People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

Coral Bleaching

Coral Bleaching

Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Sponge Symbiosis & Climate Change


Thursday 11 April 12pm (AEST)

JCU Location: Building 19 (Kevin Stark Research Building) Room 106
Nicole Webster
Nicole Webster

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.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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Coral Reef Studies