Research Scientist within the "Healthy and Resilient GBR" research program at AIMS, leading research initiatives into the roles of microbes in coral health and disease. Currently having a shared position with AIMS and James Cook University.
My training and background is in Molecular Microbial Ecology. Since obtaining my PhD in 1997 which investigated microbial degradation of cyanobacterial toxins, I have applied these skills to a number of research topics during Postdoctoral stints, including terrestrial methanotroph ecology and marine microbiology at the University of Warwick (UK) and Bergen University (Norway) respectively. My time at AIMS has been spent across a number of projects including the investigation of marine microbes for drug discovery and the microbial dynamics in aquaculture (Rock Lobster) larval rearing systems. Recently, however, I have principally been focused on coral microbiology and coral disease.
  • 1997: PhD in Biotechnology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD
  • 1992: Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology (First Class Honours), University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD.
Current Research Activities
I have established and managed a research theme within AIMS, focused primarily on the microbiology of corals and coral disease. This research is divided essentially into two areas, the first investigating the normal microbial communities associated with corals and their functional roles in maintaining coral fitness. The second research focus is to elucidate pathogens and mechanism of disease onset in corals and the implications this has on a stressed reef ecosystem in light of climate change being a major driver of coral reef degradation. I am currently based at James Cook University though share my time between AIMS and JCU.
Expert Committees and Boards
Member of the AIMS@JCU 'Stress in tropical marine systems' program
Member of the Action Network for Coral Health and Resilience
Editorial Board of The ISME and Environmental Microbiology Journals
Science Leader of the ReFuGe2020 Research consortium on coral genomics facilitated through the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Over 110 science and technical papers in international journals. The following are a selection of recent 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

Camps M, Benavides M, Lema KA, Bourne DG, Grosso O, Bonnet S (2016) Released coral mucus does not enhance planktonic N2 fixation rates. Aquatic Microbial Ecology 77:51-63 doi:10.3354/ame01787

Lema KA, Clode PL, Kilburn MR, Thornton R, Willis BL, Bourne DG (2016) Imaging the uptake of nitrogen-fixing bacteria into larvae of the coral Acropora millepora. ISME J 10:1804-1808 doi:10.1038/ismej.2015.229

Mohamed A, Cumbo V, Harii S, Shinzato C, Chan C-X, Ragan M, Bourne D, Willis B, Ball E, Satoh N, Miller D (2016) The transcriptomic response of the coral Acropora digitifera to a competent Symbiodinium strain: the symbiosome as an arrested early phagosome. Molecular Ecology 25: 3127-3141

Neave M, Rachmawati R, Xun L, Michell C, Bourne DG, Apprill A, Voolstra C. (2016) Differential specificity between closely related corals and abundant Endozoicomonas endosymbionts across global scales. ISME J. doi:10.1038/ismej.2016.95

O'Brien PA, Morrow KM, Willis B, Bourne DG (2016) Implications of ocean acidification for marine microorganisms from the free-living to the host-associated. Frontiers in Marine Science 3:47 doi: 10.3389/fmars.2016.00047

Raina J, Tapiolas D, Motti CA, Foret S, Seemann T, Tebben J, Willis BL, Bourne DG (2016) Isolation of an antimicrobial compound produced by bacteria associated with reef-building corals. PeerJ doi: 10.7717/peerj.2275

Sato Y, Civiello M, Bell SC, Willis BL, Bourne DG (2016) Integrated approach to understanding the etiology of black band disease in corals. Environmental Microbiology 18:752-765 doi:10.1111/1462-2920.13122

Wada N, Pollock FJ, Willis BL, Ainsworth T, Mano N, Bourne DG (2016) In situ visualization of bacterial populations in coral tissues: pitfalls and solutions. PeerJ 4:e2424 doi: 10.7717/peerj.2424

Bourne DG, Ainsworth TD, Pollock FJ, Willis BL (2015) Towards a better understanding of white syndromes and their causes on Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Coral Reefs 34:233-242

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