Christian Lott

Director Research and Science Communication

Christian has been involved in shallow-water research and media projects worldwide for more than 25 years. It started with a team of students doing field work in the Mediterranean Sea, helping each other in their theses projects. Linked to that Christian started filming under water, first for scientific observations, later for television productions. In 1995 he and his colleagues founded the HYDRA Institute for Marine Sciences with the Elba Field Station to combine shallow-water research with teaching and media work to what is now a well-received training program for several hundreds of students each year to learn more about the marine environment .

Christian is state-recognized diving instructor for SCUBA, instructor for semi-closed rebreathers and certified Advanced European Scientific Diver. He supervised and assisted over 100 underwater research projects and participated in scientific and media expeditions in all sorts of waters, from high-alpine lakes and streams, to cold-water environments as the North-Atlantic, Cape of good Hope, Cape Hoorn, North-Pacific Ocean, and Antarctica, but also through the tropics, from the Caribbean to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. He was member of the First Scientific Diving Expedition to the Dead Sea. Several of the over 50 documentaries for international television he contributed to were awarded at international festivals.

His main research is on gutless oligochaetes that became chemoautotrophic thanks to their intimate partnership with endosymbiotic bacteria.

Publications: see below

Research projects


Gutless oligochaetes: They have no mouth, no intestine, no anus, no nephridia. They live in shallow sandy bottoms in tropical and subtropical seas and they have a very strange way of living: underneath their skin they harbor up to 6 different species of bacteria that apparently assure nutrition as well as detoxification functions to their animal host.




This study investigates the endosymbiosis of Lucinid clams in the shallow waters of the Island of Elba, Italy. The picture a section of the gill of Loripes lucinalis stained with a fluorescent marker showing the symbiotic bacteria in the tissue.



This study investigates the effects of CO2 seepage on the microbial community structure and their functions. We study the substrates sediment, seagras and rock. The picture shows divers deploying sensors that measure e.g. CO2 and pH, and taking sediment samples.


Marine Plastic

This study investigates the biodegradation of plastic in the marine environment. We study various habitats, however we focus on sediment areas mainly at beaches, tidal zones, the infralittoral and the circalittoral. The picture shows a biodegradable plastic foil, which was buried in sediment for six months.


Sponge Mass Mortality

Massive spronge dying event in 2008 documented.

We noticed a massive sponge mortality event in 2008 along the Tuscan coast, Italy. Further investigations shall improve the understanding of the role of environmental factors triggering the events, and tissue samples will be analysed for the microbial communities. The picture shows a dead sponge (left) of the genus Ircinia covered with Beggiatoa-like bacteria, a typical post-mortality effect during the decay of the sponge tissue.



During this study we investigated two different sediment types: calcareous and siliceous sediments. The microbial production and degradation of organic material, and the meiofauna communities are our main focus. The pictures show corers for sampling meiofauna and sediment to measure sediment parameters, and the diver-operated microsensor system measuring oxygen profiles for the calculation of the photosynthetic production on the sediment surface.


In 2007 a couple of 7 m long Basking Sharks Cetorhinus maximus were trapped in fishing nets and died. We documented the degradation directly under water and under controlled conditions in the laboratory. The picture shows the male at 43 meters water depth.


"Processes At Gas Seeps" investigates a shallow water methane seep. The meiofauna, microbial acitivity as well as the geochemistry are documented in the field and under controlled conditions in the laboratory. The picture shows a gas seep at the site.


SynEff - Synergistic effects of sediment parameters on corals

During this study we investigated the synergistic effects of various sediment parameters on the photosynthetic yield of corals. We found that the grain size and the amount of organics are crucial for the survival of the covered coral. The picture shows sedimentation chambers used for studying the effects measured in mesocosm experiments in the field.


MASE - Microbial processes in sediments damaging corals

During this study we could show that coral damage by sedimentation is microbially mediated. The microbial processes in organic-rich sediments lead to anoxia, reduced pH, and then increasing toxic metabolites, so that the covered coral died within > 24 h. The picture shows a microsensor measuring oxygen in a thin sediment layer covering a coral in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.


DOMS - Diver Operated Microsensor System

For in situ experiments we developed a diver-operated microsensor system, which can be used in harsh weather conditions and doesn’t need a lot of time to put up. Nowadays we are able to measure oxygen, sulfide and pH with microsensors on any hard surface (e.g. corals or calcareous algae) and to position one ore two microsensors very precisely (e.g in the mouth of a coral polyp). Further development will be done the get the system fully motorised and to be used with any microsensor available. The research is led by the Max-Planck-Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen.





    Ruff S. E., Kuhfuss H., Wegener G., Lott C., Ramette A., Wiedling J., Knittel K., Weber M. (2016)
Methane Seep in Shallow-Water Permeable Sediment Harbors High Diversity of Anaerobic Methanotrophic Communities, Elba, Italy
Frontiers in Microbiology, 7:374. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.00374

    Kleiner, M., Wentrup, C., Holler, T., Lavik, G., Harder, J., Lott, C., Littmann, S., Kuypers, M. M. M. and Dubilier, N. (2015)
Use of carbon monoxide and hydrogen by a bacteria–animal symbiosis from seagrass sediments. Environ. Microbiol., 17: 5023–5035. doi:10.1111/1462-2920.12912

    Zimmermann, J., Lott, C., Weber, M., Ramette, A., Bright, M., Dubilier, N., & Petersen, J. M. (2014)
Dual symbiosis with co‐occurring sulfur‐oxidizing symbionts in vestimentiferan tubeworms from a Mediterranean hydrothermal vent
Environ. Microbiol., First published online: 1 APR 2014, DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.12427

    Tosin, M., Weber, M., Siotto, M., Lott, C., Degli Innocenti, F. (2012)
Laboratory test methods to determine the degradation of plastics in marine environmental conditions
Front. Microbiol. 2012; 3: 225.
Published online 2012 June 21. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2012.00225

    Ionescu, D., Siebert C., Polerecky L., Munwes Y. Y., Lott C., Häusler S., Bizic-Ionescu M., Quast C., Peplies J., Glöckner F. O., Ramette A., Rödiger T., Dittmar T., Oren A., Geyer S., Stärk H.-J., Sauter M., Licha T., Laronne J. B., de Beer, D. (2012)
Microbial and Chemical Characterization of Underwater Fresh Water Springs in the Dead Sea
PLoS ONE 7(6): e38319. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038319

    Weber, M., de Beer, D., Lott, C., Polerecky, L., Kohls, K., Abed R. M. M., Ferdelman, T. G., Fabricius, K. E. (2012)
Mechanisms of damage to corals exposed to sedimentation
PNAS, (109) 24, June 12, 2012, E1558-E1567. Published online before print May 21, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1100715109

    Kleiner, M., Wentrup, C., Lott, C., Teeling, H., Wetzel, S., Young, J., Chang, Y., Shah, M., VerBerkmoes, N. C. , Zarzycki, J., Fuchs, G., Markert, S., Hempel, K., Voigt, B., Becher, D., Liebeke, M., Lalk, M., Albrecht, D., Hecker, M., Schweder, T., Dubilier, N. (2012)
Metaproteomics of a gutless marine worm and its symbiotic microbial community reveal unusual pathways for carbon and energy use
PNAS, (109) 19, May 08, 2012, E1173-E1182. Published online before print April 18, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1121198109

    Santangelo, G., Bramanti, L., Rossi, S., Tsounis, G., Vielmini, I., Lott, C., Gili, J.M. (2012)
Patterns of variation in recruitment and post-recruitment processes of the Mediterranean precious gorgonian coral Corallium rubrum,
JEMBE, 411 (2012) 7–13

    Gruber-Vodicka, H.R., Dirks, U., Leisch, N., Baranyi, C., Stoecker, K., Bulgheresi, S., Heindl, N.R., Horn, M., Lott, C., Loy, A., Wagner, M., Jörg Ott, J. (2011)
Paracatenula, an ancient symbiosis between thiotrophic Alphaproteobacteria and catenulid flatworms
PNAS, 108 (29), 12078-12083

    Petersen, J.M., Ramette, A., Lott, C., Cambon-Bonavita, M.-A., Zbinden, M., Dubilier, N. (2009)
Dual symbiosis of the vent shrimp Rimicaris exoculata with filamentous Gamma- and Epsilonproteobacteria at four Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vent fields.
Environmental Microbiology, 12 (8), 2204–2218, Aug 2010 (first published online 27 DEC 2009)

    Humphrey, C., Weber, M., Lott, C., Cooper, T., Fabricius, K. (2008)
Effects of suspended sediments, dissolved inorganic nutrients and salinity on fertilisation and embryo development in the coral Acropora millepora (Ehrenberg, 1834).
Coral Reefs 27(4):837-850

    Ruehland, C., Blazejak, A., Lott, C., Loy, A., Erseus, C., Dubilier, N. (2008)
Multiple bacterial symbionts in two species of co-occurring gutless oligochaete worms from Mediterranean sea grass sediments.
Environmental Microbiology 10 (12):3404-3416

    Dubilier, N., Bergin, C., Lott, C. (2008)
Symbiotic diversity in marine animals: the art of harnessing chemosynthesis.
Nature Rev Microbiol 6, 725-740 (2008).

    Polerecky, L., Lott, C., Weber, M. (2008)
In situ measurement of gross photosynthesis using a microsensor-based light-shade shift method.
Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 6, 373-383

    Weber, M., Färber, P., Meyer, V., Lott, C., Eickert, G., Fabricius, K., de Beer, D. (2007)
In situ applications of a new diver-operated motorized microsensor profiler.
Envrion. Sci. Technol. 41 (17), 6210-6215.

    Rühland, C., Bergin, C., Lott, C., Dubilier, N. (2006)
Symbiosen mit mikrobiellen Konsortien.
Biospektrum 12 (6): 600-603.

    Weber, M., Lott, C., Fabricius, K. (2006)
Sedimentation stress in a scleractinian coral exposed to terrestrial and marine sediments with contrasting physical, organic and geochemical properties.
J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 336 (1): 18-32.

    Nickel, M., Lott, C. and Brümmer, F., (1999)
Röntgen-Computertomographie-Analyse und Faunistik einer mediterranen Coralligène-Struktur
Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Ökologie 29:481–490.

    Unger, B., Lott, C. (1994)
In-situ studies on the aggregation behaviour of the sea
urchin Sphaerechinus granularis Lam (Echinodermata: Echinoidea).
In: Echinoderms Through Time. B. David, I.-P. Feral and M. Roux (eds), pp. 913-919. Balkema, Rotterdam.




Conferences & Workshops

2014 2nd Workshop SYMBIOMICS, Shallow Water Symbiosis, HYDRA Field Station, Elba (organization)


3rd Workshop Research in shallow marine and fresh water systems, Bremen, Germany (talk)

2012 Workshop SYMBIOMICS, Shallow Water Symbiosis, HYDRA Elba Field Station, (organization)
2011 3rd International Symposium on Occupational Scientific Diving of ESDP, Lecce, Italy (talk)
2010 Workshop BIOSAND “Life in a sand pit”, HYDRA Elba Field Station (Italy), (organization)
2009 1st Workshop Research on shallow marine and fresh water systems, Freiberg, Germany (talk)
2009 American Society of Limnology and Oceanography Meeting, Nizza, France (talk)
2009 6th International Symbiosis Symposium, Madison, Wisconsin (talk, poster)
2006 5th International Symbiosis Symposium, Vienna, Austria (poster)
2005 40th European Marine Biology Symposium (EMBS), Vienna, Austria (talk)
2005 2nd MarTech International Workshop, Bremerhaven, Germany
1994 29th European Marine Biology Symposium (EMBS), Vienna, Austria (talk)
1993 8th International  Echinoderm Conference, Dijon, France (poster)

Academic Career

2006/2007 University of Vienna, Austria (Prof. Waltraut Klepal, Prof Monika Bright)
Research visit
May 2006 Göteborg University, Sweden (Prof. Christer Erséus)
Research visit
Since 2006 Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Germany
Research associate (PhD student, partim)
2002/2003 Australian Institute of Marine Sciences, Australia
Visiting Academic
1995 to now HYDRA-Institute for Marine Sciences, with Elba Field Station
Director of Research and Science Communication

Co-founder of HYDRA-Institute for Marine Sciences, with Elba Field Station

1994 University of Marburg/Germany
Diplom in biology (M.Sc.)
1986 - 1993 University of Marburg/Germany
Studies of biology, geography and geology