Dr Penelope J Watt

Penny Watt

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0076

Email: p.j.watt@sheffield.ac.uk

Room B1 206a, Alfred Denny Building


1986 BSc (Hons) Zoology (University of Newcastle Upon Tyne)

1989 PhD Zoology (University of Leeds)

1989 PDRA Imperial College at Silwood Park

1993 Lecturer, De Montfort University, Leicester

1998 Lecturer, University of Sheffield

2014 Senior Lecturer

3 periods of maternity leave (1998, 2001, 2004)

Key Research Interests

I am a behavioural ecologist working on personality traits, the genetic basis of behaviour and the impact of stress on behaviour, including transgenerational effects and potential epigenetic mechanisms, in fish. We also work on earthworm behaviour, distribution and health with the view to improve soil quality.

Research Group

Current Graduate Students

2016 - Joseph Llanos. Earthworm distribution and population dynamics. PhD.

2017 - Wafa Abudayah. Anxiety as a personality trait in zebrafish. PhD.

2018 - Charlotte Redfern. Telomeres and stress in zebrafish. Masters.

2018 - Joel Kelly. Transgenerational stress & gene expression in zebrafish. MRes.

2018 - Stephanie Faulkner. Lateralisation and aggression in fish. MRes.

2018 - Chloe Mcloughlin. Earthworm behaviour and immunity. Masters.

Recent Graduate Students

2012-15 Helen Eachus. Behavioural and endocrine analysis of stress responses and the roles of epigenetic mechanisms in developmental plasticity of stress phenotypes in zebrafish. PhD.

2014-18 James Ord. Parental stress and its effects on the offspring of guppies and zebrafish. PhD.

2016-17 Juliet Kitson. Maternal chronic ethanol exposure influences social and anxiety-like behaviours in zebrafish offspring. Masters.

2016-17 Poppy Craig. The effects of sex, drug naivety and the bold-shy continuum on anxiety of adult zebrafish during ethanol withdrawal. Masters.

2017-18 Betsy Stanhope. Transgenerational effects of stress on anxious and aggressive behaviours in the zebrafish. Masters.

2017-18 Grace Holland. The effect of tetracycline on the health of Lumbricus terrestris. Masters.

+ 8 other PhD students that successfully defended their thesis. 10+ masters students.

Recent Publications

Woodward MA, Winder LA, Watt PJ (2019) Enrichment increases aggression in zebrafish. Fishes 4, 22.

Ord J, Fazeli A, Watt PJ (2017) Long-Term Effects of the Periconception Period on Embryo Epigenetic Profile and Phenotype: The Role of Stress and How This Effect Is Mediated. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1014:117-135.

Eachus H, Bright C, Cunliffe VT, Placzek M, Wood JD & Watt PJ (2017). Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia-1 is essential for normal hypothalamic-pituitary-interrenal (HPI) axis function. Human Molecular Genetics 26, 1992-2005.

Ariyomo TO & Watt PJ (2015) Effect of hunger level and time of day on boldness and aggression in the zebrafsh Danio rerio. Journal of Fish Biology 86, 1852-1859.

Ariyomo TO & Watt PJ (2013) Disassortative mating for boldness decreases reproductive success in the guppy. Behavioral Ecology 24, 1320-1326.

Ariyomo TO & Watt PJ (2013) Aggression and sex differences in lateralisation in the zebrafish. Animal Behaviour 86, 617-622.

Ariyomo TO, Carter M & Watt PJ (2013). Heritability of boldness and aggressiveness in the zebrafish. Behavior Genetics 43, 161-167.

Recent Research Grants

2015 EpiStressNet: A biosocial systems approach to understanding the epigenetic embedding of social stress responses (co-investigator). ESRC/BBSRC (£249, 704).


I am L1 and Senior Tutor, the Disability Liaison Officer and Head of Exams in APS. I was awarded APS Teacher of the Year in 2010.

In L2, I teach APS272 (Animal Diversity) and APS226 (Animal Diversity Practicals). As a zoologist, I have a real passion for animals and I hope to put this across in teaching.

In L3, I supervise projects (APS345) in behavioural ecology. I have an interest in science education in primary and secondary schools, which stems from being a school governor and being involved in science outreach, and I supervise students taking the Undergraduate Ambassador Scheme (APS340).

Other information

Member of the University Discipline, Appeals and Faculty Student Review Committees

External Examiner, University of Nottingham (Zoology) (from Oct 2017)

Member of Inner International Assessment Board, Irish Research Council, Dublin (March 2017, 2019)

Invited seminar, Merton College Biology Society, University of Oxford (Feb 2017) APS Christmastime Lecture (Dec 2016)

ASAB Easter 2014 Conference organizer, April 2014, University of Sheffield

Member of the Field Studies Council Executive Committee (from 2011-17)

Member of the Field Studies Council Education Committee (from 2011-17) & Chair (2016-17)

Invited speaker: Fishing for Clues – the mystery of the zebrafish revealed. LASA (2011)