Marine sponges contain complex and diverse microbial communities that contribute to the health of their hosts. Environmental conditions which disturb the distribution, abundance or function of sponge microbes can therefore have significant consequences for host fitness and survival. Climate change scenarios predict increases in sea surface temperatures (SST) and decreases in oceanic pH during the coming century. Using a combination of experimental research and data collected from natural CO2 seeps, we have explored how elevated SST and ocean acidification (OA) impact sponge symbiosis. Sponges at CO2 seeps have had a lifetime of exposure to high CO2 therefore these sites are ‘natural laboratories’ for OA research, allowing us to answer questions of long-term acclimatization in the microbiome. The application of genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic approaches to these model marine symbioses allows us to explore the functional implications of environmental stress for sponges and thereby better predict how they will acclimate and adapt to a changing climate.
Bio: Nicole is currently a principal research scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science where she undertakes research into how microorganisms contribute to reef ecosystem health. In 2017, Nicole commenced a joint appointment as Principal Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics at the University of Queensland. In both positions Nicole uses experimental and field based ecological research to explore multiple facets of coral reef microbiology and symbiosis.