett, J.S. Porter and P.D. Taylor 2009 in press. Taxonomy of the fouling cheilostome bryozoans Schizoporella unicornis (Johnston) and Schizoporella errata (Waters). Journal of Natural History.

A. N. Ostrovsky and J. S. Porter 2009 in press. Distribution of the supraneural coelomopore and intertentacular organ in gymnolaemate Bryozoa and their evolutionary implications. Zoomorphology.

A. Tsyganov-Boudonov, P.J.Hayward, J.S. Porter and D.O.F.Skibinski 2009. Bayesian Phylogeny of Bryozoa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 52: 904-910.

A. Waeschenbach, C.J. Cox, D.T.J. Littlewood, J.S. Porter and P.D.Taylor 2009 First molecular estimate of cyclostome bryozoan phylogeny confirms extensive homoplasy among skeletal characters used in traditional taxonomy. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 241-251.

J. S. Porter and V. F. Lenihan 2008 A Historical Review of Bryozoan Genetic Research from 1970 to 2007. Proceedings of the 14th International Bryozoology Association, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina. Pp221-234.

J.S. Ryland and J. S. Porter 2008 The distribution of Alcyonidium species (Bryozoa) in Orkney and Shetland, with faunistic notes on some locations. The Shetland Naturalist 2(5) 129-146.

C. Lombardi, S. Cocito, A. Occhipinti-Ambrogi and J.S. Porter 2008 Distribution and morphological variation of the bryozoan Pentapora fascialis (Cheilostomata) along the western coast of Italy. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 88(4): 711-717.

J.H. Sharp, M. K. Winson and J.S. Porter 2008 The microbial fauna of the marine bryozoan Pentapora fascialis. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 88(4):705-710.

A. Amui, P. J. Hayward and J. S. Porter 2007 Zooid size and growth rate of the bryozoan Cryptosula pallasiana Moll in relation to temperature, in culture and in its natural environment. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 353: 1-12

J. H. Sharp, M. K. Winson and J.S. Porter 2007 Bryozoan metabolites: an ecological perspective. Natural Product Reports 24: 659-673.

F. Arenas, J. D. D. Bishop, J. T. Carlton, P. J. Dyrynda, W.F. Farnham, D. J. Gonzalez, M. W. Jacobs, C. Lambert, G. Lambert, S. E. Nielsen, J. A. Pederson, J. S. Porter, S. Ward & C. A. Wood 2006 Alien species and other notable records from a rapid assessment survey of marinas on the south coast of England. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 86: 1329-1337.

A. Waeschenbach, M. J. Telford, J. S. Porter and D. T. J. Littlewood 2006 The complete mitochondrial genome of Flustrellidra hispida and the phylogenetic position of Bryozoa among the Metazoa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 40:195-207.

J.S. Ryland and J. S. Porter 2006. The identification, distribution and biology of encrusting species of Alcyonidium (Bryozoa: Ctenostomatida) around the coasts of Ireland. Biology and Environment- Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Vol 106B, No 103 19-33.

O. Pathmanaban, J.S. Porter and I. R. White 2005. Dogger Bank Itch, an old problem in a new geographical area. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 30: 622-626

J.S. Ryland and J. S. Porter 2005 Variation in zooid size in two west European species of Alcyonidium (Ctenostomatida). Pp 271-280 in Proceedings of the 13th IBA conference, Chile, January 2004.

P. Kuklinski and J.S. Porter . 2004 Alcyonidium disciforme : An exceptional Arctic bryozoan. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 84: 267-275.

J. S. Porter . 2004 Morphological and genetic characteristics of erect subtidal species of Alcyonidium Lamouroux (Ctenostomata, Bryozoa). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 84: 243-252.

J. S. Porter and P.J. Hayward. 2004 Species of Alcyonidium (Bryozoa: Ctenostomata) from Antarctica and Magellan Strait, defined by molecular, reproductive and morphological techniques. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 84: 253-265.

J.A. Beardmore and J.S. Porter , 2003. Genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and aquaculture. Proceedings of the 17th Forum for Applied Biotechnology, Gent, 18-19 September 2003. pp585-610

J.S. Ryland and J.S. Porter . 2003 The identity of Alcyonidium gelatinosum (Linnaeus, 1761) (Bryozoa: Ctenostomatida) Journal of Natural History 37: 2179-2189.

J.S. Porter , J.R. Ellis, P.J. Hayward, S.I. Rogers and R. Callaway 2002. Geographic variation in the abundance and morphology of the bryozoan Alcyonidium diaphanum (Hudson, 1778) (Ctenostomatida: Alcyonidiidae) in UK coastal waters. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 82:1-9

J.S Porter , J.S. Ryland and G.R. Carvalho 2002. Micro- and macrogeographic genetic structure in bryozoans with different larval strategies. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 272:119-130

J.S. Porter , P.E.J. Dyrynda, J.S. Ryland and G.R. Carvalho 2001 Morphological and genetic adaptation to a lagoon environment: a case study in the bryozoan genus Alcyonidium. Marine Biology 139:575-585 

Book chapters

J.S. Porter , J.S. Ryland and M. Spencer Jones 2008. One name, two species: the history behind the Linnean Zoophyte, Alcyonium gelatinosum. In Annals of Bryozoology Volume 2. Edited by P. Wyse Jackson and M. Spencer Jones

A.N. Ostrovsky, N. Vavra and J.S. Porter 2008. Sexual reproduction in gymnolaemate Bryozoa: history and perspectives of the research. In Annals of Bryozoology Volume 2. Edited by P. Wyse Jackson and M. Spencer Jones.


J.A. Beardmore and J.S. Porter, 2006. Genetically modified organisms in relation to aquaculture and enhancement fisheries. Report for the Programme Manager, DFID Aquaculture and Fish Genetics Research Programme.

J.A. Beardmore and J. S.Porter, 2003. GMO’s in Aquaculture. Report commissioned by the FAO.


Dr Joanne Porter graduated with a BSc Honours degree in Marine Biology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1994.

She undertook PhD research supervised by Professor John Ryland and Professor Gary Carvalho at Swansea University on ‘Speciation and Reproduction of Marine Bryozoa in the genus Alcyonidium (Lamouroux)’. This work involved using a combination of morphological and molecular techniques to investigate species diversity and taxonomy.

Joanne stayed at Swansea for two NERC-funded Postdoctoral research posts working in the laboratories of Dr Peter Hayward and Professor David Skibinski, continuing studies into the molecular systematics and population genetics of marine Bryozoa.

In 2003 Joanne took up a lectureship at Aberystwyth University and during this period started to develop new research interests into the chemical biodiversity of marine Bryozoa and their bacterial symbionts in collaboration with Dr Mike Winson. Work also continued on the theme of molecular evolution and phylogeography in Bryozoa and other marine invertebrates.

Joanne joined the School of Life Sciences at Heriot-Watt University in July 2009 as a lecturer in Marine Biology, with a view to further developing research on the chemical ecology and biodiversity of marine invertebrates and their bacterial symbionts. Up-to-date information on taxonomic biodiversity of a wide range of marine organisms is essential for scientists and policymakers to understand, predict, mitigate and successfully manage the effects of climate change.

In her spare time, Joanne enjoys SCUBA diving, cycling, hill-walking and reading.