About Dr Sue

Dr Sue Pillans_Visual artist_Profilepic

I am an Aussie marine scientist, artist, children’s author/illustrator and graphic recorder who specialises in creative and visual communications. As you can ‘sea’ I love to live my life in colour, and I believe in the power of positive storytelling. I combine my training as a marine scientist and my experience as a strategic planner with my imaginative skills as an artist (plus my active listening skills) to help people, teams and organisations to “Picture your ideas” through visual storytelling. You can ‘sea’ a selection of my visual storytelling videos over on my Dr Sue Pillans YouTube channel.


As a graphic recorder and visual artist I have worked with over 60 organisations on a wide range of topics, ideas and issues across Australia and the South East Asian Region. My Graphic Recording clients range from business and industry, Government and not for profit organisations, schools, universities and research organisations to Indigenous communities, the health sector and community groups.

“I help to make the complex simple and the simple compelling. I find such joy in helping people to picture their ideas

Graphic recording_event_DrSuePillans

For as long as I can remember I have always had a pen in my hand. Drawing for people is part of me, and I love that I have been able to turn something I love into something I live

As a visual artist I also help people to illustrate their ideas and concepts through hand-drawn Infographics and Sketchnotes and draw upon my experiences as a visual storyteller to provide in-house tailored Visual Workshops  to help to “Picture your ideas“.


RIMReP TO Journey_DrSuePillans_Artwork

As a marine scientist and artist I have always been ‘drawn’ to the ocean and I use the art and science of storytelling to help others to communicate their science through words and pictures. To find out more about how I ‘draw attention’ to science communication check out the “Let’s Talk SciComm” podcast (University of Melbourne) with the amazing Associate Professor Jen Martin and Dr Michael Wheeler Let’s Talk SciComm interview with Dr Sue Pillans and listen to our super fun podcast chat at Spotify Let’s Talk SciComm podcast interview with Dr Sue Pillans

I hold tailored in-house Workshops for anyone wanting to learn how to communicate science (any science and any topic) visually through visual thinking using hands-on examples. And for those who like to make a splash, I love helping scientists to make a COMM-ocean!

As an Authorstrator I use words and pictures to share my science stories of the sea. My series of picture books draw attention to a range of important issues facing our oceans, from climate change and marine debris through to illustrating the importance of diversity in the ocean and the amazing creatures with their FIN-tastic features. My stories excite, engage, educate and empower children about our living oceans and their underwater wonders. I’m SO proud of my current series of ocean-science picture books:

My first children’s picture book, “The Great Barrier Thief”, written and illustrated by my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish illustrates the impacts of climate change on our Great Barrier Reef. This story gives children (and all readers) hope that WE can all do something to help protect and save the Reef, if we can cool things down NOW! As my debut picture book has sold out you can ‘sea’ me reading the story via my Dr Sue Pillans YouTube channel at the Picture books playlist.

AND as you can ‘sea’ below I’m VERY excited that my series of ocean-science stories for children continues with two new picture books by Dr Suzie Starfish, “Cranky Frankie and the oceans of trash” and “Roger the wrasse and the itchy fishes“! Cranky Frankie is a story drawing attention to the impacts of marine debris and ocean plastic pollution, seen through the eyes of a very cranky Porcupine fish named Frankie! And Roger the Wrasse illustrates the importance of biodiversity on the reef and the special roles and relationships animals have under the sea on reef cleaning stations. You can ‘sea’ more about the story behind these stories, their illustration progress and updates on their release dates over at my Picture Books.

One of my passions is making learning visual and FUN so I love visiting schools around Australia as my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish (Author/Illustrator) to bring our ‘Living Oceans’ into classrooms. I use the art of marine science and storytelling, which you can ‘sea’ through my Creative Education. It is my hope that my creative approach to environmental education and visual learning helps students to think in colour and use their imagination, as “Logic will get you from A to B, Imagination will take your everywhere” (Albert Einstein)! From my experiences in the classroom it’s important to give students the opportunity to “Just IMAGINE!!“, which gives them a sense of curiosity, creativity and critical thinking — which I hope helps kids to think in colour and to care.

I also use the art of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) in schools as I believe in sharing my life of ESTEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) with our youth, parents and teachers to show that you can turn something you love into something you live, like me! You can ‘sea’ how I draw out the art and science of our oceans when I appear on Scope TV (Australian children’s science education program) in the video below:

“One of my greatest joys is visiting schools as my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish!”

I have over 15 years experience in research and development, marine conservation planning, natural resource management and strategic planning due to the varied roles I have held across Government and Research Organisations. I have led the development of public policies across numerous priority portfolios including agriculture, regional economic development and transport planning with specialities in Marine Park planning, aquaculture industry development and natural resource management. I have a PhD in Marine Science from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. I also draw upon my professional and research experiences and creative skills to help “Picture your ideas” through visual storytelling Workshops.

My science background and artistic capabilities provide people with a unique suite of creative services including:

  • Graphic Recording & Sketchnotes
  • Infographics & Illustrations
  • Working with Kids (Art-into-Marine Science)
  • Children’s Picture Book (Author/Illustrator)
  • Nature education
  • Creative & Visual Workshops
  • Science Communications (Making a Comm-Ocean!)
  • Original Artworks
My favourite place is somewhere over Rainbow Beach and where I get my Vitamin Sea!

I was brought up in regional Queensland, Australia and have always had a deep love, fascination and devotion for the ocean. Beach time, snorkelling, drawing, doodling and creating quirky characters are my fondest memories growing up which probably led to my alter ego Dr Suzie Starfish, who shares marine art and science storytelling. So you could say I have always been ‘drawn’ to the ocean and Drawn to Rainbow Beach!

“I grew up in regional Queensland being surrounded by and loving nature. Me aged 5 with frog in Bundaberg.”

I started drawing and writing stories, even actual picture book storyboards, from a very young age. And who remembers doing the drawings to make these plastic plates which I did in Grade 1 when I was 6 years old, making this plate over 40 years ago!!

“A drawing I did back in early primary school showing I have always been ‘drawn’ to the ocean!”
“That’s ME swimming with the biggest shark in the sea!! What a BIG beautiful Blue Planet we have!”

To be passionate about our Blue Planet and the world around us you also have to be passionate about genuinely engaging and communicating with people as it is people’s activities and impacts we manage and educate about, not ocean creatures and habitats. I believe through creative communication we can inform, inspire and illustrate how we can learn, live and love our ecosystems and “sea” the big picture. So my marine mantra, my Comm-Ocean, is if you understand and love it you may be more moved to look after and protect it. So dive in with me as Dr Suzie Starfish to explore the wonders of the underwater world.

If you have any questions about how I can help you to “Picture your ideas” please 

*Artists Impressum: Intellectual Property and Copyright of the visual products, artworks, stories, images and video’s on this website are retained by the artist and images may not be used or altered without written permission from the artist as per Australian Copyright Law. Copyright © 2023 Dr Sue Pillans.

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