Dr. Sebastian Schmidt-Roach is a research scientist in the KAUST Red Sea Research Center (RSRC). Schmidt-Roach's research focuses on evolution and ecology; specifically on processes such as acclimation, phenotypic plasticity, and the influence of genetic adaptation under environmental changes in marine organisms. Currently, this research focuses on the sea anemone Aiptasia pallida and the brain coral Platygyra daedalea.
"Coral reefs grabbed my attention in 2005 while studying at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad & Tobago. Exploring the local reefs and levels of marine biodiversity intrigued me, prompting my decision to pursue a career in marine ecology, specializing in coral reefs," he said.
Ten years later, he completed his Ph.D. in Marine and Antarctic Studies at The University of Tasmania, Australia. In 2017, Schmidt-Roach accepted a postdoctoral position at The Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in his home country of Germany.
Schmidt-Roach's coral reef research career has enabled him to work all over the world, including Australia, Europe, Indonesia, and the Caribbean. His extensive field and laboratory experience have enriched his skills and knowledge in taxonomic, population genetics and evolutionary processes. To complement his skills, and to gain a deeper understanding of genomic and epigenetic processes, he chose to join KAUST and The Coral Symbiomics Lab in April 2017.
Schmidt-Roach's current research objectives at KAUST include understanding the genomic characteristics driving thermal tolerance along a latitudinal/thermal gradient in the Red Sea.
"The southern Red Sea and Arabian Gulf corals inhabit locations with extremely high water temperatures. If we understand what enables these corals to tolerate the heat stress, we can explore if we can transfer some information from populations that are quite resistant, that are already facing high temperatures, to more high-risk populations that may face these temperatures in the future," he emphasized.
Schmidt-Roach believes that his research at KAUST can create a positive impact for Saudi Arabia. Corals found along the coastal regions of the Kingdom may allow researchers to find strategies to prepare certain coral populations for the predicted temperature changes associated with ongoing global climate change.
"Within our working group at the RSRC, it's a nice mixture of bioinformaticians, experimental and field biologists. It's an amazing opportunity for me to learn from other group members' and vice-versa, which helps everyone to drive their research forward," he concluded.