Maren Ziegler




I initially set off studying biology at the University of Hannover in Germany, but it was a year abroad studying tropical marine ecology and fisheries biology at James Cook University Townsville in Australia that got me hooked on marine sciences. And I later returned to Townsville, but this time to the Australian Institute of Marine Science, for my MSc thesis work on the physiological diversity of symbionts in benthic Foraminifera. Foraminifera are giant protists that build calcium carbonate shells, and they engage in symbioses with a wide variety of unicellular algae, including chlorophytes and rhodophytes, but also diatoms and dinoflagellates. The functional complexity of these symbioses still intrigues me and remains the focus of my research today.
Before continuing on my path as a Ph.D. student, I had the chance to get involved in a research project at Senckenberg Natural History Museum investigating the marine habitats around Yemen’s World Heritage Socotra Island in the Gulf of Aden. This work focused on assessment of reef-building corals, which share certain properties with Foraminifera. For example, they also secrete calcium carbonate skeletons and they engage in symbiosis with dinoflagellate endosymbionts. The flexibility and phenotypic plasticity of this symbiosis between corals and dinoflagellates was then the focus of my Ph.D. research, which I conducted in collaboration between the University of Frankfurt and Chris Voolstra’s group at the Red Sea Research Center, where I am currently working as a postdoctoral fellow.

Research Interests

Coral reefs belong to the most diverse ecosystems on this planet, but they also belong to those that are most vulnerable to anthropogenic (man-made) climate change and coastal pollution. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the complex world of hermatypic corals, which build the foundonment, both natural and anthropogenic, influence the equilibrium in the coral holobiont. To disentangle how the host and symbiont compartments interact and to understand how they are affected by environmental change, I use ecophysiological and genomic tools as well as experimental approaches.

Selected Publications

  • Ziegler M, Seneca FO, Yum LK, Palumbi SR, Voolstra CR (2017) Bacterial community dynamics are linked to patterns of coral heat tolerance. Nature Communications 8: 14213
  • Ziegler M*, Arif C*, Burt JA, Dobretsov S, Roder C, LaJeunesse TC, Voolstra CR (2017) Biogeography and molecular diversity of coral symbionts in the genus Symbiodinium around the Arabian Peninsula. Journal of Biogeography 44: 674-686
  • Ziegler M, Roik A, Porter A, Zubier K, Mudarris MS, Ormond R, Voolstra C (2016) Coral microbial community dynamics in response to anthropogenic impacts near a major city in the central Red Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 105: 629-640
  • Ziegler M, Roder C, Büchel C, Voolstra C (2015) Niche acclimatization in Red Sea corals is dependent on flexibility of host-symbiont association. Marine Ecology Progress Series 533: 149-161
  • Ziegler M, Roder C, Büchel C, Voolstra C (2015) Mesophotic coral depth acclimatization is a function of host-specific symbiont physiology. Frontiers in Marine Science 2:4, doi: 10.3389/fmars.2015.00004
  • Ziegler M, Roder C, Büchel C, Voolstra C (2014) Limits to physiological plasticity of the coral Pocillopora verrucosa from the central Red Sea. Coral Reefs 33: 1115-1129
  • Ziegler M, Fitzpatrick S, Burghardt I, Liberatore K, Leffler J, Takacs-Vesbach C, Shepherd U (2014) Thermal stress response in a dinoflagellate-bearing nudibranch and the octocoral on which it feeds. Coral Reefs 33: 1085-1099
  • Ziegler M, Uthicke S (2011) Photosynthetic plasticity of larger benthic coral reef Foraminifera. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 407: 70-80

* authors contributed equally


  • Ph.D., Institute for Molecular Biosciences, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany, (2011 – 2014)
  • M.Sc., Institute for Animal Ecology and Cell Biology, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, (2002 – 2009)
  • G. Dip. Res. Meth., Marine Ecology and Fisheries Biology, James Cook University & Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Australia, (2006 – 2007)

Research Interests Keywords

Marine ecology Genomics Marine microbiology