Prof. Dr. Thorsten B. Reusch

Head of Research Division 3 - Marine Ecology
Head of Research Unit - Marine Evolutionary Ecology


Room: A 31
Phone: +49-431 600 4550
E-Mail: treusch(at)

Personal Assistant/Office Management
Cornelia Rüther
Room: A 31
Phone: +49 431 600-4551
Fax: +49 431 600-4553
E-Mail cruether(at)

GEOMAR  Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel
Düsternbrooker Weg 20
D-24105 Kiel




Scientific interests

The focus of my research is the ecology of evolution. Any ecological interaction is also a selection pressure. Consequently, if there is heritable variation, evolutionary change will take place. There is now ample evidence that the separation between ecological and evolutionary scale is misleading, in particular in marine systems. Both time scales are commensurate and should be answered within a common framework. Given the predicted environmental changes in the next decades, one focus area is the evolutionary response of populations to global change, including ocean warming, acidification, biological invasions and selective harvesting. Towards this end, both heritable variation within populations, and the distribution of genetic variation across latitudinal gradients needs to be quantified. Such an approach will benefit from an expansion of the evolutionary ecology toolbox. Once selectively relevant polymorphism is identified, predictions on the evolutionary potential of populations become possible.

Specific research areas are

• Evolutionary biology & population genetics
• host-parasite interactions
• Evolutionary consequences of global change
• Invasion biology
• Marine Genomics

Study organisms

• cod Gadus morhua
• reef building coral and cnidarians
• seagrasses Zostera marina
• comb jellies (Ctenophora)

Current projects

  • funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within Sequencing Initative Programme: "IMMUBASE - Comparative Immunogenomics of basal marine metazoans" Co-PIs Lucia Pita Galan GEOMAR, Ruth Schmitz-Streit, U Kiel, 2019-2022

  • funded by Helmholtz-Society Climate Initiative Germany Net Zero 2050, work package 4 natural carbon storage systems: "Seagrass Blue Carbon",  2019-2021, with postdoctoral researcher Dr. Angela Stevenson

  • funded by EU-BONUS: MARES Multi-method Assessment for Resilient Ecosystem Services and human-nature system integration  (coordinator Dr. Maurizio Sajeva, Pellervo Economic Research, Finland), 2018-2020

  • funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft within Collaborative Research Center 1182 Origin and Function of the Metaorganism - "Microbiota – host interactions at the base of the metazoan tree" Co-PIs Ruth Schmitz-Streit, U Kiel,  2016-2019

    Recently completed projects
  • funded by European Union /BONUS programme: "BIO-C3 Biodiversity changes-causes, consequences and management implications". Coordinator Thorsten Reusch, 13 partners in total, 2014-2017

    see key publication:
    Reusch TBH, Dierking J, Andersson HC, Bonsdorff E, Carstensen J, Casini M, Czajkowski M, Hasler B, Hinsby K, Hyytiäinen K, Johannesson K, Jomaa S, Jormalainen V, Kuosa H, Kurland S, Laikre L, MacKenzie BR, Margonski P, Melzner F, Oesterwind D, Ojaveer H, Refsgaard JC, Sandström A, Schwarz G, Tonderski K, Winder M, Zandersen M (2018) The Baltic Sea as a time machine for the future coastal ocean. Science Advances 4:eaar8195

  • funded by European Union /BONUS programme: "BAMBI-Baltic Sea marine biodiversity – addressing the potential of adaptation to climate change", 2014-2017

    see novel publication:
    Heckwolf MJ, Meyer BS, Häsler R, Höppner MP, Eizaguirre C, Reusch TBH (2019) DNA methylation facilitates local adaptation and adaptive transgenerational plasticity. Biorxiv,

    see key publication:
    Heckwolf MJ, Meyer BS, Döring T, Eizaguirre C, Reusch TBH (2018) Transgenerational plasticity and selection shape the adaptive potential of sticklebacks to salinity change. Evolutionary Applications online early,

  • funded by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG (within priority program DYNATRAIT) "Eco-evolutionary coupling in competing marine phytoplankton communities". 2014-2017. Collaboration with Dr. Birte Matthiessen, GEOMAR EÖ-N. People involved: Luisa Listmann

Memberships, Community and Editorial Functions

  • Steering Committee Kiel Plant Centre  2019 -

  • since 2017 member of steering committe of ISOS (Integrated School of Ocean Science) graduate school
  • Associate Editor 'Marine Biology' and 'Science Advances'
  • Coordination of the topic "Evolving Ocean" with the cluster of excellence Future Ocean
  • Steering committee Kiel Evolution Centre
  • Steering committee International Max-Planck School for Evolutionary Biology IMPRS
  • Steering committee, Helmholtz-Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity Research (HIFMB), Oldenburg, Germany

Selected Publications

For a full overview on my publications see my google scholar profile"

  • Reusch TBH, Dierking J, Andersson HC, Bonsdorff E, Carstensen J, Casini M, Czajkowski M, Hasler B, Hinsby K, Hyytiäinen K, Johannesson K, Jomaa S, Jormalainen V, Kuosa H, Kurland S, Laikre L, MacKenzie BR, Margonski P, Melzner F, Oesterwind D, Ojaveer H, Refsgaard JC, Sandström A, Schwarz G, Tonderski K, Winder M, Zandersen M (2018) The Baltic Sea as a time machine for the future coastal ocean. Science Advances 4:eaar8195
  • Webster NS, Reusch TBH (2017) Microbial contributions to the persistence of coral reefs. ISME J 11:2167-2174
  • Breusing C, Biastoch A, Drews A, Metaxas A, Jollivet D, Vrijenhoek RC, Bayer T, Melzner F, Sayavedra L, Petersen JM, Dubilier N, Schilhabel MB, Rosenstiel P, Reusch TBH (2016) Biophysical and population genetic models predict presence of "phantom" stepping stones connecting Mid-Atlantic Ridge vent ecosystems. Current Biology 26:2257–2267
  • Olsen JL*, Rouzé P, Verhelst B, Lin Y-C, Bayer T, Collén J, Dattolo E, De Paoli E, Dittami S, Maumus F, Michel G, Kersting A, Lauritano C, Lohaus R, Töpel M, Tonon T, Vanneste K, Amirebrahimi M, Brakel J, Boström C, Chovatia M, Grimwood J, Jenkins J, Jüterbock A, Mraz A, Stam WT, Tice H, Bornberg-Bauer E, Green P, Pearson G, Procaccini G, Duarte C, Schmutz J, Reusch TBH*, Van de Peer Y* (2016) The genome of the seagrass Zostera marina reveals angiosperm adaptation to the sea. Nature 530: 331-335 doi: 10.1038/nature16548  *equal contribution (cover story)
  • Quaas M, Reusch TBH, Schmidt JO, Tahvonen O, Voss R (2016) It’s the economy, stupid! Projecting the fate of fish populations using ecological-economic modeling. Global Change Biology 22:264–270
  • Schlüter L, Lohbeck KT, Gutowska MA, Gröger JP, Riebesell U, Reusch TBH (2014) Adaptation of a globally important coccolithophore to ocean warming and acidification. Nature Climate Change 4:1024–1030, doi:10.1038/nclimate2379
  • Sunday JM, Calosi P, Dupont S, Munday PL, Stillman JH, Reusch TBH (2014) Evolution in an acidifying ocean. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 29:117-125
  • Reusch TBH (2014) Climate change in the oceans: evolutionary vs. phenotypically plastic responses in marine animals and plants. Evolutionary Applications 7:104–122
  • Haase D, Roth O, Kalbe M, Schmiedeskamp G, Scharsack JP, Rosenstiel P, Reusch TBH (2013) Absence of MHC class II mediated immunity in pipefish, Syngnathus typhle: evidence from deep transcriptome sequencing. Biology Letters 9: 20130044
  • Roth O, Klein V, Beemelmanns A, Scharsack JP,  Reusch TBH (2012). Male pregnancy and bi-parental immune priming. The American Naturalist 180: 802-814.
  • Lohbeck, KT, Riebesell U, Reusch TBH (2012) Adaptive evolution of a key phytoplankton species to ocean acidification. Nature Geoscience 5:346-351 [article]
  • Frommel AY, Maneja R, Lowe D, Malzahn AM, Geffen AJ, Folkvord A, Piatkowski U, Reusch TBH, Clemmesen C (2012) Severe tissue damage in Atlantic cod larvae under increasing ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change 2: 42-46
  • Franssen SU, Gu J, Bergmann N, Winters G, Klostermeyer UC, Rosenstiel P, Bornberg-Bauer E, Reusch TBH (2011) Transcriptomic resilience to global warming in the seagrass Zostera marina, a marine foundation species. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108:19276-19281
  • Reusch, TBH, A Ehlers, A Hämmerli, B Worm (2005) Ecosystem recovery after climatic extremes enhanced by genotypic diversity. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 102: 2826-2831
  • Wegner KM, Kalbe M, Kurtz J, Reusch TBH, Milinski M (2003) Parasite selection for immunogenetic optimality. Science 301: 1343.
  • Reusch TBH, Häberli MA, Aeschlimann PB, Milinski M (2001) Female sticklebacks count alleles in a strategy of sexual selection explaining MHC polymorphism. Nature 414: 300-302.

Career Stages

  • Research group leader Marine Evolutionary Ecology
  • since January 2012 Head of research division RD 3 - Marine Ecology
  • September 2008 full professor of marine ecology and chair of research unit Marine Evolutionary Ecology at IFM-GEOMAR, Kiel
  • 2005 Professorship in Plant Evolutionary Ecology at the Institute for Evolution & Biodiversity, University of Münster, Germany
  • 2002-2005 Heisenberg-fellow of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG at the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology (now Evolutionary Biology) Plön, Germany
  • 1999-2002 Research fellow at the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology, Plön, Germany
  • 1997-1999  Marie-Curie fellow at University of Groningen, The Netherlands
  • 1994-1997  German Academic Exchange Service and DFG stipend at Coastal Marine Institute San Diego, USA
  • 1994  Dr. of Sciences at Institute of Marine Science IFM Kiel