Principal Research Scientist within the Healthy and Resilient GBR Program where I lead research into the roles of microbial 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 130 scientific publications with over 6500 citations (

Most Recent 2018 Publications

Bell, J. Bennett, H., Rovellini, A., Webster, N.S. (2018) Can sponges soak up the effects of climate change and what will this mean for ecosystem function? Bioscience.

Pascelli, C., Laffy, P.W., Kupresanin, M., Ravasi, T. and Webster, N.S. (2018) Morphological characterization of virus-like particles in coral reef sponges. Peer J.

Bell, J., Rovellini, A., Davy, S., Taylor, M., Fulton, E., Dunn, M., Bennett, H., Kandler, N., Luter, H., Webster, N.S. (2018) Climate change alterations to ecosystem dominance: How might sponge-dominated reefs function? Ecology. 99(9): 1920-1931.

Ramsby, B.D., Hoogenboom, M.O., Smith, H., Whalan, S. and Webster, N.S. (2018). The bioeroding sponge Cliona orientalis will not tolerate future projected ocean warming. Scientific Reports. 8(1), 8302.

Glasl, B., Smith, C.E., Bourne, D.G. and Webster, N.S. (2018) Exploring the diversity-stability paradigm using sponge microbial communities. Scientific Reports. 8(1), 8425.

Høj, L., Levy, N., Baillie, B.K., Clode, P.L., Strohmaier, R., Siboni, N., Webster, N.S., Uthicke, S., Bourne, D.G. (2018) Crown-of-thorns sea star, Acanthaster cf. solaris, has tissue-characteristic microbiomes with potential roles in health and reproduction. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.00181-18.

Webster, N.S., Wagner, M. and Negri, A.P. (2018). Microbial conservation in the Anthropocene. Environmental Microbiology. 20(6): 1925-1928.

Laffy, P.W., Wood-Charlson, E.M., Turaev, D., Pascelli, C., Botté, E.S., Bell, S.C., Weynberg, K.D., van Oppen, M.J.H., Rattei, T. and Webster, N.S. (2018). Coral Reef Viromics: Diversity, Host-Specificity & Functional Capacity. Environmental Microbiology. 20(6): 2125-2141.

Bennett, H., bell, J.J., Davy, S.K., Webster, N.S., Francis, D.S. (2018) Elucidating the sponge stress response; lipids and fatty acids can facilitate survival under future climate scenarios. Global Change Biology. 24 (7): 3130-3144.

Ramsby, B.D., Hoogenboom, M.O., Whalan, S. and Webster, N.S. (2018). Elevated seawater temperature disrupts the microbiome of an ecologically important bioeroding sponge. Molecular Ecology. 27(8): 2124-2137.

Glasl, B., Bourne, D.G., Frade, P.R. and Webster, N.S. (2018). Establishing microbial baselines to identify indicators of coral reef health. Microbiology Australia. 39 (1): 42-46.

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