WATSON, Jeanette (Jan)

2019 Distinguished Alumna


Applied Chemistry

Graduation year


Jeanette (Jan) Watson has always been a pioneer. She was the first female science student at the School of Mines Ballarat (SMB) despite meeting resistance from both the faculty and her fellow students. After graduating in 1947 she worked as a metallurgical chemist in Ballarat and then Melbourne where she also studied geology part-time at the Melbourne Technical College, another first.

In the early 1960s Jan taught herself to SCUBA dive and quickly developed a passion for the sport and the marine environment, moving away from a predominant interest in chemistry and geology to marine biology.

Jan became one of the first marine biologists in southern Australia to take up SCUBA diving and underwater photography to document her scientific interests, going on to become a world authority on the taxonomy and ecology of hydroids (marine invertebrates) which were previously poorly known in Australian waters. She later obtained a Master degree for research on the marine Hydrozoa.

In 1972 Jan formed marine environmental consultancy, Marine Science and Ecology, providing environmental assessments to industries. The company is now one of the oldest marine environmental consultancies operating in Australia.

Jan is a chartered biologist; foundation member of the Australian Marine Sciences Association; member of the Environmental Institute of Australia; member of Royal Societies of Victoria and South Australia; Honorary Life Associate of the Museum Of Victoria; and was a Councillor for the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

She has made an extraordinary contribution to marine science both in Australia and internationally and has been a great advocate for the environment.