Bioplatforms Australia Press Release

Great Barrier Reef Press Release

Using ‘omics to support Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Coral reef ecosystems are one of the most complex and biologically diverse ecosystems on earth. They are home to thousands of species of organisms, the majority of which have not yet been described. Coral reefs span >100 countries, have shaped and formed a third of the world’s tropical coastline and are a source of livelihood for an estimated half a billion people.


In partnership with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Bioplatforms Australia through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) has contributed $500,000 for an infrastructure project to develop a large framework ‘omic dataset for corals and their associated Symbiodinium and microbes.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (the Reef) is the world’s largest coral reef system, comprising almost 3000 reefs in total and representing about 10% of coral reef areas globally. Awarded World Heritage status in 1981, the Great Barrier Reef is a national icon and contributes more than $6 billion annually to the Australian economy. It is acknowledged that climate change is the greatest risk faced by the Reef and although substantial effort has been devoted to understanding the physiological mechanisms of coral stress tolerance and acclimatisation, virtually nothing is known about the molecular mechanisms enabling coral adaptation to climatic stress over the course of generations.

This genomic dataset of coral and associated microbial biota will provide the molecular framework essential for understanding the diversity of coral sensitivities and stress responses to climate related disturbance, the associated genetic-tradeoffs (e.g. bleaching resistance and growth rate) and the molecular machinery of the mutualism between the coral host and its symbionts.

The dataset is openly available to Australian and international researchers, and linked online to relevant geographical, physicochemical, hydrodynamics and climate datasets via the Australia Research Data Commons.

Bioplatforms Australia’s investment initiates the application of ‘omic technologies to this urgent national and global issue,” said Bioplatforms Australia General Manager, Andrew Gilbert. “It facilitates the engagement of important new segments of the research community, enables new insights and attracts national and international co-investment for research.”

The infrastructure project supports a program of research aimed at transforming Reef management, equipping them with the information and tools to identify vulnerable and tolerant coral populations, understand the rates and the limits of adaptation of key reef building coral species and importantly explore options for enhancing this adaptation. Samples will be taken from multiple locations along the Great Barrier Reef and internationally.

Collaborators in the project include leading coral genomics, metagenomics and bioinformatics experts (from Australia and internationally), the Great Barrier Reef’s statutory management authority (GBRMPA), and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The project will augment other NCRIS initiatives such as the Integrated Marine Observing Station (IMOS), including the partnership with AIMS in Queensland.

“The project provides a platform for improved collaboration and interdisciplinary alliances across a range of diverse groups including research, management and conservation organisations, both nationally and internationally,” said Gilbert.

For more information visit:

This press release can be downloaded here: Great Barrier Reef Framework Data Initiative – Press Release 


Andrew Gilbert | T: 02 9850 8281 |


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