Steven Miller

Research Scientist
Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences
(305) 451-9030


Areas of Research

Benthic Ecology, Coral Reef Ecology, Nutrient Dynamics, Science Communication

My current research focus is on coral reef monitoring to assess changes in community structure throughout the Florida Keys. The program started in 1998 and includes multiple habitat types and no-take marine reserves in its design. Sample design statistics are used to estimate the distribution and abundance of corals, gorgonians, sponges, urchins, and more.  A new project relates to octocoral biology and ecology to support effective management of these organisms for the marine life aquarium trade. I am also interested in coral reef restoration, especially related to staghorn and elkhorn corals in the Florida Keys. Past research includes water quality studies related to nutrient dynamics and pollution in the Florida Keys and tracking fish inside and outside marine reserves using acoustic telemetry.

In addition to scientific research, I work to advance innovative and entertaining communication projects.  I am a founding member of the Shifting Baselines Ocean Media Campaign (, which produces short films and public service announcements. I was Executive Producer for the documentary film, Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was sold to Showtime TV.

From 1991 to 2011 I was a Research Professor at the University of North Carolina –Wilmington, where I directed their National Undersea Research Center (1998 – 2004), including developing and running the Aquarius underwater laboratory in the Florida Keys. I am a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. I served on the Board of Directors for the Ocean Conservancy and currently I am on the Board of Directors of the Coral Restoration Foundation, where I chair their Science Advisory Committee.

Kissling, D.L., W.F.Precht, S.L. Miller, and M. Chiappone. 2013. Historical reconstruction of population density and size of the echinoid Diadema antillarum on Florida Keys shallow bank-barrier reefs. Bull Mar Sci. Accepted.

Miller, S.L., W.F. Precht, L.M. Rutten and M. Chiappone. 2013. Florida Keys population abundance estimates for nine coral species proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Technical Series Report. Nova Southeastern University Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Technical Series Report, 1(1). Dania Beach, FL. 85 pp.

Miller, S.L. and W.F. Precht. 2012. Reefs of the future: A look into a crystal ball. In South Florida Marine Environments: An Ecological Synthesis. Kruczinski, W.L. and P.J. Fletcher (eds.). Chapter 4: Coral Reefs and Hardbottom Habitats: Pages 233-234. (Lead or co-author on seven additional chapters in this book).

Smith, S.G., D.W. Swanson, M. Chiappone, S.L. Miller, and J.S. Ault 2011. Probability sampling of stony coral populations in the Florida Keys. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 183(1-4):121-138.

Keller BD, Gleason DF, McLeod E, Woodley CM, Airame S, Causey BD, Friedlander AM, Grober-Dunsmore R, Johnson JE, Miller SL, Steneck RS. 2009. Climate change, coral reef ecosystems, and management options for marine protected areas. Environmental Management 44: 1069-1088

Miller S.L., M. Chiappone, L.M. Rutten, and D.W. Swanson. 2008. Population status of Acropora corals in the Florida Keys. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale: 775-779.

Rutten LM, Chiappone M, Swanson DW, Miller SL. 2009. Stony coral species diversity and cover in the Florida Keys using design-based sampling. Proceedings of the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium, Ft. Lauderdale: 800-804

Chiappone, M., L.M. Rutten, S.L. Miller, and D.W. Swanson. 2007. Large-scale distributional patterns of the encrusting and excavating sponge Cliona delitrix Pang on Florida Keys coral substrates. In: Custódio MR, Lôbo-Hajdu G, Hajdu E, Muricy G (eds). Porifera research: biodiversity, innovation and sustainability. Série Livros 28. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. pp. 255-263

Precht W.F. and S.L. Miller. 2007. Ecological shifts along the Florida Reef Tract: The past is a key to the future. In Geological approaches to coral reef ecology. Aronson RB (ed), Springer, NY. Chapter 9, pp 237-312

Leichter, J.J., A. Payton, S. Wankel, K. Hanson, S. Miller, and M.A. Altabet. 2007. Nitrogen and oxygen isotopic signatures of subsurface nitrate seaward of the Florida Keys reef tract. Limnol. Oceanogr. 52(3):1258-1267.

Lindholm, J., A. Knight, L. Kaufman, and S. Miller. 2006. Site fidelity and movement of the parrotfishes Scaus coeruleus and Scarus taeniopterus at Conch Reef (northern Florida Keys). Caribbean Journal of science 42: 138-144

Chiappone, M., H. Dienes, D.W. Swanson, and S.L. Miller. 2005. Impacts of lost fishing gear on coral reef sessile invertebrates in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Biological Conservation 121:221-230

Precht, W.F., S.L. Miller, R.B. Aronson, J.F. Bruno, and L. Kaufman. 2005. Reassessing U.S. coral reefs. Science 308:1741.

Lindholm, J., S. Fangman, L. Kaufman and S. Miller. 2005. In situ tagging and tracking of coral reef fishes from the Aquarus Undersea Laboratory. Marine Technology Society Journal 39: 68-73

Chiappone M, Swanson DW, Miller SL, Dienes H. 2004. Spatial distribution of lost fishing gear on fished and protected offshore reefs in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Caribbean Journal of Science 40: 312-326

Miller, S.L., W.F. Precht, and M. Chiappone. 2004. Recognizing complexity in biological systems: Making coral reef ecology simple? A Florida case history. Current: Journal of Marine Education. 20(1):4-11

Smith, J.E., C.M. Smith, P.S. Vroom, K.L. Beach, and S.L. Miller. 2004. Nutrient and growth dynamics of Halimeda tuna along a depth gradient in the Florida Keys: possible influence of internal tides on nutrient status and physiology? Limnology and Oceanography. 49(6):1923-1936

Chiappone M, H. Dienes, D.W. Swanson, and S.L. Miller. 2003. Density and gorgonian host-occupation patterns by flamingo tongue snails (Cyphoma gibbosum) in the Florida Keys. Caribbean Journal of Science 39(1):116-127

Franklin, E.C., J.S. Ault, S.G. Smith, J. Luo, G.A. Meester, G.A. Diaz, M. Chiappone, D.W. Swanson, S.L. Miller, and J.A. Bohnsack. 2003. Benthic Habitat Mapping in the Tortugas Region, FL. Special Issue on Marine and Coastal GIS. Marine Geodesy Vol (1-2):19-34

Leichter, J.J., H.L. Stewart and S.L. Miller. 2003. Episodic nutrient transport to Florida coral reefs. Limnol and Oceanogr. 48(4):1394-1407

Chiappone M, D.W. Swanson, and S.L. Miller. 2002. Density, spatial distribution and size structure of sea urchins in coral reef and hard-bottom habitats of the Florida Keys. Marine Ecology Progress Series 235: 117-126

Chiappone M., D.W. Swanson, S.L. Miller, and S.G. Smith. 2002. Large-scale surveys on the Florida Reef Tract indicate poor recovery of the long-spined sea urchin Diadema antillarum. Coral Reefs 21:155-159

Chiappone M., A. White, D.W. Swanson, and S.L. Miller. 2002. Occurrence and biological impacts of fishing gear and other marine debris in the Florida Keys. Marine Pollution Bulletin Vol. 44:597-604

Chiappone M, Miller SL, Swanson DW, Ault JS, Smith SG (2001) Comparatively high densities of the long-spined sea urchin in the Dry Tortugas, Florida. Coral Reefs 20: 137-138

Miller SL, Chiappone M, Swanson DW, Ault JS, Smith SG, Meester GA, Luo J, Franklin EC, Bohnsack JA, Harper DE, McClellan DB (2001) An extensive deep reef terrace on the Tortugas Bank, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Coral Reefs 20: 299-300

Miller S.L., D.W. Swanson, and M. Chiappone. 2000. Multiple spatial scale assessment of coral reef and hard-bottom community structure in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Proceedings of the 9th International Coral Reef Symposium. Volume 1:69-74

Leichter, J.J. and S.L. Miller. 1999. Predicting high frequency upwelling: Spatial and temporal patterns of temperature anomalies on a Florida coral reef. Continental Shelf Research 19:911-928

Miller, M.W, M.E. Hay, S.L. Miller, D. Malone, E.E. Sotka, and A.M. Szmant. 1999. Effects of nutrients vs. herbivores on reef algae: A new method for manipulating nutrients on coral reefs. Limnology and Oceanography 44(8): 1847-1861. (Featured article in December, 1999, on L&O web site)

Hughes, T., A.M Szmant, R. Steneck, R.C. Carpenter, and S.L. Miller. 1999. Algal blooms on coral reefs: What are the causes? Limnol. and Oceanogr. 4(6):1583-1586

Richardson, L.L., W.M. Goldburg, K.G. Kuda, R.B. Aronson, G.W. Smith, K.B. Richie, J.C. Halas, J.S. Feingold, and S.L. Miller. 1998. Florida's mystery coral-killer identified. Nature. Vol. 392(6676):557-558

Miller, S.L. and M.P. Crosby.  1998. The extent and condition of U.S. coral reefs.  In: NOAA's State of the Coast Report (peer reviewed).  NOAA.  Silver Spring, MD.  pp 1-34.

Leichter, J.J., S.R. Wing, S.L. Miller, and M.W. Denny. 1996. Pulsed delivery of subthermocline water to Conch Reef, Florida Keys, by internal tidal bores. Limnol. Oceanogr. Vol. 41(7):1490-1501.