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Clemson University
college of agriculture, forestry and life sciences clemson university

Michael Childress

Associate Professor
Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department, Biological Sciences Department

Office: 105 Jordan Hall
Phone: 864-985-2384

Personal Website:


Educational Background

PhD Biological Sciences
Florida State University 1995

MA Zoology
University of California at Berkeley 1990

BS Biology/Marine Science
University of Tampa 1987

Courses Taught

BIOL 1010 Frontiers in Biology
BIOL 3940 Something Very Fishy Creative Inquiry
BIOL 4480 Marine Ecology
BIOL 4700 Behavioral Ecology
BIOL 4710 Behavioral Ecology Laboratory
BIOL 4940 Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry
BIOL 8100 Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology
BIOL 8400 Understanding Biological Inquiry


I am an evolutionary behavioral ecologist studying the impact of climate change and behavioral adaptations in marine animals. My teaching and research focuses on understanding the impact of habitat loss on the conservation of marine communities. I enjoy training graduate students, undergraduate students and teachers in the methods of experimental marine ecology.

Research Interests

Shallow water marine communities are one of the most threatened ecosystems on the planet. Changes in water quality due to nutrient runoff, freshwater diversion, ocean acidification and global warming are having major impacts on the structure and function of these important communities and the fisheries they support. My research focuses on studying the impact of habitat loss and drought on blue crabs, lobsters and reef fishes along the southeastern US. Through a combination of field surveys, manipulative experiments, laboratory behavioral observations and individual-based modeling our research attempts to build models that can accurately forecast the response of these species to future changes in climate and habitat quality. Behavioral adaptations may be the most important attributes for resilience to habitat loss so more work is needed to understand how behavioral resilience is generated and maintained in these species.

Lab Members

Tokea Payton, PhD student

Extension and Outreach

We have created an elementary school marine science STEAM program called Something Very Fishy. It combines a musical theatre puppet show with a hands-on science exhibit to teach kids about climate change and the impacts on our ocean life. Clemson creative inquiry students design and man these exhibits during a post-performance imaginary field trip through the Florida Keys where the kids explore mangroves, seagrass and coral reefs, transplant corals to the reef, dive to the Aquarius underwater habitat, and help identify live marine invertebrates. Through this program children grades K-5 learn about being a responsible steward for our oceans and how they can make a difference in saving our planet.


+ Titus, K., L. O'Connell, K. Matthee, M.J. Childress. 2022. The influence of foureye butterflyfish (Chaetodon capistratus) and Symbiodiniacae on the transmission of stony coral tissue loss disease. Frontiers in Marine Science DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2022.800423
+ Noonan, K., T. Fair, K. Matthee, K. Sox, K. Smith and M.J. Childress. 2021. Reef fish associations with natural and artificial structures in the Florida Keys. Oceans 2(3) DOI: 10.3390/oceans2030036
+ Sims, R.J., M. Tallapragada, T.G. Payton, K.R. Noonan, K.L. Prosser, and M.J. Childress. 2021. University experiences of marine science research and outreach beyond the classroom. Integrative and Comparative Biology DOI:10.1093/icb/icab104
+ Tallapragada, M., K.L. Prosser, K.F. Braffitt, K.E. Bridgeford, E.C. Gleaton, M.G. Saverance, K.R. Noonan, T.G. Payton, R.J. Sims, K.M. Smith, and M.J. Childress. 2021. Something Very Fishy: An informal STEAM project making a case for ocean conservation and climate change. Environmental Communication DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2021.1913208
+ Noonan, K.R. and M.J. Childress. 2020. Association of butterflyfishes and stony coral tissue loss disease in the Florida Keys. Coral Reefs. DOI: 10.1007/s00338-020-01986-8
+ Smith, K.M., T.G. Payton, R.J. Sims, C.S. Stroud, R.C. Jeanes, T.B. Hyatt, and M.J. Childress. 2019. Impacts of consecutive bleaching events on transplanted coral colonies in the Florida Keys. Coral Reefs. DOI: 10.1007/s00338-019-01823-7
+ Moody, K.N., J.L.K. Wren, D.R. Kobayashi, M.J. Blum, M.B. Ptacek, R.W. Blob, R.J. Toonen, H.L. Schoenfuss and M.J. Childress. 2019. Evidence of local adaptation in a waterfall climbing Hawaiian goby fish derived from coupled biophysical modeling of larval dispersal and post-settlement selection. BMC Evolutionary Biology DOI: 10.1186/s12862-019-1413-4
+ Smith, K.M., B.E. Quirk-Royal, K. Drake-Lavelle and M.J. Childress. 2018. Influence of ontogenetic phase and resource availability on parrotfish foraging preferences in the Florida Keys (USA). Marine Ecology Progress Series Vol. 603: 175–187. DOI: 10.3354/meps12718
+ Baeza, J.A., M.J. Childress and L.J. Ambrosio. 2018. Chemical sensing of microhabitat by pueruli of the reef-dwelling Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus: testing the importance of red algae, juveniles, and their interactive effect. Bulletin of Marine Science 94(3): 603-618. DOI: 10.5343/bms.2017.1132
+ Baeza, J.A., L. Simpson, L.J. Ambrosio, N. Mora, R. Guéron, and M.J. Childress. 2016. Active parental care, reproductive performance, and a novel egg predator affecting reproductive investment in the Caribbean spiny lobster Panulirus argus. BMC Zoology DOI: 10.1186/s40850-016-0006-6
+ Childress, M.J., K.A. Heldt and S.D. Miller. 2015. Are juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters (Panulirus argus) becoming less social? ICES Journal of Marine Science 72 (suppl 1): i164-i169 DOI:10.1093/icesjms/fsv045
+ Heldt, K.M., W.C. Bridges, Jr. and M.J. Childress. 2015. Behavioral responses to habitat loss in juvenile lobsters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 521:117-128. DOI: 10.3354/meps11125
+ Moody, K.N., S.N. Hunter, M.J. Childress, R.W. Blob, H.L. Schoenfuss, M.J. Blum and M.B. Ptacek. 2015. Local adaptation despite high gene flow in the waterfall-climbing Hawaiian goby, Sicypoterus stimpsoni. Molecular Ecology 24:545-563. DOI: 10.1111/mec.13016
+ Parmenter, K.J., P.A. Vigueira, C.K. Morlok, J.A. Micklewright, K.M. Smith, K.S. Paul and M.J. Childress. 2013. Seasonal prevalence of Hematodinium sp. infections of blue crabs in three South Carolina (USA) rivers. Estuaries and Coasts 36:174–191.


Childress Lab Home Page
Childress Lab Coral Reef Research
Childress Lab Marine Biology Outreach
Conservation of Marine Resources CI Blog
Something Very Fishy Online
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