Staff profile

Dr Michael Sweet

Associate Professor in Aquatic Biology

Dr Michael Sweet out on a field trip


Biology and Zoology


College of Science and Engineering


School of Built and Natural Environment

Research centre

Environmental Sustainability Research Centre




Kedleston Road, Derby Campus



I am an academic at the University of Derby where I have been employed since 2013. My prior academic career was at Newcastle University, where I was awarded both my degree and my doctorate. Between my degree and my PhD, I spent just short of four years traveling around the world as a research assistant for numerous scientific projects. These included biodiversity index surveys in the Philippines and Malaysia, radio tracking Sumatran rhinos in Borneo, rehabilitation and management of the endangered black robin in the Chatham Islands, New Zealand and being a game ranger in mainland Africa and Madagascar.

Since completing my PhD, I have published over 60 research articles in peer reviewed journals in the past 7 years. Currently, in addition to my teaching responsibilities at the University, I am the manager of the Aquatic Research Facility which was funded through my partnership with SeaLife.

I have a strong passion for the importance of public engagement in science as evidenced through my various engagements with schools and public groups at science outreach events. I always aim to regularly disseminate my research findings and conduct this through invitations to academic conferences and specialist seminars.

To date, I have won numerous awards including the Charles Darwin Award lecture from the British Science Association and staff excellence awards at the University of Derby.

I am currently the director of studies for eight PhD students and two masters, and supervise numerous undergraduate research projects in their final year of study.

We also have three Post Doctorate Research Associates working within our group.  

Teaching responsibilities

I am currently teaching on a wide range of modules throughout years 4,5,6 and 7. Modules include; Evolution of Life, Ecosystems, Molecular Biology, Rainforests, Deserts and Oceans, Habitat Management, Tropical Marine Biology, Biology in Practice and Ecological Consultancy. I also supervise students on their 3rd year Independent Research projects, Masters projects and PhDs.

Professional interests

Current Roles, Responsibilities & Skills

Research interests

My Major Research Interests are in epidemiology, microbial interactions with hosts, the roles pathogens play in disease causation, immune responses of hosts to specific diseases and ways to manage or mitigate spread of disease. My main focus is marine biology, and in particular I focus on coral reefs and tropical oceans. I do, however, also work with nanoparticles and eDNA.

Current Post Doctorate Research Associates

Current PhD Students

Current MRes Students

Past MRes Students

PhD positions available in our group

Please enquire - only self funded PhDs are available at the moment.

Membership of professional bodies

I am a member of the Coral Aquarist Research Network (CARN), the Society of General Microbiology, the Society of Invertebrate Pathology and the International Society of Reef Studies.



Post-Doctorate Experience

Recent conferences

Oral Presentations at Professional Conferences

Poster Presentations at Professional Conferences

Invited Talks

Experience in industry

We offer a microbial analysis service to anyone interested in research or specific pathogen identification. Our particular focus at the moment is with the aquarium industry, zoos and aquariums. We also work on eDNA as a Molecular Consultant with Surescreen and a Marine Advisor for Brindle and Green Ecological Consultancy.

International experience

My work has taken me all over the world to conduct field based research, present lectures and attend or host workshops.

In the media

My research has received considerable press coverage.

In particular, articles on the discovery of skin cancer in wild fish were published in New Scientist, LA Time, Science Now, Scientific America, Nature Reviews Cancer to name a few. For a good summary of this work, see the funding bodies website -

My recent award lecture presented to the British Science Festival on 'Coral Reefs and the Grim Reaper' can be seen on 

and a recent pod cast with the Guardian on 'Why Corals Catch Colds' can be accessed by 

See also: and 

Bacterial suspects identified in Caribbean coral deaths; New Scientist

Also please follow me on twitter @DiseaseMatters for regular updates and interesting tweets about my work and related topics.

Recent publications

Robinson LA, Turner IJ, Sweet MJ 2018 The use of gamification in the teaching of disease epidemics and pandemics. FEMS Microbiology Letters 365 (11), fny111

Craggs J, Sweet MJ et al. 2018 Maintaining natural spawning timing in Acropora corals following long distance inter-continental transportation. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 6 (2)

Cook J, Sweet MJ et al. 2018 Topographic shading influences cryoconite morphodyanamics and carbon exchange. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research 50 (1), e1414463

Davy-Bowker L, Sweet MJ et al. 2018 Rediscovery of the critically endangered 'scarce yellow sally stonefly' Isogenus nubecula in the UK after a 22 year period of abscence. Zootaxa 4394 (2), 295-300

Blockley A, Sweet MJ et al. 2017 Symbiotic microbes from marine invertebrates: driving a new era of natural product drug discovery. Diversity 9 (4) 

Grimsditch G, Sweet MJ et al. 2017 Variation in size frequency distribution of coral populations under different fishing pressures in two contrasting locations in the Indian Ocean. Marine Environmental Research 131, 146-155

Johan O, Budianto A, Sweet MJ 2017 'Yellow Syndrome' in scleractinian corals throughout Bintain District, Kepulauan Riau Province, Indonesia. Indonesia Aquaculture Journal 12(1) 37-42

Craggs J, Sweet MJ et al. 2017 Inducing broadcast coral spawning ex -situ: closed system mesocosm design and husbandry protocol. Ecology and Evolutions DOI:10.1002/ece3.3538

Moritz C, Sweet MJ et al. 2017 The "resort effect": Can tourist islands act as refuges for coral reef species? Biodiversity Research DOI:10.1111/ddi.12627

Rowe G, Sweet MJ, Beebee T 2017 An introduction to Molecular Ecology. Oxford University Press

Pisapia C, Sweet MJ et al. 2017 Baseline assessment of coral reefs on North Ari Atoll, Maldives. IUCN Technical Report

Sweet MJ et al. 2017 Designer reefs and coral probiotics: great concepts but are they good practice? Biodiversity 1-4

Sweet MJ et al. 2017 Evidence for rapid, tide related shifts in the microbiome of the coral Coelastrea aspera. Coral Reefs

Sweet MJ, Bulling M 2017 On the importance of the microbiome and pathobiome in coral health and disease. Frontiers in Marine Sciences 

Sweet MJ, Bythell JC 2016 The role of viruses in coral health and disease. Journal of Invertebrate Biology

Sweet MJ,Brown B 2016Coral responses to anthropogenic stress in the twenty-first century: an ecophysiological perspective. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 54: 271-314

Ponti, M, Sweet MJ et al. 2016 Baseline reef health surveys at Bangka Island (North Sulawesi, Indonesia) reveal new threats. PEERJ e2614

Lerebours, A, Sweet MJ et al. 2016 Molecular changes in skin pigmented lesions of the coral trout Plectropomus leopardus. Marine Environmental Research 120: 130-135.

Stelfox M, Sweet MJ et al. 2016 A review of ghost gear entanglement amongst marine mammals, reptiles and elasmobranchs. Marine Pollution Bulletin doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.06.034

Cook J, Sweet MJ et al. 2016 Metabolome-mediated biocryomorphic evolution promotes carbon fixation in Greenlandic cryoconite holes. Environmental Microbiology doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13349

Sweet MJ et al. 2016 New disease outbreak affects two dominant sea urchin species associated with Australian temperate reefs. Marine Ecological Progress Series 551 doi: 10.3354/meps11750

Johan O, Sweet MJ et al. 2016 Prevalence and Incidence of Black Band Disease of Scleractinian Corals in the Kepulauan Seribu Region of Indonesia. Diversity 8, 11.

Sweet MJ, et al. 2016 Juvenile “black teatfish” in Maldives. SPC Beche-de-mer Information Bulletin #36

Chandler JF, Sweet MJ, et al. 2016 Influence of Resource Availability on the Foraging Strategies of the Triangle Butterflyfish Chaetodon triangulum in the Maldives. PloS one: e0151923.

Croquer, A, Sweet MJ et al. 2016 Is Acropora palmata recovering? A case study in Los Roques National Park, Venezula. PEERJ, DOI 10.7717/peerj.1539

Williams AD, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Age-Related Shifts in Bacterial Diversity in a Reef Coral. PloS one, 10(12).

Miller J, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Baseline coral disease surveys within three marine parks in Sabah, Borneo. PeerJ, 3:e1391

Sweet MJ, Singleton I 2015 Soil contamination with silver nanoparticles reduces Bishop pine growth and ectomycorrhizal diversity on pine roots. Journal of Nanoparticle Research 14 (448)

Johan O, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 The distribution and abundance of black band disease and white syndrome in Kepulauan Seribu, Indonesia. HAYATI Journal of Biosciences.

Hind E, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Fostering effective international collaboration for marine science in small island states. Front. Mar. Sci. (2015

Pisapia C, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Geographically conserved rates of background mortality among common reef-building corals in Lhaviyani Atoll, Maldives versus northern Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Biology 162.8 (2015): 1579-1586.

Sere MG, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Identification of a bacterial pathogen associated with Porites white patch syndrome in the Western Indian Ocean. Molecular Ecology 24(17) 4570-4581

Sweet MJ, Bateman K 2015 Diseases in marine invertebrates associated with mariculture and commercial fisheries. Journal of Sea Research doi:10.1016/j.seares.2015.06.016

Sweet MJ, Sere M 2015 Ciliate Communities Consistently Associated with Coral Diseases. Journal of Sea Research doi:10.1016/j.seares.2015.06.008

Sweet MJ, Bythell JC 2015 White Syndrome in Acropora muricata: Non-specific bacterial infection and ciliate histophagy Molecular Ecology 24(5) 1150-1159

Smith D, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Microbial communities associated with healthy and white syndrome-affected Echinopora lamellose in aquaria and experimental treatment with the antibiotic ampicillin. PLoS one 10(3): e0121780

Sweet MJ, et al. 2015 A novel sponge disease caused by a consortium of micro-organisms. Coral Reefs 1-13

Brown BE, Sweet MJ et al. 2015 Decadal environmental ‘memory’ in a reef coral? Marine Biology DOI: 10.1007/s00227-014-2596-2

Johan, O, Sweet MJ et al. 2014 Microbial community of black band diseased Montipora sp. colonies at Seribu islands, Indonesia. Indonesian Aquaculture Journal 9(2), 1-11

Sweet MJ et al. 2014 Experimental antibiotic treatment identifies potential pathogens of white band disease in the endangered Caribbean coral Acropora cervicornis Proc Roy Soc B vol. 281 no. 1788 20140094

Smith D, Sweet MJ et al. 2014 A novel investigation of a blister-like syndrome in aquarium Echinopora lamellosa PLoS one 9(5), [e97018].

Sweet MJ et al. 2013 Algae as reservoirs for coral pathogens. PLOS One 8(7): e69717

Scriven L, Sweet MJ, Port G 2013 Flower Density Is More Important Than Habitat Type for Increasing Flower Visiting Insect Diversity. International Journal of Ecology

Sweet MJ et al. 2013 Assessment of the microbial communities associated with ‘White Syndrome’ in Aquarium corals. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research. 1(1) 20-27

Sweet MJ et al. 2013 Characterisation of the bacterial and fungal communities associated with different lesion sizes of Dark Spot Syndrome occurring in the coral Stephanocoenia intersepta. PLoS one 8(4): e62580

Sweet MJ 2013 Symbiodinium diversity within Acropora muricata micro-compartments and those available within the surrounding environment. Marine Ecology DOI: 10.1111/maec.12092

Sweet MJ et al. 2013 Changes in microbial diversity associated with two coral species recovering from a stressed state in a public aquarium system. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research. 1(2) 52- 60

Sheridan S, Sweet MJ, et al. 2013 Diseases in coral aquaculture: causes, implications and preventions. Aquaculture. 396-399: 124-135

Croquer A, Sweet MJ et al. 2012 Bacterial assemblage shifts from healthy to yellow band disease states in the dominant reef coral Montastraea faveolata. Environmental Microbiology Reports 5(1) 90-96

Sweet MJ et al. 2012 Microsatellites for microbiologists. In: Gadd, G, ed. Advances in Applied Microbiology: 81, 169-207

Sweet MJ et al. 2012 Metal based nanoparticles; size, function and areas for advancement in applied microbiology. In: Gadd, G, ed. Advances in Applied Microbiology: 80:113-142 - 22794146

Caven, D.J. Sweet, MJ et al. 2012 A comparative study of aggression and spatial differences between two populations of Pagurus bernhardus Journal of Young Investigators: 24(3), 1-13 (NA)

Sweet MJ et al. 2012 Evidence of melanoma in the coral trout Plectropomus leopardus in the Indo Pacific PLoS one: 7(8):e41989 

Sweet MJ, Bythell JC. 2012 Ciliate and bacterial communities associated with White Syndrome and Brown Band Disease in reef building corals Environmental Microbiology: 14(8):2184-99.

Sweet MJ, Singleton I. 2011 Silver Nanoparticles: A Microbial Perspective. In Advances in Applied Microbiology: Edition 1 chapter 5 ISBN: 978-0-12-3887044-5

Sweet MJ et al. 2011 Bacterial assemblages differ between compartments within the coral holobiont. Coral Reefs: 30(1), 39-52

Sweet MJ et al. 2011 Development of bacterial biofilms on artificial corals in comparison to surface-associated microbes of hard corals. PLoS one: 6(6), e21195

Sweet MJ et al. 2011 Dynamics of bacterial community development in the reef coral Acropora muricata following experimental antibiotic treatment. Coral Reefs: 30(4), 1121-1133

Sweet MJ etal. 2011 Coral diseases in aquaria and in nature. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK

Sweet MJ et al. 2010 Temporal and Spatial Patterns in Waterborne Bacterial Communities of an Island Reef System. Aquatic Microbial Ecology: 61(1), 1-11 

Blog Posts

Fish swimming through coral reef

With World Oceans Day today highlighting the issue of plastic pollution, Dr Michael Sweet, Associate Professor in Aquatic Biology at the University of Derby, looks at the impact plastic has on coral and other marine life.   

a diver swimming round a coral reef

Helping corals survive

Our Aquatic Research Facility is carrying out work with organisations across the globe to make coral reefs more resilient in the face of man-made afflictions such as pollution and climate change.

Find out more about our corals researchFind out more about our corals research