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Nicole Webster is a marine microbial ecologist whose research focuses on elucidating microbial contributions to reef ecosystem health. Her career has unified around studying microbial symbioses in reef species using culture-independent molecular approaches to predict how environmentally induced microbial dysbiosis impacts the health of reef invertebrates. During her dissertation research (James Cook University), Nicole pioneered the application of molecular and advanced imaging approaches to studying sponge symbiosis. Her subsequent postdoctoral research (University of Canterbury) investigated the utility of applying microbial dysbiosis as a biomarker for environmental stress and explored the role of microorganisms as inducers for settlement and metamorphosis of coral reef invertebrates.
Nicole’s research group at the University of Queensland uses experimental and field based ecological research to explore multiple facets of coral reef microbiology. Metagenomic, metatranscriptomic and advanced imaging approaches are employed to understand reef invertebrates as metaorganisms / holobionts, and translate this research into strategic tools for coral reef management. Nicole holds a joint appointment at the University of Queensland and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, where she leads inter-institutional research projects in the field of ecogenomics.
This project aims to construct the first Great Barrier Reef microbial genomics database which will provide a framework to ascertain the environmental relevance / ecosystem consequences of changes in microbial community structure and function following environmental perturbation.
This project aims to assess the establishment and maintenance of microbial symbiosis in Ianthella basta as a model species, visualize physiological interactions between host and symbionts, and assess holobiont stability under future climate conditions.
Analysis of Ircinia ramosa host and symbiont transcriptomic responses to ocean warming and acidification to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underpinning this acclimatisation response.
This project will develop a unique molecular platform for deriving quantitative stress thresholds for microbial communities inhabiting key reef habitats (seawater, sediments, invertebrates).
Development of a microscale isolation system (SYMBIO-CHIP) that will enable the first in situ cultivation and recovery of recalcitrant sponge symbionts and unravel the microbial functions that support host's health and ecology.