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.

  • BC3101: Genes, Genomes and Development (Level 3; TSV)
  • BC5101: Advanced Genes, Genomes and Development (Level 5; TSV)
  • BS2470: Evolution (Level 2; TSV)
  • BS5470: Evolution (Level 5; TSV)
  • MB2080: Invertebrate Biology (Level 2; TSV)
  • MB3210: Life History and Evolution of Reef Corals (Level 3; TSV)
  • MB5380: Invertebrate Biology (Level 5; 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 142+ research outputs authored by A/Prof David Bourne from 1996 onwards.

Current Funding

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

Earthwatch Institute Australia - Contract Research

Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef

Indicative Funding
$371,000 over 3 years
This project investigates the potential for restoration of reef ecosystems around Magnetic Island. Linked with Earthwatch Australia, it is a citizen science-based project that engages volunteers to help remove macroalgae and monitor changes in coral recruitment, sediment dynamics, community composition, algae regrowth rates, and coral biology, with the hopes that removal of algae leads to an increase in coral cover. The project is an extension of a previous project which accumulated 7 years of base line data on demographic recovery dynamics of corals at Orpheus Island.
David Bourne and Hillary Smith (College of Science & Engineering)
Coral Reefs; Citizen Science; Coral Recovery; reef disturbance; Ecosystem Assessment; Coral Restoration

Earthwatch Institute Australia - Contract Research

Recovery of the Great Barrier Reef

Indicative Funding
This project investigates the recovery of reef ecosystems around Orpheus Island. Linked with Earthwatch Australia, it is a citizen science based project that engages volunteers to help survey the recovery of corals that have suffered major ecological disturbances including a severe category cyclone in 2011 and two major bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. To date the project has accumulated 7 years of base line demographic recovery dynamics of corals. It also investigates disease process on the reefs around Orpheus Island specifically looking at black band and elucidating the ecological and microbial drivers of disease outbreaks.
David Bourne (College of Science & Engineering)
Coral Reefs; Citizen Science; coral recovery; reef disturbance; Ecosystem Assessment; Coral Disease

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

Department of the Environment and Energy - National Environmental Science Program (NESP) - Tropical Water Quality Hub (TWQ Hub)

Reviewing microbial communities on the GBR: contribution to a functioning reef

Indicative Funding
Marine microorganisms drive all globally important biogeochemical cycles, underpin the health of marine ecosystems and are the first biological responders to environmental perturbation. Through benthic pelagic coupling, and host associated interactions, the marine microbes contribute directly and indirectly to reef functioning. Within reef systems of the GBR however we have very little understanding on how microbes provide resilience and buffering in the system or contribute to processes that lead to tipping points and changed ecosystem structure and function. The project will be a desktop study and review that looks across all relevant literature to assess the microbial taxonomic and functional groups that contribute to a functioning reef. It will assess microbes that are implicated in healthy reef functioning and contrast with microbes in disturbed environments. This analysis will build on current knowledge from all reef systems and aquarium studies and made relevant to the GBR conditions. Considering the unique environment of the GBR with reefs spread across longitudinal temperature gradients and across a water quality gradient, the study will assess reef microbes across these gradients using information delivered from eReefs.
David Bourne and Pedro Frade in collaboration with Nicole Webster (College of Science & Engineering and The University of Queensland)
Coral Reefs; Marine microorganisms; tipping points; mocrobial indicators

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

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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.

  • Determining the role of microorganisms in acclimatisation and adaption of reef species to future climate scenarios. (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP) metabolism within the coral holobiont (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • The impact of nutrient availability on coral thermal tolerance (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Coral Mediation of Associated Microbial Community (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Mitigating the impact of the Acropora-eating flatworm, Prosthiostomum acroporae on captive Acropora coral colonies (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Effects of Reef Restoration Techniques (Macroalgal Removal combined with Larval Capture and Release) on the Genetic Diversity and Connectivity in Scleratinian Populations of Magnetic Island, Australia;; (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Host-microbial coevolution in marine invertebrates (PhD , Primary Advisor)
  • Best practices for effective coral reef restoration through macroalgae removal and coral larvae enhancement at Magnetic Island. (Masters , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Genome wide Assessments of Heat Tolerance in Corals (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Understand the role of the sulphur metabolic cycle in juvenile coral skeleton growth to enhance captive coral aquaculture (Masters , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Augmented Coral Health: Linking heterotrophic diets to nutritional enhancement and microbial acquisition in Scleractinia. (Masters , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Microbial indicators for environmental stress and ecosystem health assessments (2020, PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Exploring the role of microbes in coral-algal interactions on the inshore Great Barrier Reef (2020, Masters , Primary Advisor)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit the JCU Research Data Catalogue.


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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  4. Prof Andrew Baird
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  5. Dr Aurelie Moya
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