The Microbial Ocean Atlas: distilling complex data for broader accessibility 

Microbes are the unsung heroes of our oceans, playing a critical role in maintaining ecosystem health and supporting human well-being. Understanding their dynamics is paramount.

Bioplatforms Australia and the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) have joined forces with the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) to harness microbially-focused genomic and oceanographic data from IMOS National Reference Stations across Australia. This collaboration seeks to bridge the gap between disparate datasets, providing a standardised, accessible format for non-specialist users. The project delivered an interoperable data asset and an intuitive online interface for visualising oceanographic and molecular microbiological data. It also includes molecular indices of microbial biodiversity that summarise complex suites of data points.

The outcomes of this collaboration extend far beyond academia. By facilitating cross-disciplinary activities, the project will aid in assessing the ecological and socioeconomic impacts of events like bushfires, marine heatwaves, and algal blooms. Moreover, it will support the validation of earth system models, offering valuable insights for stakeholders and end-users.

The Microbial Ocean Atlas is accessible through the IMOS Biological Ocean Observer application 


Developing microbial biodiversity indices: New study reveals the impact of marine heatwaves on microbial communities

Marine heatwaves (MHWs) are increasingly disrupting coastal ecosystems, with significant ecological and socioeconomic consequences. A recent study looked into the effects of MHWs on microbial communities, often overlooked yet vital components of marine ecosystems.

The research utilised a standardised molecular dataset generated as part of the Australian Microbiome initiative, covering Southern Hemisphere marine microbial composition across various oceanic conditions. They focused on the unprecedented 2015/16 Tasman Sea MHW, capturing its impact on marine microbiota during repeat sampling at the IMOS National Reference Station.

Results showed profound transitions in ecology and seasonal distribution of the microbes, indicating potential shifts of microbial groups in response to extreme warming events. These findings highlight the importance of understanding microbial responses to climate-driven disturbances and emphasise the need for continued monitoring and adaptation efforts in marine ecosystems. The indices developed in this study have been applied to the datasets included in the Microbial Ocean Atlas and are available to be visualised and interrogated using the IMOS Biological Ocean Observer application developed as part of the Microbial Ocean Atlas.

The study was published in Nature Communication Biology 

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