Simon Davy

Prof Simon Davy profile picture

Dean of Science School of Biological Sciences


Teaching in 2020

Personal Bio

PhD University of Wales, Bangor I BSc (Hons) University of Wales, Bangor

I am a marine biologist with a long held interest in everything related to natural history.

This interest developed at an early age, while I was growing up in the north of England, and led to me studying for a BSc (Honours) degree in Zoology with Marine Zoology at the University of Wales, Bangor. I then remained in Bangor to study for a PhD in Marine Biology, when I first became interested in symbiosis.

In particular, I focused on the cell biology and physiology of sea anemone-algal symbioses around the British coast, and to this day I retain a strong interest in these temperate symbioses and how they compare to their tropical counterparts.

Upon completion of my PhD in 1994, I held two postdoctoral fellowships, firstly in the lab of Prof. Clay Cook at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Florida, and secondly in the lab of Dr. Rosalind Hinde at the University of Sydney in Australia.

During this time my work became much more tropical in nature, and included fieldwork in the Florida Keys and on the Great Barrier Reef (where I worked on an unusual sponge-macroalgal symbiosis). I then returned to the UK in 1999 to take up a lectureship at the University of Plymouth, which is where I first began to work on coral viruses and coral disease, alongside my old friend, marine virologist Prof. Willie Wilson. Together, we were the first researchers to report that viruses could play a significant role in coral health and the breakdown of the coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis.

After a brief stint at the Marine Biological Association of the UK (also in Plymouth) I then moved to New Zealand in 2003 to take up my present position. I have continued my interests in the cell biology and physiology of cnidarian-algal symbioses and coral reef ecology, with opportunities for me and my students to work at field sites across the Pacific Ocean, such as the Great Barrier Reef, Lord Howe Island, Palmyra Atoll and Hawaii. Much of my work, however, utilises a tropical sea anemone (Aiptasia) as a laboratory model for the coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis – along with colleagues in the US, I played a key role in the adoption of Aiptasia as a global model for coral reef research. My research group is now one of the largest and most productive of its type in the world.

I am currently the President of the International Symbiosis Society, the leading professional society in this discipline, and occupy positions on the editorial boards of several international journals, including Coral Reefs, Frontiers in Microbiology, and Symbiosis.

Research Interests

My main research interests are coral reef biology and marine symbiosis. I am especially interested in the symbiosis between cnidarians (corals, sea anemones) and dinoflagellate algae, though also have a strong interest in coral disease and role played by viruses. Specific areas of interest are:

(1) The cell biology of cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis, including mechanisms of symbiosis establishment, persistence and breakdown;

(2) Coral bleaching physiology and the adaptability of corals to climate change;

(3) Coral disease and coral reef virology.

Further to these main areas of interest, I also work closely with my colleague Associate Professor James Bell on sponge ecology and symbiosis.

Visit the Marine Symbiosis and Coral Reef Biology research group


Sheppard, C.R.C., Davy, S.K. & Pilling, G. & Graham, N. (2017 – in press) The Biology of Coral Reefs (2nd Edition). Oxford University Press.

Neubauer, E.F., Poole, A.Z., Detournay, O., Davy, S.K. & Weis, V.M. (2017) Characterization of the TSR protein repertoire in six anthozoan species and their potential role in promoting host colonization at the onset of cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis. eLife 6: e24494

Hillyer, K.E., Dias, D.A., Lutz, A., Roessner, U. & Davy, S.K. (2017) Mapping carbon fate during bleaching in a model symbiosis: the application of 13C metabolomics. New Phytologist214: 1551-1562.

Lawrence, S.A., Floge, S., Davy, S.K. & Wilson, W.H. (2017) Exploratory analysis of Symbiodinium transcriptomes reveals potential latent infection by large dsDNA viruses. Environmental Microbiology. DOI: ;10.1111/1462-2920.13782.

Oakley, C.A., Ameismeier, M., Peng, L., Weis, V.M., Grossman, A.R. & Davy, S.K. (2016) Symbiosis induces widespread changes in the proteome of the model cnidarian Aiptasia. Cellular Microbiology 18: 1009-1023.

Davy, S.K., Allemand, D. & Weis, V.M. (2012) Cell biology of cnidarian-dinoflagellate symbiosis. Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 76(2): 229-261.

View more publications at Researchgate


Teaching in 2020