van Woesik, Robert

Biological Sciences

Educational Background

B.Sc. University of Queensland, Australia 1983
Ph.D. James Cook University, Australia 1993

Current Courses

Modeling for Ecology and Biology (BIO 4517 & 5517)

Coral Ecology (BIO 5140) (Graduate course)

Marine Ecology (Bio 4720) (Undergraduate course)

Professional Experience

I have worked on the coral reefs of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans since 1982, and have written more than 130 scholarly research articles on coral reefs. My area of expertise is in the population and community ecology of scleractinian corals. I was the Environmental Editor for the international journal Coral Reefs from 2006 to 2013 and have been Director of the Institute for Research on Global Climate Change since 2009.

My research interests are broad but ultimately linked to the ecology of reef-building corals, including the effects of land-use change and global-climate change. Most recently, my students and I have been particularly interested in examining which processes capture population performance under climate change, and the degree to which these processes vary with habitat, region, and across time. As in the past, under certain circumstances adaptation is expected. But success will depend on a number of conditions, including the nature of the regional gene pool, the life-history characteristics of the organisms involved, the frequency and strength of the disturbances, and the local and regional oceanography. Essentially, we are striving to understand coral-reef systems and identify important processes to provide information that will give corals' their best chance of survival through this modern period of extensive human pressure.

Additional Duties

Director of the Institute for Research on Global Climate Change

Current Research

van Woesik's primary scientific goal is to assess the dynamics of coral populations and identifying key processes that regulate those dynamics. He is particularly interested in climate change, thermal stress, adaptation, reef recovery, and refugia from climate change.  Understanding reef systems and key processes on coral reefs will lead to predictive and accurate models of changes in coral-reef communities.

Selected Publications


Roth L, E.M. Muller, R. van Woesik (2013) Tracking Acropora fragmentation and population structure through thermal-stress events. Ecological Modelling 263: 223-232

Graham J and van Woesik R (2013) The effects of partial mortality on the fecundity of three common Caribbean corals. Marine Biology DOI 10.1007/s00227-013-2248-y

Ohki S,T. Irie, M. Inoue, K. Shinmen, H. Kawahata, T. Nakamura, A. Kato, Y.Nojiri, A.Iguchi, A. Suzuki, K. Sakai, R van Woesik (2013) Symbiosis increases coral tolerance to ocean acidification. Biogeosciences Discussion, 10, 7013–7030

Houk P & van Woesik R (2013) Progress and perspectives on question-driven coral-reef monitoring. BioScience 63(4): 297-303

Rongo T & van Woesik R (2013) The effects of natural disturbances, reef state, and herbivorous fish densities on ciguatera poisoning in Rarotonga, southern Cook Islands. Toxicon 64: 87-95

Muller E & R. van Woesik (2012) Caribbean coral diseases: primary transmission or secondary infection? Global Change Biology 18: 3529-3535

van Woesik R, E. C. Franklin, J. O’Leary, T. R. McClanahan, J. Klaus, A.F. Budd (2012) Hosts of the Plio-Pleistocene past reflect modern-day coral vulnerability. Proc Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.2621

Mosblech N.A, M.B Bush, W.D Gosling, L. Thomas, P. van Calsteren, A. Correa-Metrio, B.G. Valencia, J. Curtis, R. van Woesik. (2012) North Atlantic forcing of Amazonian precipitation through the last ice age. Nature Geosciences 5: 817-820

van Woesik R, P. Houk, A. L. Isechal, J. W. Idechong, S.Victor, Y. Golbuu (In Press) Climate-change microrefugia: nearshore reefs bleach less than outer reefs during a 2010 regional thermal stress event in Palau. Ecology and Evolution 2(10): 2474-2484

Toth LT, Aronson RB, Vollmer SV, Hobbs JW, Urrego DH, Cheng H, Enochs IC, Combosch DJ, van Woesik R, Macintyre IG (2012). ENSO-drove 2,500-year collapse of eastern Pacific coral reefs. Science 337: 81-84

van Woesik R and A. G. Jordan-Garza (2011) Coral populations in a rapidly changing environment. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 408: 11-20

van Woesik R, K. Sakai, A. Ganase, Y. Loya (2011) Revisiting the winners and loser a decade after coral bleaching. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 434: 67-76

Jordan-Garza A G, EM Muller, SG Burma, R. van Woesik (2011) Susceptibility of coral-disease models. PNAS: 1102711108v1-201102711

Sublette NA, Bush, MB, R. van Woesik (2011) On Metapopulations and Microrefugia: paleoecological insights. J Biogeography. 38(3): 419-429

van Woesik R (2010) Calm before the spawn: global coral-spawning synchronization is explained by regional wind fields. Proc Royal Society B, 277: 715-722  

Thompson D and van Woesik R (2009) Corals escape bleaching in regions that recently and historically experienced frequent thermal stress. Proc Royal Society B: 276(1669): 2893-2901

Rongo T, Bush M, van Woesik R (2009) Did Ciguatera prompt the late Holocene Polynesian voyages of Discovery? J Biogeography 36(8): 1423-1432