Inside the audacious mission to map every microbe in Australia

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Waves submerge the algae, forcing us to hop onto higher ground to avoid getting wet feet. For the next few months, the rocky beach outcrop I am on in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park, Sydney, will be a lab for Kim Lema at the University of New South Wales, Australia.

She is studying a type of algae whose chemicals attract certain microbes, forming a microscopic community on its surface that plays an important role in its health.

To identify these microbes, Lema …