Michael Berumen

  Associate Professor, Marine Science ​

  Office Location: Ibn Al Haytham (Building 2) · Level 3 · Room 3221
  Email: michael.berumen@kaust.edu.sa
  Faculty lab website: http://reefecology.kaust.edu.sa

Research Keywords
Larval connectivity and dispersal of reef fishes; Movement ecology of reef organisms; Biodiversity and evolutionary biology of Red Sea fauna

Research Interests
Our lab is engaged in several interdisciplinary projects addressing numerous aspects of reef ecology. KAUST, located on the shore of the Red Sea, offers a unique combination of wonderful access to coral reefs and world-class research laboratories. Much of our research effort is focused on this under-studied Red Sea system on our doorstep, but we also maintain projects based at a range of field sites around the world. One of the primary unifying themes of these projects is movement ecology, with studies ranging from larval fish dispersal to whale shark movements. These projects utilize several methodologies, described below. The findings of these projects are immediately relevant to management and will ultimately be used to guide the design and implementation of marine protected areas (MPAs) within Saudi Arabia and other study areas.
Other major research themes include life history studies, food web ecology, as well as evolutionary ecology and biology. Life history studies are fundamental for conservation and management of any species, and target knowledge gaps such as growth rates, age or size of reproductive maturity, population demographics, and other characters. Our food web ecology studies employ novel techniques we have developed and are revealing critical energy pathways that traditional food web studies have not been able to detect. Understanding these food webs will help to more accurately assess the function of complex reef systems and predict how reef fishes will be affected by climate change. Evolutionary studies, including phylogeny and phylogeography, are primarily focused on reef organisms endemic to the Red Sea, including the poorly understood non-coral invertebrate groups. 

Main Techniques
We use standard phylogenetic and phylogeographic tools for genetic analyses and biodiversity studies, and have begun using some next-gen approaches, including RAD-Seq, for greater resolution in these studies. 

Our ecological studies employ field-based observations and surveys of fauna and benthos. For some demographic studies, we use age-based approaches and construct life history information using otoliths. 

When investigating ecological connectivity, we typically use large numbers of microsattelite markers. For individual-based movement studies, we employ a wide range of tracking techniques, including passive acoustic tagging (e.g., Vemco equipment) and satellite-based tracking technology (e.g., Wildlife Computers equipment).

Members of the Lab

The Reef Ecology Lab comprises a number of research scientists, post-doctoral researchers, PhD and Masters students, collaborating students and research staff. For a list of current and past members, please see here​

Selected Publications
Almany, G, M Berumen, S Thorrold, S Planes, & G Jones (2007) Local replenishment of coral reef fish populations in a marine reserve. Science 316: 742-744

Berumen, M, G Almany, S Planes, G Jones, P Saenz-Agudelo, S Thorrold (2012) Persistence of self-recruitment and patterns of larval connectivity in a marine protected area network. Ecology and Evolution 2: 444-452

McMahon, K, M Berumen, S Thorrold (2012) Linking habitat mosaics and connectivity in a coral reef seascape. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 109: 15372-15376

Almany, G, R Hamilton, M Matawai, M Bode, T Potuku, P Saenz-Agudelo, S Planes, M Berumen, K Rhodes, S Thorrold, G Russ, G Jones (2013) Dispersal of grouper larvae drives local resource sharing in a coral reef fishery. Current Biology 23: 626-630

Berumen, M, W Bass, J Bouwmeester, D Catania, J Cochran, A Hoey, M Khalil, S Miyake, M Mughal, J Spaet, P Saenz-Agudelo (2013). The status of coral reef ecology research in the Red Sea. Coral Reefs 32: 737-748