Marko Terzin - AIMS@JCU

Marko Terzin

Recipient of an AIMS@JCU Scholarship

College of Science and Engineering

Marko Terzin

College of Science and Engineering
Characterising and monitoring Great Barrier Reef microbial communities in a changing climate

Marko completed his Bachelor degree in Biology (summa cum laude) at the University of Belgrade (Serbia). Aiming to learn more about the fascinating world of coral reefs, he later enrolled the IMBRSea program as an awardee of an Erasmus Mundus scholarship and obtained a joint Master’s degree from ten European universities in Marine Biological Resources (magna cum laude). During his nomadic life as an IMBRSea student, Marko had the privilege to study in various countries across Europe (Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Sweden and France) and has met inspiring people from all over the world, which is something he is eternally grateful for.
Marko ventured into the world of bioinformatics during the last chapter of his IMBRSea journey, which he spent in Townsville at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS). At AIMS, Marko did his Master thesis project entitled “Exploring how symbionts of the model reef sponge Ircinia ramosa respond to the combined effects of ocean warming and ocean acidification using metatranscriptomics”, under the supervision of Dr. Nicole Webster, Dr. Patrick Laffy and Dr. David Bourne.
Upon completion of his MSc program, Marko took on a research fellowship position under the supervision of Dr. Federica Costantini at the University of Bologna, where he was in charge of developing bioinformatics pipelines using various genomic markers (COI and ITS genes, 2bRAD data) to investigate population connectivity patterns in 2 soft coral species (Antipathella subpinnata and Parazoanthus axinellae), at Mediterranean scale.
Marko feels incredibly honoured to have been awarded an AIMS@JCU PhD scholarship, and is thrilled to be back in the AIMS “sponge group” and supervised by the same supervisory team.

Characterising and monitoring Great Barrier Reef microbial communities in a changing climate

2021 to 2025

Project Description

Marko's PhD project will directly contribute to the IMOS Microbial Genomics Database initiative which aims to generate a microbial genomics database to be used as a resource for community and functional analyses of GBR microbial communities, with a specific focus on seawater and sediments. This project will produce 10,000 microbial genomes which will be curated into a genomic database resource for the broader community.
In addition, microbial observatories will be established at key inshore and offshore reef sites within the IMOS network, allowing investigation of how environmental factors influence microbial processes. Marko will try to explore how microbial gene expression shifts within communities in response to environmental changes through the combination of metagenomic and metatranscriptomic sequencing methods.

Project Importance

The development of these resources will allow us to definitively answer three key questions about microbial community dynamics in reef systems:
◦ Which taxa and functions form the microbial baseline(s) of healthy coral reefs?
◦ How does the microbial community respond to environmental changes?
◦ How are environmental disturbances predicted by compositional and functional changes in microbial composition / function?

Project Methods

Metagenomic and metatranscriptomic data will initially be analysed separately using existing computational methods and bioinformatics tools, and later bought together into a single computational workflow that includes measurements of environmental and oceanographic metadata to identify how microbial activity is changing with shifting environmental parameters.

Project Results

This knowledge will be crucial in developing microbial-based monitoring protocols for rapid assessment of the reef ecosystem health, particularly to identify early warning signs in coral reef health deterioration. This could prove invaluable in coral conservation efforts under a changing climate, as it would enable informed reef restoration measures to be deployed in a timely manner.


Climate change,
Coral reefs,
Management tools,
Molecular techniques,
Ocean acidification,
Ocean warming,
Porifera (sponges),
Quantitative marine science