Michael Fox, Ph.D.


Assistant Research Professor

Research Interests

Dr. Michael Fox is an Assistant Research Professor in the KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC). Prof. Fox is coral reef ecologist whose research focuses on identifying natural mechanisms that facilitate coral reef resilience in a changing ocean. 

Prof. Fox has worked extensively on remote coral reefs of the central Pacific and Indian Oceans to identify the roles of pelagic food subsidies in coral reef food webs and their influence on coral survival of and recovery from bleaching. His interdisciplinary research combines stable isotope biogeochemistry with oceanography and coral biology to link physiological processes at the level of individuals with ecological patterns at the community scale.

At KAUST, he will investigate how environmental gradients structure spatial and temporal patterns of energy flow and ecosystem functioning of coral reefs throughout the Red Sea. His research will combine extensive field research, ecological monitoring, and laboratory experiments to explore the trophic ecology of key reef taxa and elucidate how these unique reef systems will respond to ocean change.

Selected Publications

  • Increasing coral reef resilience through successive marine heatwaves 
    M.D. Fox, A.L. Cohen, R. Rotjan, S. Manguhbai, S.A. Sandin, J.E. Smith, S. Thorrold, L. Dissly, N.R. Mollica, D. Obura 
    Geophysical Research Letters 48: e2021GL094128 (2021)
  • Differential resistance and acclimatization of two Hawaiian coral species to chronic nutrient enrichment reflect life history traits
    M.D. Fox, C.E. Nelson, T.A. Oliver, Z.A. Quinlan, K. Remple, J. Glanz, J.E. Smith, H.M. Putnam 
    Functional Ecology 35, 1081-1093 (2021)
  • Pelagic subsidies dominate carbon inputs to coral reef predators
    C. Skinner, A.E. Mill, M.D. Fox, S.P. Newman, Y. Zhu, A. Kuhl, N.V.C. Polunin 
    Science Advances 7: eabf3792 (2021)
  • Characterizing energy flow in kelp forests: a geochemical review and call for additional research
    E.A. Elliott Smith and M.D. Fox
    Ecography (2021)
  • Trophic plasticity in a common reef-building coral: Insights from 13C analysis of amino acids
    M.D. Fox, E.A. Elliott Smith, J.E. Smith, S.D. Newsome 
    Functional Ecology 33: 2203-2214 (2019)
  • Limited coral mortality following acute thermal stress and widespread bleaching on Palmyra Atoll, central Pacific.
    M.D. Fox, A.L. Carter, C.B. Edwards, Y. Takeshita, M.D., Johnson, V. Petrovic, C. Amir, E. Sala, S.A. Sandin, J.E. Smith
    Coral Reefs 38: 701-712 (2019)
  • Evaluating coral trophic strategies using fatty acid composition and indices
    V.Z. Radice, M.T. Brett, B. Fry, M.D. Fox, O. Hoegh-Guldberg, S.G. Dove
    Plos One 14(9): e0222327 (2019).
  • Gradients in primary production predict the trophic strategies of mixotrophic corals at multiple spatial scales
    M.D. Fox, G.J. Williams, M.D. Johnson, V.Z. Radice, B.J. Zgliczynski, E.L.A. Kelly,
    F. Rohwer, S.A. Sandin, J.E. Smith
    Current Biology 28:1-9 (2018).
  • Biomass loss reduces growth and resource translocation in giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
    M.D. Fox 
    Marine Ecology Progress Series 562: 65-77 (2016).
  • Resource translocation drives δ13C fractionation during recovery from disturbance in giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera
    Fox, M.D.
    Journal of Phycology 49: 811-15 (2013)


  • Ph.D., Marine Biology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, 2018.
  • M.Sc., Marine Science, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, California State University Monterey Bay, 2013.
  • B.A., Marine Science, University of San Diego, 2008.

Professional Profile

  • 2021-Present: Assistant Research Professor, Red Sea Research Center, KAUST, Saudi Arabia
  • 2021-Present: Guest Investigator, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA
  • 2018-2021: Postdoctoral Scholar, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • American Geophysical Union (AGU)
  • Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO)
  • International Coral Reef Society (ISRS)
  • Phycological Society of America (PSA)
  • Western Society of Naturalists (WSN)


  • 2018: Interdisciplinary Postdoctoral Scholarship, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
  • 2017: Achievement Awards for College Scientists, ARCS Foundation.
  • 2013: Nancy Foster Scholarship, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

KAUST Affiliations

  • Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  • Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division (BESE)

Research Interests Keywords

Marine ecology Coral reef ecology Climate Change Oceanography Biogeochemistry Stable isotope ecology Ecosystems