Principal Research Scientist within the Healthy and Resilient GBR Program where I lead research into the roles of microbial and viral symbionts in invertebrate health and adaptation to changed environments.
I obtained a PhD in 2001 which investigated the microbial ecology of a GBR sponge, focussing on the stability of the symbiotic associations over different latitudinal and stress gradients. Between 2001-05 I undertook postdoctoral research at the University of Canterbury / Gateway Antarctica. This research investigated the utility of microbial symbionts as biomarkers for environmental stress in the Antarctic marine ecosystem and facilitated the development of effective diagnostic tools for measuring sub-lethal stress in Antarctic marine biota. In 2005 I commenced a research scientist position at AIMS undertaking research that assesses the impact of environmental stress on model invertebrate symbioses (primarily sponges and their microbial symbionts). During this period I also undertook research into the role of microorganisms as inducers for settlement and metamorphosis of coral reef invertebrates.

2001: PhD James Cook University Marine Microbiology

1995: Bachelor of Science (Hons) James Cook University

Current Research Activities
The health of reef ecosystems is underpinned by a diverse array of microorganisms that undertake essential biogeochemical transformations and which live in intimate symbioses with reef hosts. My research explores the various ways in which microorganisms contribute to reef health. We undertake experimental and field based research and use sensitive molecular approaches to define host and microbial sensitivity thresholds to different environmental pressures. Our research also explores how microorganisms can contribute to the transgenerational acclimatisation of reef invertebrates in a rapidly changing climate.
Expert Committees and Boards
Board Member International Society of Microbial Ecology
Director of Ambassadors ISME
Member of the United Nations Pool of Experts for Global Reporting and Assessment of the Marine Environment
Editor Environmental Microbiology
Editor mSystems
Reviewer for >20 international journals (Nat Comm, Proc Nat Acad Sci, ISME J, Glob Change Biol etc) and major funding agencies (ARC, NSF, DRC, ABRS, FRC, NOAA).
Over 100 scientific publications with over 4700 citations (

2017 Publications:

Webster NS (2017) Conceptual and Methodological Advances for Holobiont Research. Environmental Microbiology Reports 9(1):30-32.

Astudillo-Garcia C, Bell J, Webster NS, Glasl B, Jompa J, Montoya JM, Taylor MW (2017) Evaluating the core microbiota in complex communities: a systematic investigation. Environmental Microbiology 19(4): 1450-1462.

Bennett H, Altenrath C, Woods L, Davy S, Webster NS, Bell JJ (2016) Interactive effects of temperature and pCO2 on sponges: from the cradle to the grave. Global Change Biology 23(5): 2031-2046

Glasl B, Webster NS, Bourne DG (2017) Microbial indicators as a diagnostic tool for assessing water quality and climate stress in coral reef ecosystems. Marine Biology 164: 91

Weynberg KD, Levin RA, Neave MJ, Clode PL, Voolstra CR, Brownlee C, Laffy PW, Webster NS, Wood-Charlson EM, van Oppen MJH (2017) Prevalent and persistent viral infection in cultures of the coral algal endosymbiont, Symbiodinium. Coral Reefs. DOI:10.1007/s00338-017-1568-7.

Recent 2016 Publications:

Bourne DG, Morrow KM, Webster NS (2016) Coral Holobionts- Insights into the coral microbiome: Underpinning the health and resilience of reef ecosystems. Annual Reviews of Microbiology 70:317-340

Thomas T, Moitinho-Silva L, Lurgi M, Björk JR, Easson C, Astudillo C, Olson JB, Erwin PM, López-Legentil S, Luter H, Chaves-Fonnegra A, Costa R, Schupp P, Steindler L, Erpenbeck D, Gilbert J, Knight R, Ackerman G, Victor Lopez J, Taylor MW, Thacker RW, Montoya JM, Hentschel U, Webster NS (2016) Global Sponge Microbiome: Diversity, structure and convergent evolution of symbiont communities across the phylum Porifera. Nature Communications 7:11870 doi: 10.1038/ncomms11870

Laffy PW, Wood-Charlson EM, Turaev D, Weynberg K, Botté E, van Oppen M, Webster NS, Rattei T (2016) HoloVir: A workflow for investigating the diversity and function of viruses in invertebrate holobionts. Frontiers in Microbiology 7:822 doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00822

Webster NS, Thomas T (2016) The Sponge Hologenome. mBio 7(2):e00135-16. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00135-16

Webster NS, Negri AP, Botté ES, Laffy P, Flores F, Noonan S, Schmidt C, Uthicke S (2016) Host-associated coral reef microbes respond to the cumulative pressures of ocean warming and ocean acidification. Scientific Reports 6:19324 doi: 10.1038/srep19324

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