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.
The vulnerability of coral reefs to environmental stress has traditionally been assessed by determining how key species respond to particular environmental factors.