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Biological Sciences Profiles

Michael Childress

Associate Professor
Undergraduate Program Coordinator for Biological Sciences
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 4480 Marine Ecology
BIOL 4700 Behavioral Ecology
BIOL 4710 Behavioral Ecology Laboratory
BIOL 4940 Conservation of Marine Resources Creative Inquiry
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 field 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.

 Extension and Outreach

I am actively involved with state (SCDNR & CISA) and federal (USGS & NIDIS) scientists to develop better tools for forecasting the future impacts of climate change on marine resources. I have developed an individual-based population model of blue crabs that forecasts future crabs landings for the state of South Carolina. Integrating this model with coastal drought indices will help us to forecast how drought is likely to impact future commercial fisheries landings.


Smith, K.M. et al. 2018. Influences of ontogenetic phase and resource availability on parrotfish foraging preferences in the Florida Keys, FL (USA). Marine Ecology Progress Series 603: 175–187 DOI 10.3354/meps12718
Baeza, J.A. et al. 2018. Microhabitat chemical sensing 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 DOI 10.5343/bms.2017.1132
Baeza, J.A. et al. 2016. BMC Zoology DOI 10.1186/s40850-016-0006-6
Childress, M.J. et al. 2015. Are juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters becoming less social? ICES Journal of Marine Science DOI 10.1093/icesjms/fsv045
Heldt, K.A. et al. 2015. Behavioral response to habitat loss in spiny lobsters. Marine Ecology Progress Series 521:117-128.
Moody, K.N. et al. 2015. Local adaptation despite high gene flow in a waterfall-climbing Hawaiian goby, Sicyopterus stimpsoni. Molecular Ecology 24:545-563.
Childress, M.J. 2014. Going with the flow: Forecasting the impact of climate change on blue crabs. Proceedings of the 2014 South Carolina Water Resources Conference.
Parmenter et al. 2013. Seasonal prevalence of Hematodinium sp. infections of blue crabs in three South Carolina (USA) rivers. Estuaries and Coasts 36(1):174-191.
Childress, M.J. and K.J. Parmenter. 2012. Dying of thirst: Impact of reduced freshwater inflow on South Carolina blue crabs. Proceedings of the 2012 South Carolina Water Resources Conference.
Seda, J.B. et al. 2012. Individual variation in male size and behavioral repertoire in the sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna. Ethology 118:411–421
Ptacek, M.B. et al. 2011. Phylogenetic evidence for the gain and loss of a sexually selected trait in sailfin mollies. IRSN Zoology. doi:10.5402/2011/251925
Childress, M.J. 2010. Modeling the impact of drought on South Carolina blue crabs using a spatially-explicit individual-based population model. Proceedings of the 2010 South Carolina Water Resources Conference.
Zito-Livingston, A.N. and M.J. Childress. 2009. Does conspecific density influence the settlement of Caribbean spiny lobster postlarvae? NZ Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 43:313-325.
Silbiger, N.J. and M.J. Childress. 2008. Interspecific variation in anemone shrimp distribution and host selection in the Florida Keys (USA): implications for marine conservation. Bulletin of Marine Science 83:329-345.


Childress Lab Home Page
Childress Field Research Blog
Conservation of Marine Resources Blog