Coral Health & Disease

Dr. Sara Williams

Dr. Sara Williams

Staff Scientist

Dr. Williams first worked at Mote back in 2012 as a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates intern, but officially joined the Mote team as a Postdoctoral Researcher in October 2020. She completed her Ph.D. at Northeastern University in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology in September 2020. For her dissertation research, Dr. Williams used network science and modeling combined with fieldwork and physiological experiments to attack problems facing coral reefs from multiple angles. She studies the connections among polyps in a coral colony, the associations of coral species and their symbiotic algae and bacteria, and the spread of coral diseases - all under the lens of global climate change. At Mote, Dr. Williams uses innovative modeling and statistical analyses to study coral health and disease dynamics while advancing our understanding of coral reef resilience.


Ph.D. in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology; Northeastern University, 2020.

B.S. in Physics (Honors) with a minor in Biology; College of William and Mary, January 2014.


Williams SD, Klinges JG, Zinman S, Clark AS, Bartels E, Villoch Diaz Maurino M, and Muller EM. (2022). Geographically driven differences in microbiomes of Acropora cervicornis originating from different regions of Florida’s Coral Reef. PeerJ.

Anshuman Swain, Sara D. Williams, Louisa J. Di Felice, and Elizabeth A. Hobson. (2022). Interactions and information: exploring task allocation in ant colonies using network analysis. Animal Behaviour.

Dobbelaere, T., Holstein, D.M., Muller, E.M., Gramer, L.J., McEachron, L., Williams, S.D., and Hanert, E. (2022). Connecting the dots: Transmission of stony coral tissue loss disease from the Marquesas to the Dry Tortugas. Frontiers in Marine Science.

Clark, A.S., Williams, S.D., Maxwell, K., Rosales, S.M., Huebner, L.K., Landsberg, J.H., Hunt, J.H., and Muller, E.M. (2021). Characterization of the Microbiome of Corals with Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease along Florida's Coral Reef. Microorganisms.

Williams, S.D., Walter, C.S., and Muller, E.M. (2021). Fine scale temporal and spatial dynamics of the stony coral tissue loss disease outbreak within the lower Florida Keys. Frontiers in Marine Science.

Williams, S.D. and Patterson M.R. (2020). Resistance and robustness of the global coral-symbiont network. Ecology.

Williams, S.D. and Patterson M.R. (in Prep). Time scales of mixing in an imperforate scleractinian coelenteron. BioRxiv.

Awards & Honors

2015-2020: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

2017: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Short Term Fellowship.

2012: National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates internship at Mote Marine Laboratory.