Staff profile

Dr Michael Sweet

Professor in Molecular Ecology

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 travelling 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 130 research articles in peer-reviewed journals in the past 10 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 five PhD students and supervise numerous undergraduate research projects in their final year of study.

Teaching responsibilities

I teach a wide range of modules throughout years four, five, six and seven, including; Evolution of Life, Molecular Biology, Invertebrates, Rainforests, Deserts and Oceans, Habitat Management, Tropical Marine Biology, and Independent Studies. I also supervise students on their 3rd year Independent Research projects, Masters projects and PhDs.

Professional interests

Current Roles, Responsibilities & Skills

Research interests

My research interests are broad and our group work on genomics, metabolomics, 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 the spread of disease (particularly probiotics). My main research focus is coral biology and the use of eDNA to describe the distribution and spread of rare, endangered or invasive species in freshwater ecosystems (see recent publications). 

Current PhD Students

Previous PhD Students

Past MRes Students

Previous Post Doctorate Research Associates

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

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 on 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

I regularly appear on local and national radio and our research has often appeared in the likes of New Scientist, LA Times, Science Now, and Scientific America, to name a few. As an example please see the Guardians article on our research entitled 'Why Corals Catch Colds'. 

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

Fish at 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.   

For my most recent research, take a look at my ResearchGate profile.

Troth, C. R., Sweet, M. J., Nightingale, J., & Burian, A. (2021). Seasonality, DNA degradation and spatial heterogeneity as drivers of eDNA detection dynamics. Science of The Total Environment, 144466.

Troth, C. R., Burian, A., Mauvisseau, Q., Bulling, M., Nightingale, J., Mauvisseau, C., & Sweet, M. J. (2020). Development and application of eDNA-based tools for the conservation of white-clawed crayfish. Science of The Total Environment748, 141394.

Mauvisseau, Q., Kalogianni, E., Zimmerman, B., Bulling, M., Brys, R., & Sweet, M. (2020). eDNA‐based monitoring: Advancement in management and conservation of critically endangered killifish species. Environmental DNA2(4), 601-613.

Brys, R., Halfmaerten, D., Neyrinck, S., Mauvisseau, Q., Auwerx, J., Sweet, M., & Mergeay, J. (2020). Reliable eDNA detection and quantification of the European weather loach (Misgurnus fossilis). Journal of fish biology.

Mauvisseau, Q., Tönges, S., Andriantsoa, R., Lyko, F., & Sweet, M. (2019). Early detection of an emerging invasive species: eDNA monitoring of a parthenogenetic crayfish in freshwater systems. Management of Biological Invasions10(3), 461.

Mauvisseau, Q., Troth, C., Young, E., Burian, A., & Sweet, M. (2019). The development of an eDNA based detection method for the invasive shrimp Dikerogammarus haemobaphes. Management of Biological Invasions10(3), 449.

Mauvisseau, Q., Davy-Bowker, J., Bulling, M., Brys, R., Neyrinck, S., Troth, C., & Sweet, M. (2019). Combining ddPCR and environmental DNA to improve detection capabilities of a critically endangered freshwater invertebrate. Scientific reports9(1), 1-9.

Mauvisseau, Q., Burian, A., Gibson, C., Brys, R., Ramsey, A., & Sweet, M. (2019). Influence of accuracy, repeatability and detection probability in the reliability of species-specific eDNA based approaches. Scientific reports9(1), 1-10.

Peixoto, R. S., Sweet, M., Villela, H. D., Cardoso, P., Thomas, T., Voolstra, C. R., & Bourne, D. G. (2020). Coral Probiotics: Premise, Promise, Prospects. Annual review of animal biosciences9.

Duarte, G. A., Villela, H. D., Deocleciano, M., Silva, D., Barno, A., Cardoso, P. M., Sweet, M., & Peixoto, R. S. (2020). Heat waves are a major threat to turbid coral reefs in Brazil. Frontiers in Marine Science7, 179.

Stelfox, M., Burian, A., Shanker, K., Rees, A. F., Jean, C., Willson, M. S., & Sweet, M. (2020). Tracing the origin of olive ridley turtles entangled in ghost nets in the Maldives: A phylogeographic assessment of populations at risk. Biological Conservation245, 108499.

Stelfox, M., Lett, C., Reid, G., Souch, G., & Sweet, M. (2020). Minimum drift times infer trajectories of ghost nets found in the Maldives. Marine pollution bulletin154, 111037.

Peixoto, R. S., Sweet, M., & Bourne, D. G. (2019). Customized medicine for corals. Frontiers in Marine Science6, 686.

Craggs, J., Guest, J., Bulling, M., & Sweet, M. (2019). Ex situ co culturing of the sea urchin, Mespilia globulus and the coral Acropora millepora enhances early post-settlement survivorship. Scientific reports9(1), 1-12.

Stelfox, M., Bulling, M., & Sweet, M. (2019). Untangling the origin of ghost gear within the Maldivian archipelago and its impact on olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) populations. Endangered Species Research40, 309-320.

Sweet, M., Burian, A., Fifer, J., Bulling, M., Elliott, D., & Raymundo, L. (2019). Compositional homogeneity in the pathobiome of a new, slow-spreading coral disease. Microbiome7(1), 1-14.

Sweet, M. J., & Bulling, M. T. (2017). On the importance of the microbiome and pathobiome in coral health and disease. Frontiers in Marine Science4, 9.

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