My research is primarily focused on the molecular and microbial ecology of marine phototrophs (e.g. seagrass, corals, bivalves), and particularly how seagrass meadows protect other coastal ecosystems.
Marine Macrophytes for Improved Ocean Health and Human Wellbeing
We found that seagrass ecosystems remove pathogens from the seawater and consequently prevent diseases on nearby coral reefs (Lamb et al. 2017 ). This sparked my interest to further investigate health-boosting ‘ecosystem services’ as Nature-based Solutions that protect ocean and human health, and how we can restore protective ecosystem services for a sustainable use of ocean resources.
Holobionts and Organismal Physiology
Macro-organisms interact continuously with microbes. This is particularly the case for filter-feeding marine animals, like corals and bivalves. They may predate on microbes, but also engage in symbioses with microbes that provide benefits (nutrition, defense), or encounter disease-causing pathogens. I aim to understand the function of the many different microbes within a holobiont (i.e. macro-organism with its symbionts) and how they affect organismal health and resilience to anthropogenic stressors (climate change, pollution).
Molecular & Microbial Ecology - from symbiosis to biodiversity
In my work, I use advanced techniques and bioinformatics - from whole genome sequencing, metagenomics and (meta-)transcriptomics to biodiversity assessments using environmental DNA approaches. I combine this with organismal physiological assessments, including stable isotope analyses to study nutrient cycling.
Education & Research Positions
I received my MSc degree in Biomolecular Sciences from Utrecht University in 2007, and started my research career working on stem cell-delivered therapeutics for brain cancer at Harvard Medical School. In 2010, I moved to James Cook University (JCU) and the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) to study the immune system of corals and how it is affected by climate change, pollution and tourism; and obtained my PhD degree in 2015. Between 2015 and 2022, I worked at the Centre Scientifique de Monaco (CSM) - initially as a postdoc investigating the microbiota of Mediterranean corals, and from 2020 onwards I led the "Microbial Ecology, Ecophysiology and Ecology of Precious Corals" program as Chargé de Recherche of the Precious Coral Biology Research Unit. As of September 2022, I am a Scientist within the Department of Estuarine & Delta Systems at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ).
A full list of my publications can be found on my ORCID and ResearchGate (incl. accessible pdfs) profiles.
Ocean & Human Health
- Lamb JB, van de Water JAJM, Bourne DG, Altier C, Hein MY, Fiorenza EA, Abu N, Jompa J, Harvell CD. Seagrass ecosystems reduce exposure to bacterial pathogens of humans, fishes, and invertebrates. Science. 2017 February; 355(6326): 731-733
- Littman RA, Fiorenza EA, Wenger AS, Berry KL, van de Water JAJM, Nguyen L, Aung ST, Parker DM, Rader DN, Harvell CD, Lamb JB. Coastal urbanization influences human pathogens and microdebris contamination in seafood. Science of the Total Environment. 2020 June; 736: 139081
- Landrigan P, Stegeman J, Fleming LE, ..., van de Water JAJM, Vezzulli L, Weihe P, Zeka A, Raps H, Rampal P. Human Health and Ocean Pollution. Annals of Global Health. 2020 December; 86(1): 1-64
- van de Water JAJM, Tignat-Perrier R, Allemand D, Ferrier-Pagès C. Coral holobionts and biotechnology: from Blue Economy to coral reef conservation. Current Opinion in Biotechnology. 2022 April; 74C:110-121
- Tignat-Perrier R*, van de Water JAJM*, Guillemain D, Aurelle D, Allemand D, Ferrier-Pagès C. The effect of thermal stress on the physiology and bacterial communities of two key Mediterranean gorgonians. Applied & Environmental Microbiology. 2022 March; 88(6): e02340-21
- Bednarz V*, van de Water JAJM*, Grover R, Maguer JF, Fine M, Ferrier-Pagès C. Unravelling the importance of diazotrophy in corals - Combined assessment of nitrogen assimilation, diazotrophic community and natural stable isotope signatures. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2021 June; 12:631244
- van de Water JAJM, Chaib De Mares M, Dixon GB, Raina J-B, Willis BL, Bourne DG, van Oppen MJH. Antimicrobial and stress responses to increased temperature and bacterial pathogen challenge in the holobiont of a reef-building coral. Molecular Ecology. 2018 February; 27(4): 1065-1080
- van de Water JAJM, Voolstra CR, Rottier C, Cocito S, Peirano A, Allemand D, Ferrier-Pagès C. Seasonal stability in the microbiomes of temperate gorgonians and the red coral Corallium rubrum across the Mediterranean Sea. Microbial Ecology. 2018 January; 75(1): 274-288
- van de Water JAJM, Ainsworth TD, Leggat W, Bourne DG, Willis BL, van Oppen MJH. The coral immune response facilitates protection against microbes during tissue regeneration. Molecular Ecology. 2015 June; 24(13): 3390-3404