Sebastian Schmidt-Roach

Research Scientists

Research Scientist



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.

Research Interests

Marine ecology, evolution, coral taxonomy, epigenetics

Selected Publications

  •   A genomic glance through the fog of plasticity and diversification in Pocillopora. E.C. Johnston, Z.H. Forsman, J.-F. Flot, S. Schmidt-Roach, J.H. Pinzón, I.S.S. Knapp, R.J.... Scientific Reports 7, (2017)
  •   Diverse associations among coral host haplotypes and algal endosymbionts may drive adaptation at geographically per... A.M.E. Noreen, S. Schmidt-Roach, P.L. Harrison, M.J.H. van Oppen. Journal of Biogeography 42 (9), 1639-1650, (2015)
  •   With eyes wide open: a revision of species within and closely related to the Pocillopora damicornis species complex... S. Schmidt-Roach, K.J. Miller, P. Lundgren, N. Andreakis. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 170 (1), 133 , (2014)
  •   Assessing hidden species diversity in the coral Pocillopora damicornis from Eastern Australia. S. Schmidt-Roach, P. Lundgren, K.J. Miller, G. Gerlach, A.M.E. Noreen, N. Andreakis. Coral Reefs 32 (1), 161-172, (2013)
  •   Broadcast spawning by Pocillopora species on the Great Barrier Reef. S. Schmidt-Roach, K.J. Miller, E. Woolsey, G. Gerlach, A.H. Baird. PLoS One 7 (12), e50847 , (2012)


  • Ph.D., Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia, 2013
  • German Diplom (M.Phil.), Marine Biodiversity, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Germany, 2007
  • German Vordiplom (B.Sc.), Biology, Universität Bielefeld, Germany 2003

Professional Profile

  • 2020-Present: Research scientist, ​KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2017-2020: Postdoctoral fellow, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2015-2017: Postdoctoral fellow, Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg, Germany
  • 2013-2015: Research assistant, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • ​International Society for Reef Studies
  • International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Coral Specialist Group


  • ​Vicki Harriott Memorial Student Prize (1st Prize), ACRS conference 2010

KAUST Affiliations

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

Research Interests Keywords

Marine Ecology Evolution Epigenetics Coral Taxonomy