Hildegard Westphal, Ph.D.


Visiting Faculty | Professor of Geology

Research Interests

- Modern ecosystems: Reaction and adaptation of calcifying organisms to environmental and climate change and plastic pollution. Experimental work on foraminifera, green algae, and corals with respect to pH and temperature, as well as exposure to polymer grains.
- Pleistocene to modern carbonate systems: Ship-based sedimentological analysis of taxonomic spectra through time and space (e.g., benthic foraminifera).
- Colonization of the Red Sea since the Miocene: Comparative studies of Miocene reefs (paleoecology, marginal reefs, replenishing from North and South) along the Red Sea coastline, comparison to the Mediterranean. Microbial carbonates through time in the Red Sea (focus on times of high salinity; potential comparison to microbialites elsewhere, e.g. Australia, Bahamas).

Selected Publications

  • Westphal H, Murphy GN, Doo SS, Mann T, Petrovic A, Schmidt C, Stuhr M (2022) Ecosystem design as an avenue for improving services provided by carbonate producing marine ecosystems. PeerJ 10:e12785. doi:10.7717/peerj.12785
  • Mann T, Wizemann A, Kappelmann Y, Stuhr M, Janßen A, Jompa J, Westphal H (2022) Shallow-marine carbonate cementation in Holocene segments of the calcifying green alga Halimeda. Sedimentology 69, 282-300. doi: 10.1111/sed.12927
  • Narayan GR, Reymond CE, Stuhr M, Doo S, Schmidt C, Mann T, Westphal H (2022) Response of large benthic foraminifera to climate and local changes: Implications for future carbonate production. Sedimentology 69. 121-161. doi: 10.1111/sed.12858
  • Stuhr M, Cameron LP, Blank-Landeshammer B, Reymond CE, Doo SS, Westphal H, Sickmann A, Ries RB (2021) Divergent proteomic responses offer insights into resistant physiological responses of a reef-foraminifera to climate change scenarios. Oceans 2, 281–314. doi: 10.3390/oceans2020017
  • Hierl F, Wu HC, Westphal H (2021) Scleractinian corals incorporate microplastic particles: Identification from a laboratory study. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. doi: 10.1007/s11356-021-13240-x


  • 2004: Habilitation and venia legend in Geology, University of Tübingen
  • 1997: Dr. rer. nat. (doctoral degree) at GEOMAR Research Center for Marine Geosciences, Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel, Germany
  • 1994: Diplom (M.Sc. equivalent) in Geology, University of Tübingen, Germany

Professional Profile

  • 2021-Present: Visiting Faculty, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • Since 2010: Professor for the Geology of the Tropics at University of Bremen and Workgroup Leader at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Germany
  • 2010-2020: Director of the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), Germany
  • 2010: Chair for Sedimentology at University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2005-2010: Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation DFG at University of Bremen, Germany
  • 2003-2004: Fellow of the University and Science Program of the State of Bavaria at University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
  • 1999-2003: Assistant professor at University of Hannover, Department for Geology and Palaeontology, Germany
  • 1998-1999: Postdoctoral research fellow at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami, USA

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • since 2021: Member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen
  • since 2016: Active Member of Class IV of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts


  • 2005-2010: Member of the German Young Academy 
  • 2005-2010: Heisenberg-Grant of the German Research Foundation (DFG) at University of Bremen
  • 2004: Albert-Maucher-Preis of the German Research Foundation (DFG)
  • 2003: Hans-Cloos-Preis of the German Geological Society
  • 2003: Walter-Schall-Preis of the Gesellschaft für Naturkunde in Württemberg
  • 1991-1997: Scholarship holder of the Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes

KAUST Affiliations

  • Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  • Physical Science and Engineering Division (PSE)

Research Interests Keywords

Marine ecology Pal-ecology Carbonate Sedimentology ​Plastic pollution