Prof Madeleine van Oppen
Professor Madeleine van Oppen is an ecological geneticist with an interest in microbial symbioses and climate change adaptation of reef corals. Her work has been published in >190 peer reviewed papers and book chapters. Her early career focused on evolutionary and population genetics of algae and fish, and subsequently corals.
Her current research focuses on the development of coral stock better able to cope with disturbed environments and predicted future ocean conditions (i.e., assisted evolution). This includes the development of bacterial probiotics, the directed evolution of the coral's microalgal symbionts, coral hybridisation and selective breeding, and coral conditioning. Her team is also exploring genetic engineering of microbial symbionts with the aim to increase coral thermal tolerance. Omics and advanced microscopy approaches are used by her research group in combination with phenotypic measurements to gain understanding of the mechanisms of adaptation and acclimation of corals to climate change.
MSc (1990), PhD (1995), Univ Groningen, Netherlands. Thesis: Tracking Trails by Cracking Codes: Molecular Biogeography and Evolution of Benthic Cold-Water Seaweeds.
2019-2023: Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow (AIMS/Univ Melbourne)
2015-2018: Senior Principal Research Scientist (AIMS)/Professor in Marine Biology (Univ Melbourne)
2011-2015: Australian Research Council Future Fellow (AIMS)
2008-2011: Inaugural director of the Centre for Marine Microbiology and Genetics (AIMS)
2001-2008: Research Team Leader (AIMS)
2000-2001: Australian Research Council Fellow, James Cook Univ (Australia)
1997-2000: Postdoctoral Fellow, James Cook Univ (Australia)
1995-1997: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Univ East Anglia (UK)
2013: Paul Allen Ocean Challenge award (with Ruth Gates) Building a biological toolkit to mitigate ocean acidification impacts and restore corals reefs
2005: Dorothy Hill award, awarded by the Australian Academy of Science for Madeleine’s contributions to Australia’s coral reef science
1995: PhD obtained cum laude
Madeleine is driven by a desire to find biological solutions for mitigating the effects of climate warming that have resulted in a terrifyingly rapid loss of coral around the world. She currently works in two main areas of research:
- Coral assisted evolution for reef restoration
- The ecology and evolution of the coral-microbial symbiosis
Madeleine pioneered the field of coral assisted evolution (e.g., van Oppen et al. 2015 PNAS 112: 2307-2313), research that is now widely used at AIMS and by many other research organisations across the globe. Her Laureate Fellowship aims to develop microbes able to enhance the climate resilience of corals. She also conducts more basic research to decipher the roles of bacterial and microalgal symbionts within the coral holobiont, and the interactions among coral, algae and bacteria.
- Member of local organising committee to host the International Symposium of Microbial Ecology (ISME19) in Auckland (New Zealand) in 2022.
- Chair of organising panel for session Can coral climate resilience be enhanced via assisted evolution? At the International Coral Reef Symposium 2020, Bremen, Germany.
- Corresponding chair of Gordon Conference Marine Molecular Ecology 2019
- Scientific Advisory Committee for the Red Sea Research Centre at King Abdullah University Science and Technology (2016-present).
- Associate Editor for the journal Science Advances (2017-2020)
Student/Postdoc Supervision & Mentoring
Madeleine has trained/mentored to completion 29 PhD, over 30 MSc and honours students, and 9 postdoctoral fellows. She has also supervised many undergraduate interns. She currently mentors 5 postdocs and ~10 postgraduate/honours students.
Selected recent media events
- Science et Vie TV Network (commissioned by AB Productions and broadcast Sep and Oct 2019). This is a 52min in-depth documentary of AIMS research in the reef restoration sphere. Highlights include Madeleine van Oppen on the topics of Assisted evolution, coral hybridisation and spawning.
- ABC Radio National The Round Table. 8 September 2019. Live radio debate on the state of the Great Barrier Reef.
- Presentation at Beakerstreet@TMAG in Hobart during National Science week Designer corals and the future of coral reefs (27 May 2019).
- Feature article The reef builders in the journal Science, 25 March 2019 (DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6433.1264).
- Panel discussion World Science Festival, Brisbane, Our Jewelled Seas: Future-proofing the Great Barrier Reef, 21 March 2019.
- Pursuit article, March 2019,
- Public panel discussion at the National History Museum in London, July 2nd 2018. The World Debate: The Engineers. This has been broadcast on the BBC World Service several times.
- Feature article Time to speed up coral evolution? in Cosmos Magazine vol. 78, 70-81 (2018).
- Public Q&A with Madeleine on assisted evolution held for the launch of the April 2018 edition of Cosmos Magazine at Readings Carlton (April 9th).
- Madeleine’s research features in the 3-part BBC series on the GBR, narrated by David Attenborough, which aired in Australia in 2016 and 2018.
- Robbins SJ, Singleton CM, Chan CX, Messer LF, Geers AU, Ying H, Baker A, Bell SC, Morrow KM, Ragan MA, Miller DJ, Forêt S, Ball E, Beeden R, Berumen M, Aranda M, Ravasi T, Bongaerts P, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Cooke I, Leggat B, Sprungala S, Fitzgerald A, Shang C, Lundgren P, Fyffe T, Rubino F, van Oppen M, Weynberg K, Robbins SJ, Singleton CM, Xin Chan C, Messer LF, Geers AU, Ying H, Baker A, Bell SC, Morrow KM, Ragan MA, Miller DJ, Foret S, Voolstra CR, Tyson GW, Bourne DG, Voolstra CR, Tyson GW, Bourne DG, ReFuGe C (2019) A genomic view of the reef-building coral Porites lutea and its microbial symbionts. Nature Microbiology,
- Damjanovic K, Menéndez P, Blackall LL, van Oppen MJH (2019) Early life stages of a common broadcast spawning coral associate with specific bacterial communities despite lack of internalized bacteria. Microbial Ecology, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00248-019-01428-1
- Quigley KM, Bay LK, van Oppen MJH (2019) The active spread of adaptive variation for reef resilience. Ecology & Evolution 9:11122-11135,
- Damjanovic K, van Oppen MJH, Menéndez P, Blackall LL (2019) Experimental inoculation of coral recruits with marine bacteria indicates scope for microbiome manipulation in Acropora tenuis and Platygyra daedalea. Frontiers in Microbiology 10: 1702, .
- Chan WY, Peplow LM, Menéndez P, Hoffmann AA, van Oppen MJH (2019) The roles of age, parentage and environment on bacterial and algal endosymbiont communities in Acropora corals. Molecular Ecology 28: 3830-3843,
- Epstein HE, Smith HA, Cantin NE, Torda G, van Oppen MJH (2019) Temporal variation in the microbiomes of Acropora species does not reflect seasonality. Frontiers in Microbiology 10: 1775,
- Cavicchioli R, Ripple WJ, Timmis KN, Azam F, Bakken LR, Baylis M, Behrenfeld MJ, Boetius A, Boyd PW, Classen AT, Crowther TW, Danovaro R, Foreman CM, Huisman J, Hutchins DA, Jansson JK, Karl DM, Koskella B, Welch DMB, Martiny JBH, Moran MA, Orphan V, Reay D, Remais JV, Rich V, Singh BK, Stein LY, Stewart FJ, Sullivan MB, van Oppen MJH, Weaver SC, Webb EA32, Webster N (2019) Scientists’ warning to humanity: microorganisms and climate change. Nature Reviews Microbiology 17: 569-586,
- Chan WY, Hoffmann AA, van Oppen MJH (2019) Hybridization as a conservation management tool. Conservation Letters 12: e12652,
- van Oppen MJH, Blackall LL (2019) Coral microbiome dynamics, functions and design in a changing world. Nature Reviews Microbiology 17: 557-567,
- Epstein H, Torda G, van Oppen MJH (2019) Relative stability of the Pocillopora acuta microbiome throughout a thermal stress event. Coral Reefs 38: 373-386,
- Epstein H, Torda G, Munday P, van Oppen MJH (2019) Parental and early life stage environments drive establishment of bacterial and dinoflagellate communities in a common coral. ISME J 13: 1635-1638,
- Buerger P, Weynberg KD, Wood-Charlson EM, Sato Y, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH (2019) Novel T4 bacteriophages associated with black band disease in corals. Environmental Microbiology 21: 1969–1979.
- Liu H, Stephens TG, González-Pech RA, Beltran VH, Lapeyre B, Bongaerts P, Cooke I, Aranda M, Bourne DG, Forêt S, Miller DJ, van Oppen MJH, Voolstra CR, Ragan MA and Chan CX (2018) Symbiodinium genomes reveal adaptive evolution of functions related to coral-dinoflagellate symbiosis. Communications Biology 1: 95,
- Chakravarti LJ, van Oppen MJH (2018) Experimental evolution in coral photosymbionts as a tool to increase thermal tolerance. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 227,
- van Oppen MJH, Bongaerts P, Frade P, Peplow LM, Boyd SE, Nim HT, Bay LK (2018) Adaptation to reef habitats through selection on the coral animal and its associated microbiome. Molecular Ecology 27: 2956-2971,
- Chan WY, Peplow LM, Menéndez P, Hoffmann AA, van Oppen MJH (2018) Interspecific hybridization may provide novel opportunities for coral reef restoration. Frontiers in Marine Science 5: 160,
- van de Water JAJM, De Mares MC, Dixon GB, Raina J-B, Willis BL, Bourne DG, van Oppen MJH (2018) Antimicrobial and stress responses to increased temperature and bacterial pathogen challenge in the holobiont of a reef-building coral. Molecular Ecology 27: 1065-1080,
- Torda G, Donelson JM, Aranda M, Barshis DJ, Bay LK, Berumen M, Bourne DG, Cantin N, Foret S, Matz M, Miller DJ, Moya A, Putnam H, Ravasi T, van Oppen MJH, Vega-Thurber R, Vidal-Dupiol J, Voolstra CR, Watson S, Whitelaw E, Willis BL, Munday PL (2017) Rapid adaptive responses to climate change in corals. Nature Climate Change 7: 627–636,
- Damjanovic K, Blackall LL, Webster NS, van Oppen MJH (2017) The contribution of microbial biotechnology to mitigating coral reef degradation. Microbial Biotechnology 10: 1236-1243,
- Chakravarti LJ, Beltran VH, van Oppen MJH (2017) Rapid temperature adaptation in photosymbionts of reef-building corals. Global Change Biology 23: 4675–4688,
- van Oppen MJH, Gates RD, Blackall LL, Cantin N, Chakravarti LJ, Chan WY, Cormick C, Crean A, Damjanovic K, Epstein H, Harrison PL, Jones TA, Miller M, Pears RJ, Peplow LM, Raftos DA, Schaffelke B, Stewart K, Torda G, Wachenfeld D, Weeks AR, Putnam HM (2017) Shifting paradigms in restoration of the world’s coral reefs. Global Change Biology 23: 3437-3448,
- Levin RA, Voolstra CR, Weynberg KE, van Oppen MJH (2016) Evidence for a role of viruses in the thermal sensitivity of coral photosymbionts. ISME J 11: 808-812,
- Jin YK, Lundgren P, Lutz A, Raina JB, Howells EJ, Paley AS, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH (2016) Genetic markers for antioxidant capacity in a reef-building coral. Science Advances 2: e1500842,
- Lukoschek V, Riginos C, van Oppen MJH (2016) Congruent patterns of connectivity can inform management for broadcast spawning corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Molecular Ecology 13: 3065–3080,
- Boulotte NM, Dalton SJ, Carroll AG, Harrison PL, Putnam HM, Peplow LM, van Oppen MJH (2016) Exploring the Symbiodinium rare biosphere provides evidence for symbiont switching in reef-building corals. ISME J 10: 2693-2701.