Michael Lesser

Phone: (603) 862-3442
Office: Molecular, Cellular, & Biomedical Sciences, Rudman Hall Rm 202, Durham, NH 03824

My principal focus involve understanding how taxonomically diverse marine organisms respond physiologically to changes in their environment. In particular I'm interested in how organismal physiology can influence the ecology of marine organisms. As a physiological ecologist my students and I answer these types of questions by utilizing field and laboratory experiments, as well as a wide range of techniques from molecular biology to in situ measurements. Currently my research encompasses four major areas;

1) Biochemistry and molecular genetics of oxidative stress in marine organisms associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, elevated temperatures, or hyperoxic conditions.

2) Physiological ecology of marine invertebrates and phytoplankton, physiological responses to changes in the environment, bacterial- and algal-invertebrate symbioses, and the trophic biology of suspension-feeding invertebrates.

3) Ecology and photobiology of mesophotic coral reefs.

4) Underwater technology, use of technical diving for scientific research.


  • Ph.D., Zoology, University of Maine
  • M.S., Microbiology, University of New Hampshire
  • B.A., University of New Hampshire
  • A.S., Medical Laboratory Science, George Washington University

Courses Taught

  • INCO 590: Rsrch Exp/MCBS
  • MCBS 999: Doctoral Thesis

Selected Publications

Edmunds, P. J., Burgess, S. C., Putnam, H. M., Baskett, M. L., Bramanti, L., Fabina, N. S., . . . Gates, R. D. (2014). Evaluating the causal basis of ecological success within the scleractinia: an integral projection model approach. Marine Biology, 161(12), 2719-2734. doi:10.1007/s00227-014-2547-y

Slattery, M., & Lesser, M. P. (2014). Allelopathy in the tropical alga Lobophora variegata: An indirect cause of phase shifts on mesophotic coral reefs?. PLANTA MEDICA, 80(10), 848. Retrieved from http://gateway.webofknowledge.com/

Lesser, M. P., & Jarett, J. K. (2014). Culture-dependent and culture-independent analyses reveal no prokaryotic community shifts or recovery ofSerratia marcescensinAcropora palmatawith white pox disease. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 88(3), 457-467. doi:10.1111/1574-6941.12311

Slattery, M., & Lesser, M. P. (2014). Allelopathy in the tropical algaLobophora variegata(Phaeophyceae): mechanistic basis for a phase shift on mesophotic coral reefs?. Journal of Phycology, 50(3), 493-505. doi:10.1111/jpy.12160

Fiore, C. L., Jarett, J. K., & Lesser, M. P. (2013). Symbiotic prokaryotic communities from different populations of the giant barrel sponge,Xestospongia muta. MicrobiologyOpen, 2(6), 938-952. doi:10.1002/mbo3.135

Lesser, M. P., & Slattery, M. (2011). Phase shift to algal dominated communities at mesophotic depths associated with lionfish (Pterois volitans) invasion on a Bahamian coral reef. Biological Invasions, 13(8), 1855-1868. doi:10.1007/s10530-011-0005-z

Lesser, M. P. (2011). Coral Bleaching: Causes and Mechanisms. In Coral Reefs: An Ecosystem in Transition (pp. 405-419). Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-0114-4_23

Lesser, M. P., Slattery, M., Stat, M., Ojimi, M., Gates, R. D., & Grottoli, A. (2010). Photoacclimatization by the coral Montastraea cavernosa in the mesophotic zone: light, food, and genetics. Ecology, 91(4), 990-1003. doi:10.1890/09-0313.1

Lesser, M. P., Slattery, M., & Leichter, J. J. (2009). Ecology of mesophotic coral reefs. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 375(1-2), 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2009.05.009

Fitt, W. K., Gates, R. D., Hoegh-Guldberg, O., Bythell, J. C., Jatkar, A., Grottoli, A. G., . . . Lesser, M. P. (2009). Response of two species of Indo-Pacific corals, Porites cylindrica and Stylophora pistillata, to short-term thermal stress: The host does matter in determining the tolerance of corals to bleaching. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 373(2), 102-110. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2009.03.011

Most Cited Publications