David Bourne has a joint position as a Senior Lecturer at James Cook University in Townsville and Principal Research Scientist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). His training is in the area of molecular microbial ecology with his research focused on investigation of microbial diversity, structure and function in complex ecosystems.He obtained his PhD in 1997 with the research thesis focused on investigating the pathways of bacterial mediated bio-degradation of freshwater cyanobacterial toxins. Postdoctoral positions at the University of Warwick in the UK and the University of Bergen in Norway saw him apply his microbial ecology skills to both terrestrial and marine environments. His research in the UK was focused on understanding terrestrial methanotroph populations while the position in Bergen investigated microbial processes and trophic food webs in marine systems. As a research scientist and senior microbiologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) his scientific interests and research areas included many aspects of marine science and microbiology including marine microbes for drug discovery and the microbial dynamics in aquaculture (Rock Lobster) larval rearing systems.

Over the last 15 years his research has focused on understanding microbial interactions with corals. This work 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.

In February 2016, Bourne commenced a Lecturer position at James Cook University, which allows him to maintain a highly dynamic and active research group. This position is joint with AIMS allowing him to continue to mentor a group which includes a number of students and postdoctoral employees all focused on coral microbial interactions and pushing this field ahead with innovative and challenging research projects.

  • BZ2420: Ecological Genetics (Level 2; TSV)
  • BZ5420: Ecological Genetics (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB3210: Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5400: Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals (Level 5; TSV)
  • Microbial symbioses underpinning coral fitness
  • Environmental and anthropogenic drivers of coral disease
  • Genomics based approaches to understanding the coral holobiont
  • Response of the coral holobiont to environmental stressors
  • 2016 to present - Senior Lecturer, James Cook University (Townsville)
  • 2002 to present - Principal Research Scientist, Australian Institute of Marine Science (Townsville)
  • 1999 to 2001 - Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Bergen (Norway)
  • 1997 to 1999 - Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Warwick (United Kingdom)
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 2015 - Editor for AXIOS
  • 2013 - Editorial team of Environmental Microbiology
  • 2012 - Editorial team ISME J

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 110+ research outputs authored by Dr David Bourne from 1996 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Inter-kingdom signalling in animal health and disease

Indicative Funding
$290,608 over 3 years
Animals evolved in a world dominated by bacteria, and it is now clear that intimately associated microbes play critical roles in the development, health and disease of all animals ? from corals to man. To date, animal-microbe interactions have been studied near exclusively in terms of how bacteria affect animals. This proposal seeks to address this bias ? we have discovered a novel mechanism by which the coral Acropora can control its associated bacteria, characterisation of which is central to the present proposal. Understanding how a simple animal manipulates its microbial associates will have major implications, not only for coral disease and resilience, but also for health and disease across the animal kingdom, from corals to man.
David Miller, Aurelie Moya and David Bourne in collaboration with Thomas Bosch (ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, College of Science & Engineering and Christian-Albrechts-Universitat zu Kiel)
Coral; Symbiosis; quorum signalling; Acropora (staghorn coral); anti-microbials

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Science for Management Award

Microbial indicators for water quality and environmental stress assessment of coral reef ecosystems

Indicative Funding
Microorganisms have a fundamental role in the functioning and stability of coral reef ecosystems. Environmental disturbances can trigger alterations in the natural community structure and/or the functional traits of coral reefs with potentially detrimental consequences for host organisms, such as corals, sponges and macroalgae, with concomitant implications for the entire coral reef ecosystem. This project aims to define the natural reef microbiome and to disentangle the microbial response patterns upon disturbances as a means of identifying environmental stressors at an early stage. Microbial indicators should provide useful indications on the ecological integrity of reefs and facilitate early management interventions.
Bettina Glasl, David Bourne and Nicole N Webster (College of Science & Engineering)
Microbial indicators; Coral reef monitoring; holobionts; symbiosis; Microbial successions

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority - Science for Management Award

The ecological and microbial mechanisms of macroalgae regime shift on the Great Barrier Reef

Indicative Funding
Macroalgae overgrowth is one of the greatest threats facing coral reefs. While the environmental drivers of such shifts are well established, our current understanding of the role of microbial communities in contributing to and reinforcing macroalgae-dominance is limited. The objective of this study is to characterise how the microbiome of common inshore coral (Montipora aequituberculata) varies with proximity and contact with the canopy forming macroalgae Sargassum. My project will act as a platform to gather baseline data, to investigate the fundamental interactions between coral and macroalgae to highlight the drivers of macroalgae regime shift.
Grace Al Moajil-Cole and David Bourne (College of Science & Engineering)
Coral Reef; macroalagal; Regime shifts; Microbiomes; Microbial processes

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Genome-level insight into the dynamics of a model coral microbiome

Indicative Funding
$120,000 over 3 years (administered by UQ)
Microorganisms form an intimate symbiotic relationship with corals and are critical to their health. However, the microbiome can be disrupted by environmental perturbations, including higher than normal ocean temperatures, leaving the coral susceptible to disease and bleaching. Currently, our understanding of how the microbiome composition and metabolic function change in response to seasonal temperature variation and disease is limited. Here, we will examine the structural and functional microbiome dynamics in an ecologically important coral on the Great Barrier Reef along a natural temperature gradient. This will provide insight into the role the microbiome plays in maintaining coral health.
Gene Tyson, Michael Imelfort, Christian Rinke and David Bourne (The University of Queensland and College of Science & Engineering)
Coral; microbione; Genomics; climate impacts

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • Microbial Indicators for Water Quality and Environmental Stress Assessment of Coral Reef Ecosystems. (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Quantifying the Linkages Between Water Quality and the Thermal Tolerance of Corals on the GBR (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Macroalgae Regime Shift of the Great Barrier Reef: Ecological and Microbial Coral-algal Interactions (Masters , Primary Advisor)
  • Coevolution of Marine Invertebrates and their Microbial Communities (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Coral Mediation of Associated Microbial Community (PhD , Associate Advisor)
  • Mitigating the effects of Acroporo-eoting flatworms on captive Acropora colonies (PhD , Secondary Advisor)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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