Dr. Marlene Wall

Principle Investigator of the Research Group Coral Adapations to Extremes

Research Division: Marine Ecology
Research Unit: Experimental Ecology

Raum: 1.407
Tel.: +49 431 600-4084
E-Mail: mwall(at)geomar.de  

GEOMAR | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel
Wischhofstr. 1-3
24148 Kiel

ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2885-1301
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=ASd-_1wAAAAJ&hl=de
Working group webpage: under construction


Academic Appointments

2023 -          Groupleader Coral Adapation to Extremes within the research Unit Experimental Ecology

2022 - 2023 Principle Investigator, GEOMAR: ReefCPTrace - Reef-scale climate protection – screening coral skeletal records for proxy traces of natural bleaching mitigation by internal waves, funded by DFG Priority Programme (SPP 2299/Project number 441832482) Tropical Climate Variability and Coral Reefs, 468679988

2020 - 2023 Research Scientist, AWI; DACCOR - Deciphering the Antarctic Cold-water Coral Record Calcification, AWI strategy fund principle investigator

2019 - 2020 Research Scientist, GEOMAR: Can we breed heat resistant corals for reef restoration?, funded by the VW-Stiftung Experiment

2016 - 2019 Research Scientist, GEOMAR: Exploring functional interfaces: extreme biogenic fluctuations may amplify or buffer environmental stress on organisms associated with marine macrophytes, funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG), SA 2791/3-1

09/16 - 03/17 Maternity leave

2016-2017: Principal investigator of the Future Ocean Cluster Proposal: Can assisted evolution help protect heat-wave damaged coral reefs?

2015-2016: FWF-Schrödinger Post-doctoral fellow between: GEOMAR, MPI, Bremen and University of Vienna, Austria; pH up-regulation in tropical corals: a key mechanism? Implications for the future and the past

2012-2015: Post-doctoral scientist, GEOMAR, within the BMBF “Verbundprojekt” BIOACID (Biological Impact of Ocean Acidification, www.bioacid.de) - Consortium 3: Natural CO2 rich reefs - Workpackage 3.5: Structural and chemical changes on the biogenic carbonates under naturally occurring exposure to high pCO2


2012 PhD in Marine Biology University of Bremen and Alfred-Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
2008 MSc in Ecology University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria

Current research focus

My current research focuses on the role of natural environmental variability and how it can provide refugia under environmental stress conditions, protects organisms from severe damage and renders them more resilient to future climate changes. 

I address this by studying coral reefs in the Andaman Sea where large amplitude internal waves protected corals during a severe bleaching event (e.g. Wall et al. 2015, ProcRoySocB, Schmidt, Wall, et al 2016, Coral Reefs) and rendered them resilient to thermal stress (Buerger, Schmidt, Wall, et al. 2016, JEMBE). The aim is to evaluate the potentials of incorporating this understanding as well as adapted coral populations into current reef restoration efforts. 

The overall aim is to better characterize natural environmental fluctuations, understand how they affect and change the organisms’ stress response and whether it can train them for climate change. For improved ecosystem management in times of climate change, it is essential to understand organisms’ physiological acclimation capabilities, the potential to adapt as well as identify natural locations that provide refugia. Altogether will shape future biodiversity. We also need to adapt this understanding to different local environmental conditions and incorporate it in current ecosystem restoration activities.

Research approaches and Expeditions

I take advantage of natural marginal conditions (eg. exposure to LAIW, natural pCO2 gradients) and use them as natural laboratories to investigate physiological and ecological changes. I study environmental fluctuations from the microscale within an organisms' diffusive boundary layer using microsensors to the macroscale by environmental monitoring probes and devices (WTW probes, CTD, ADCP, etc), combine it with ecophysiological investigations as well as evaluation of ecosystem conditions. I also work interdisciplinary and apply geochemical tools to decipher physiological adjustments under present day environmental conditions but also to deduce physiological acclimations throughout their past.

Cold-water coral expedition to Huinay, Chile, 2021, 2022  in cooperation with Fundacion San Ignacio del Huinay, Chile, lead-scientist: Dr. Marlene Wall 

Tropical coral reef ecology - Expeditions to Andaman Sea off-shore islands, Thailand, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2016, 2011, 2010, 2009 in cooperation with the Phuket Marine Biological Center, Thailand, changing lead-scientists: Dr. Marlene Wall, Dr. Getraud Schmidt, Dr. Anna Roik, Prof. Claudio Richter

Coral physiological adaptations and mechanisms - Experimental work at the National Sea Simulator, 2015 in cooperation with Australian Institute of Marine Science Townsville, Australia, Alfred-Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany, Max-Planck Institute, Bremen, Germany, lead-scientist: Dr. Dirk de Beer

Coral reefs windows into the future - Expeditions to Normanby Islands, Papua New Guinea, 2014 & 2013 in cooperation with Australian Institute of Marine Science Townsville, Australia, Alfred-Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany, University of Bremen, Germany, Max-Planck Institute, Bremen, Germany, lead-scientists: Dr. Katharina Fabricius and Dr. Dirk de Beer 

Cold-water coral ecology pilot studies and European Scientific Diving Training in Huinay, Chile, 2009 in cooperation with Fundacion San Ignacio del Huinay, Chile, lead-scientist: Prof. Claudio Richter

Coral associated fishes in the future - Expedition to Dahab, Egypt, 2007 in cooperation with Red Sea Center, Egypt, lead-scientist: Dr. Jürgen Herler

Selected Publications

Wall M, Doering T, Pohl N, Putchim L, Ratanawongwan T, Roik A (pre-print) Natural thermal stress- hardening of corals through cold temperature pulses in the Thai Andaman Sea. bioRxiv: doi.org/10.1101/2023.06.12.544549

Roik A*, Wall M*, Dobelmann M, Nietzer S, Brefeld D, Fiesinger A, Reverter M, Schupp PJ, Jackson M, Rutsch M, Strahl J (pre-print) Trade-offs in a reef-building coral after six years of thermal acclimation. bioRxiv: doi.org/10.1101/2023.07.20.549699

Wall M, Beck KK, Garcia-Herrera N, Schmidt-Grieb GM, Laudien J, Höfer J, Försterra G, Held C, Nehrke G, Woll M, Graeve M, Richter C (2024) Lipid biomarker reveal trophic relationships and energetic trade-offs in contrasting phenotypes of the cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus in Comau Fjord, Chile. Functional Ecology, 38 (1), 126-142.

Fiesinger A, Held C, Melzner F, Putchim L, Reusch TBH, Schmidt AL, Wall M (2023) Population genetic differentiation of the ubiquitous brooding coral Pocillopora acuta along Phuket Island reefs in the Andaman Sea, Thailand. BMC Ecology and Evolution, 23 (1), 42.

Beck KK, Schmidt-Grieb GM, Laudien J, Försterra G, Häussermann V, González HE, Espinoza JP, Richter C & Wall M (2022). Environmental stability and phenotypic plasticity benefit the cold-water coral Desmophyllum dianthus in an acidified fjord. Communications Biology, 5(1), 683.

Fietzke J, & Wall M (2022). Distinct fine-scale variations in calcification control revealed by high- resolution 2D boron laser images in the cold-water coral Lophelia pertusa. Science Advances, 8, eabj4172.

Doering T, Wall M, Putchim L, Ratanawongwan T, Schroeder R, Hentschel U, Roik A (2021) Microbiome transplantation between corals mitigates the bleaching response of heat-sensitive individuals. Microbiome, 9, 102, doi: 10.1186/s40168-021-01053-6.

Franke A, Blenckner T, Duarte CM, Ott K, Fleming LE, Antia A, Reusch TBH, Bertram C, Hein J, Kronfeld-Goharani U, Dierking J, Kuhn A, Sato C, Van Doorn E, Wall M, Schartau M, Karez R, Crowder L, Keller D, Engel A, Hentschel U, Prigge E (2020) Operationalizing Ocean Health : Toward Integrated Research on Ocean Health and Recovery to Achieve Ocean Sustainability. OneEarth, doi.org/10.1016/j.oneear.2020.05.013.

Wall M, Crook ED, Fietzke J, Paytan A (2019) Using B isotopes and B/Ca in corals from low saturation springs to constrain calcification mechanisms. Nature Communication, doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-11519-9.

Wall M, Putchim L, Schmidt GM, Jantzen C, Phongsuwan N, Khokiattiwong S, Richter C (2015) Large-amplitude internal waves benefit corals during heat stress. Proceedings of the Royal Society - Biological Sciences, 282: 20-28.

*shared first/last authorship

Public Outreach

NDR Interview DAS! 2022 – Interview based on the Science Advances publication Fietzke & Wall (2022) and visualization of coral calcification. 

Bayrischer Rundfunk 2022 – Interview for the series “Tipping elements in the climate system – Coral reefs”.

Geomar Open Day 2019 - Public presentation on "Coral reefs in a changing climate - endangered ecosystem engineers".

CineMare Int'l Ocean Film Festival Kiel 2018 - Invited guest after the movie screening "Wonders of the Sea" from Jean-Michel Cousteau for schools to discuss with the pupils about the conditions and futures of marine ecosystems.

CineMare Int'l Ocean Film Festival Kiel 2017 - Invited guest after the movie screening "Chasing Coral" from Jeff Orlowski to discuss the film, coral reef research and the future of coral reefs

Kieler Woche 2018 public presentation in course of the "Third International Year of the Reef - IYOR2018" - Titel: Korallenriffe im Klimawandel: Bedrohte Baumeister der Meere


Using microsensors to study animal physiology and diffusive boundary layer characteristics:

Experimental approaches