• My principal focus involve understanding how taxonomically diverse marine organisms respond physiologically to changes in their environment. In particular I'm interested in how organismal physiology can influence the ecology of marine organisms. As a physiological ecologist my students and I answer these types of questions by utilizing field and laboratory experiments, as well as a wide range of techniques from molecular biology to in situ measurements. Currently my research encompasses four major areas;

    1) Biochemistry and molecular genetics of oxidative stress in marine organisms associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, elevated temperatures, or hyperoxic conditions.

    2) Physiological ecology of marine invertebrates and phytoplankton, physiological responses to changes in the environment, bacterial- and algal-invertebrate symbioses, and the trophic biology of suspension-feeding invertebrates.

    3) Ecology and photobiology of mesophotic coral reefs.

    4) Underwater technology, use of technical diving for scientific research.
  • Publications

    Academic Article

    Year Title
    2014 Evaluating the causal basis of ecological success within the scleractinia: an integral projection model approachMarine Biology.  161:2719-2734. 2014
    2014 Allelopathy in the tropical alga Lobophora variegata: An indirect cause of phase shifts on mesophotic coral reefs?Planta Medica.  80:848-848. 2014
    2014 Allelopathy in the tropical alga Lobophora variegata (Phaeophyceae): mechanistic basis for a phase shift on mesophotic coral reefs?Journal of Phycology.  50:493-505. 2014
    2014 Culture-dependent and culture-independent analyses reveal no prokaryotic community shifts or recovery of Serratia marcescens in Acropora palmata with white pox disease.FEMS Microbiology Ecology.  88:457-467. 2014
    2013 Diazotrophic diversity in the Caribbean coral, Montastraea cavernosa.Archives of Microbiology Archiv f�r Mikrobiologie.  195:853-859. 2013
    2013 Symbiotic prokaryotic communities from different populations of the giant barrel sponge, Xestospongia muta.MicrobiologyOpen.  2:938-952. 2013
    2013 The endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (Symbiodinium sp.) of corals are parasites and mutualistsCoral Reefs.  32:603-611. 2013
    2013 Using energetic budgets to assess the effects of environmental stress on corals: are we measuring the right things?Coral Reefs.  32:25-33. 2013
    2013 Ecology of Caribbean sponges: are top-down or bottom-up processes more important?PLoS ONE.  8:e79799. 2013
    2013 Genetic structure in the coral, Montastraea cavernosa: assessing genetic differentiation among and within Mesophotic reefs.PLoS ONE.  8:e65845. 2013
    2013 Nitrogen biogeochemistry in the Caribbean sponge, Xestospongia muta: a source or sink of dissolved inorganic nitrogen?PLoS ONE.  8:e72961. 2013
    2013 Sea Urchin Gametogenesis - Structural, Functional and Molecular/Genomic BiologyDevelopments in Aquaculture and Fisheries Science.  38:25-43. 2013
    2012 Pumping Activity and Nitrogen Cycling in the Giant Barrel Sponge, Xestospongia mutaIntegrative and Comparative Biology American Zoologist.  52:E245-E245. 2012
    2011 Sea urchin tube feet are photosensory organs that express a rhabdomeric-like opsin and PAX6.Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  278:3371-3379. 2011
    2011 Connectivity and stability of mesophotic coral reefsJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.  408:32-41. 2011
    2011 Phase shift to algal dominated communities at mesophotic depths associated with lionfish (Pterois volitans) invasion on a Bahamian coral reefBiological Invasions.  13:1855-1868. 2011
    2011 THE ECOLOGICAL AND COMMERCIAL FUTURE OF "SHELLFISH" IN AN ACIDIFIED OCEANJournal of Shellfish Research.  30:526-526. 2011
    2010 Nitrogen fixation and nitrogen transformations in marine symbioses.Trends in Microbiology.  18:455-463. 2010
    2010 Interactions between stressors on coral reefs: analytical approaches, re-analysis of old data, and different conclusionsCoral Reefs.  29:615-619. 2010
    2010 Physiological response of the blue mussel Mytilus edulis to differences in food and temperature in the Gulf of Maine.Comparative biochemistry and physiology. Part A, Molecular & integrative physiology.  156:541-551. 2010
    2010 The annual gametogenic cycle of the sea anemone Metridium senile from the Gulf of MaineJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.  390:58-64. 2010
    2010 Photoacclimatization by the coral Montastraea cavernosa in the mesophotic zone: light, food, and genetics.Ecology.  91:990-1003. 2010
    2010 Depth-dependent effects of ultraviolet radiation on survivorship, oxidative stress and DNA damage in sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) embryos from the Gulf of Maine.Photochemistry and Photobiology.  86:382-388. 2010
    2009 Effects of solar ultraviolet radiation on coral reef organisms.Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences.  8:1276-1294. 2009
    2009 Ecology of mesophotic coral reefsJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.  375:1-8. 2009
    2009 Response of two species of Indo-Pacific corals, Porites cylindrica and Stylophora pistillata, to short-term thermal stress: The host does matter in determining the tolerance of corals to bleachingJournal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology.  373:102-110. 2009


    Year Title
    2011 Oxidative Stress in Tropical Marine Ecosystems.  7-19. 2011
    2011 Coral Bleaching: Causes and Mechanisms.  405-419. 2011

    Conference Proceeding

    Year Title
    2010 ForewordEchinoderms: Durham - Proceedings of the 12th International Echinoderm Conference. xix. 2010

    Principal Investigator On

  • Collaborative Research: Dimensions: Evolutionary Ecology of Sponges and Their Microbiomes  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 2016 - 2019
  • Collaborative Research: Sponge Growth is Nitrogen Limited Over the Shallow to Mesophotic Depth Gradient  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 2016 - 2019
  • Nitrogen Fixing Prokaryotes in Corals: Is Nitrogen Fixation a Core Function of the Coral Microbiome?  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 2014 - 2018
  • Using Next Generation Sequencing to Quantify the Symbiotic Prokaryotic Communities of the Coral Montastraea Cavernosa and the Response of the Holobiont to Thermal Stress  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 2012 - 2015
  • IPA - National Science Foundation Intergovernmental Act  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 2011 - 2014
  • Ocean Exploration and Biotechnology of Pacific Deep Reefs  awarded by US DOC, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2010 - 2012
  • Ocean Exploration and Biotechnology of Pacific Deep Reefs  awarded by University of Mississippi 2010 - 2011
  • Using Closed Circuit Rebreathers to Groundtruth AUV Remote Sensing of Deep Coral Reef Ecosystems  awarded by University of Mississippi 2008 - 2011
  • Invertebrate Models to Study the Pathophysiology of Oxidative Stress: Proof of Concept  awarded by US DOD, Army 2009 - 2010
  • Ocean Exploration and Biotechnology of Pacific Deep Reefs  awarded by University of Mississippi 2010
  • New Ocean Resources: Exploration and Drug Discovery  awarded by University of Mississippi 2006 - 2009
  • Distribution, Taxonomy, and Abundance of Nitrogen Fixing Bacteria in Corals  awarded by National Geographic Society 2008 - 2009
  • NSF Intergovernmental Personnel Act Assignment  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 2006 - 2007
  • Using Technical Diving to Study Coral Reefs  awarded by US DOC, Perry Institute for Marine Science 2005 - 2006
  • Technical Diving Study Ecology Deep Coral Reef Communities  awarded by US DOC, Perry Institute for Marine Science 2004 - 2005
  • Characterizing Flourescence Proteins in Marine Organisms  awarded by US DOD, Department of Defense 2002 - 2004
  • Mixed Gas Tech Diving Study Deep Coral Reef Communities  awarded by US DOC, National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2003 - 2004
  • CoBOP Small Scales Optical Properties of Corals  awarded by US DOD, Navy 1996 - 2003
  • Ecology of Deep Water Sponge Communities Bahamas  awarded by US DOC, Perry Institute for Marine Science 2000 - 2001
  • Ultraviolet Radiation on Echinoderms in the Gulf of Maine  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 1998 - 2001
  • CcBOP: Quantitative Assessment of Flora & Fauna Key West, FL  awarded by US DOD, Navy 1999 - 2000
  • Detection of Coral Bleaching using FRRF  awarded by Caribbean Marine Research Center 1997 - 2000
  • Coastal Benthic Optical Properties of Coral Reefs  awarded by US DOD, Navy 1994 - 1997
  • Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation on Symbiotic Cnidarians  awarded by National Science Foundation (NSF) 1993 - 1997
  • Depth Dependent Effects of UV Radiation on Corals  awarded by Miscellaneous University/College (US) 1993 - 1994
  • Teaching Activities

  • Doctoral Thesis Taught course 2019
  • Doctoral Thesis Taught course 2018
  • Rsrch Exp/MCBS Taught course 2015
  • Education And Training

  • A.S. Medical Laboratory Science, George Washington University
  • B.A., University of New Hampshire
  • M.S. Microbiology, University of New Hampshire
  • Ph.D. Zoology, University of Maine
  • Full Name

  • Michael Lesser