Dr. Erika Santoro

Postdoctoral Fellows

Postdoctoral Fellow

Research Interests

Erika is a microbiologist who has been working with microbial ecology and bioremediation for the past 8 years. During her undergraduate and master’s degrees, she worked in estuaries, studying fungal ecology and diversity in mangroves as well as the use of fungi to bioremediate water contaminated with textile dyes and petroleum. During her PhD, Erika worked with marine microbial ecology and corals, where she used molecular diversity and culturing tools to develop probiotics to increase the resilience of corals under thermal stress. After developing and validating the efficiency of probiotics for Brazilian and Hawaiian corals, Erika is interested in exploring the probiotic potential of Red Sea coral reef microbes and understanding how probiotics can impact the ecosystem.

Selected Publications

1. Estrogen induces shift in abundances of specific groups of the coral microbiome.
Vilela, C.L.S., Villela, H.D.M., Duarte, G.A.S., Santoro, E. P., Rachid, C.T.C.C., Peixoto, R.S. 
Scientific Reports (accepted for publication - 2021)

2. Field Primer for Monitoring Benthic Ecosystems Using Structure-from-Motion Photogrammetry. 
Roach, T.N.F., Shreya Y., Caruso, C., Dilworth, J., Foley, C. M., Hancock, J. R., Huckeba, J., Huffmyer, A. S., Hughes, K., Kahkejian, V. A., Madin, E. M. P., Matsuda, S. B., McWilliam, M., Miller, S., Santoro, E.P., Souza, M.R., Torres-Pulliza, D., Drury, C., Madin, J. S. A 
Jove-Journal of Visualized Experiments. (accepted for publication - 2021).

3. First records of hydrocoral mass mortality in the Southwestern Atlantic: heat waves as a major threat to turbid-zone coral reef.
Duarte G. A., Villela H. D. M., Deocleciano M., Messias C. S. M., Vilela C. L. S., Barno Adam, Rosado P. M., Blasquez D., Chacón M. A., Santoro E.P., Cardoso P. M., Szpilman M., Sweet M., Peixoto R. S. 
Frontiers in Marine Science (2020).

4. Fungal communities in oil contaminated mangrove sediments - Who is in the mud?
Ghizelini, A. M.; Martins, K. G.; Gießelmann, U. C.; Santoro, E. P.; Pasqualette, L.; Mendonça-Hagler, L.C.S.; Rosado, A. S.; Macrae, A. 
Marine Pollution Bulletin (2019).


  • Ph.D., Biotechnology, UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2020.
  • M.Sc., Biotechnology, UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016
  • B.Sc., Biological Sciences - Microbiology and Immunology, UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2014

Professional Profile

  • 2021-Present: Postdoctoral fellow, KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2020: Ph.D. visiting student developing probiotics for Hawaiian corals and collaborating on coral spawning, metabolomic and photogrammetry monitoring projects at the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB), University of Hawaii (UH), USA.
  • 2019: Ph.D. visiting student at Biosphere 2, University of Arizona (UofA), USA.
  • 2017: Collaborator – Project: CENPES/PETROBRAS – Procorais – Development of Oil Bioremediation strategies for coral reef protection

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) Membership


  • 2019 - International Young Scientists Travel Grant (ISME). 
  • 2018 - Scholarship: Ph.D. visiting student in Arizona / Biosphere 2 provided by Improvement of Higher-Level Personnel Coordination (CAPES) program. 
  • 2014 - Honors of "cum laude" on B.Sc. in Biological Sciences - Microbiology and Immunology. 
  • 2012 - “Best presentation in Environmental Microbiology” Award in “XVIII Academic Meeting of Microbiology and Immunology”, with the project “Diversity and biotechnological potential of filamentous fungi from oil impacted mangroves”.

KAUST Affiliations

  • Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
  • Biological and Environmental Science & Engineering Division (BESE)

Research Interests Keywords

Marine Microbiology Marine Microbial Ecology Molecular Biology Biotechnology Marine Probiotics Biorremediation Host-microbiome interactions