Principal Research Scientist within the Healthy and Resilient GBR Program where I lead frontier 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
My research assesses the impact of environmental pressures on reef bacterial symbiosis. This research primarily focuses on sponges and quantifies the stress response on all symbiotic partners of each life history stage using a variety of molecular techniques. In 2012 I was awarded an ARC Future Fellowship for a project entitled Revealing the structure, evolution and sensitivity of symbioses in basal metazoa. This research will explore the functional roles of bacteria, archaea and viruses within the sponge holobiont and assess whether they can enhance the acclimatization and adaptive capacity of the sponge during a rapidly changing climate.
Expert Committees and Boards
Board Member International Society of Microbial Ecology
Member of the United Nations Pool of Experts for Global Reporting and Assessment of the Marine Environmment
Chief Editor for Frontiers in Microbial Symbiosis
Editorial Board of Environmental Microbiology
Editor PLoS One
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 80 scientific publications with over 3400 citations (

Recent Publications:

Tout J, Siboni N, Messer LF, Garren M, Stocker R, Webster NS, Ralph PJ, Seymour JR (2015) Increased seawater temperature increases the abundance and alters the structure of natural Vibrio populations associated with the coral Pocillopora damicornis. Frontiers in Microbiology 6:432 doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00432

Tout J, Jeffries TC, Petrou K, Tyson G, Webster NS, Stocker R, Ralph PJ, Seymour JR (2015) Chemotaxis by coral reef bacteria. ISME J. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2014.261.

Morrow K, Bourne DG, Humphrey C, Botté E, Laffy P, Zanefeld J, Uthicke S, Fabricius K, Webster NS (2015) Natural volcanic CO2 seeps reveal future trajectories for host-microbial associations in corals and sponges. ISME J. 9: 894¿908

Luter HM, Gibb K, Webster NS (2014) The Cymbastella stipitata holobiont is unaffected by extreme levels of nitrogen exposure. Frontiers in Microbiology. 5:216. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2014.00216

Whalan S, Webster NS (2014) Sponge larval settlement cues: the role of microbial biofilms in a warming ocean. Scientific Reports 4:4072. doi10.1038/srep04072

Tout J, Jeffries T, Webster NS, Stocker R, Ralph P, Seymour J (2014) Variability in microbial community composition and function between different niches within a coral reef. Microbial Ecology 67(3):540-552

Abdul Wahab M, Fromont J, Whalan S, Webster N, Andreakis N (2014) Combining morphometrics with molecular taxonomy: how different are similar foliose keratose sponges from the Australian tropics? Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 73:23-39.

Erwin P, Pineda M, Webster N, Turon X, López-Legentil S (2014) Down under the tunic: Bacterial biodiversity hotspots and widespread ammonia oxidising archaea in coral reef ascidians. ISME J. 8(3):75-588

Bell J, Davy S, Jones T, Taylor M, Webster NS (2013) Could some coral reefs become sponge reefs as our climate changes? Global Change Biology 19(9): 2613-2624

Webster NS, Pantile R, Botte E, Abdo D, Andreakis N, Whalan S (2013) A complex life cycle in a warming planet. Molecular Ecology 22:1854-1868

Bourne D, Dennis G, Uthicke S, Soo R, Tyson G, Webster NS (2013) Coral reef invertebrate microbiomes correlate with the presence of photosymbionts. ISME J 7:1459-1459

Webster NS, Uthicke S, Botte E, Flores F, Negri AP (2013) Ocean acidification reduces induction of coral settlement by crustose coralline algae. Global Change Biology 19:303-315.

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