Steven Vollmer

Steven VollmerAssistant Professor
Evolutionary Ecology, Genetics and Speciation

Marine Science Center
430 Nahant Road
Nahant, MA 01908 USA
781.581.7370, x312

Lab Website:

Academic Education

  • Ph.D., Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • M.S., California State University, Northridge, CA
  • B.S., Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO


  • Assistant Professor, Biology, Northeastern University (2007 – Present)
  • Hoch Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, (2006 – 2007)
  • Marine Science Network Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution

Research Interests

I study the evolutionary ecology of marine organisms. Research in my laboratory focuses primarily on the reef-corals, and specifically, how evolution shapes the genetic architecture of coral populations and species. My primary study organisms are the Caribbean Acropora corals [common name, Staghorn and Elkhorn coral], which have been decimated by White Band Disease (WBD) over the past thirty years and are now listed as threatened on the US Endangered Species Act. We have shown that 6% or more of staghorn corals are naturally resistant to WBD. This first evidence of disease resistance in tropical reef corals demonstrates that corals may be more resilient than thought to rising disease epidemics and other stressors brought on by global climate change. Current research in the lab is focused on identifying the genetic bases of coral innate immunity, pathogen recognition, and host resistance, and furthering our knowledge about the WBD pathogen and the ecological factors driving WBD outbreaks.

Teaching Activities

I teach Molecular Ecology and Evolution in the Fall semester and Genetics and Molecular Biology in the Spring semester. Molecular Ecology and Evolution is a hands-on course that immerses students in molecular techniques and analyses used in the study of ecology and evolution. Genetics and Molecular Biology is our core genetics course for biology and other science majors.


  • Vollmer, SV; Kline, DK (2008). Natural Disease Resistance in Threatened Staghorn Corals. PloS ONE 3(11) e3718.
  • Combosch, DJ; Guzman, HM; Schuhmacher, H; Vollmer, SV (2008) Interspecific Hybridization and Restricted Trans-Pacific Gene Flow in the Tropical Eastern Pacific Pocillopora. Molecular Ecology 17: 1304-1312.
  • Nunes, F; Fukami, H; Vollmer, SV; Norris, RD, Knowlton, N (2008) Re-evaluation of the Systematics of the Endemic Corals of Brazil by Molecular Data. Coral Reefs 27: 423-432.
  • Vollmer, SV; Palumbi, SR (2007) Restricted Gene Flow in the Caribbean Staghorn Coral Acropora cervicornis: Implications for the Recovery of Endangered Reefs. Journal of Heredity 98:40-50.
  • Willis, BL; van Oppen, MJH; Miller, DJ, Vollmer, SV; Ayre, DJ. (2006) The Role of Hybridization in the Evolution of Reef Corals. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 37:489-517.
  • Vollmer, SV; Palumbi, SR (2004) Testing the Utility of ITS sequences in Coral Phylogenetics. Molecular Ecology 13: 2763-2772.
  • Vollmer, SV; Palumbi, SR (2002) Hybridization and the Evolution of Reef Coral Diversity. Science 296:2023-2025.
  • Vollmer, SV; Palumbi, SR (2002). Unisexual Clones: Lizards and Corals. Science 298:2130-2131.
  • Vollmer, SV; Edmunds, PJ (2000) Allometric Scaling in Small Colonies of the Scleractian Coral Siderastrea siderea (Ellis and Solander). Biological Bulletin 199:21-28.