Research Interests

​Corals are metaorganisms composed of the coral host, intracellular photosynthetic dinoflagellate symbionts, and associated microbiota. Together these metaorganisms form the foundation species of reef ecosystems. Dr. Voolstra's research aims to develop an integrated understanding of the ecology and evolution of the coral metaorganism on a molecular and ecosystem level to predict adaptive capabilities and biotic response to environmental change. The Red Sea provides a natural laboratory that allows us to study mechanisms of adaptation to future ocean scenarios. The ability to gain insight into coral resilience will provide critical guidance for improving strategies to support the sustainable use of coral reef resources and the conservation of ecosystem function.​

Selected Publications

Education Profile

  • ​​Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Merced, USA, 2009
  • Ph.D., Evolutionary Genomics, University of Cologne, Germany, 2006
  • Diploma, Genetics, University of Cologne, Germany​, 2001

Professional Profile

  • ​2016-present : Associate Director Red Sea Research Center, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2015-present : Associate Professor of Marine Science, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia​
  • 2009-2015 : Assistant Professor of Marine Science, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2007-2009 : Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of California, Merced, USA
  • 2002-2006 : Research Assistant, University of Cologne, Germany
  • ​​2000-2001 : Scientific Assistant, University of Cologne, Germany​

Scientific and Professional Memberships

  • International Society for Reef Studies (ISRS)
  • International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME)
  • American Society for Microbiology (SAM)
  • Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC)
  • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
  • Verband Deutscher Biologen (Vdbiol)
  • Deutscher Hochschulverband (DHV)


  • ​​​TARA-Pacific Scientific Coordinator, 2015-present
  • Steering commitee member Global Invertebrate Genomics Alliance (GIGA), 2015-present
  • Outstanding Contribution in Reviewing for Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2016
  • Frontiers Science Hero, 2016
  • Selected Top Reviewer for Molecular Ecology, 2015
  • Selected Top Reviewer for Molecular Ecology, 2012

KAUST Affiliations

  •  ​​​KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  •  Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering Division (BESE) ​