Environmental and Microbial Genomics
Our research focuses on the discovery, evolution and interplay of living and ancient organisms across all domains of life - archaea, bacteria and eukaryotes.
We study diverse environments ranging from aquatic and terrestrial biomes to the human body. Our group’s research encompasses three main areas of interest:
- ancient DNA studies seeking to understand through time ecosystem changes, dynamics and functions of ecological communities inhabiting the deep seafloor to high-altitude extreme environments,
- investigating the microbial ecology and evolution of native Australian animals for their improved conservation, and
- examining the diverse microbiomes of the human body to develop better strategies for disease prevention and treatment.
For this highly multidisciplinary research, we apply state-of-the-art high-throughput DNA sequencing and bioinformatic techniques, while also advancing computational tools to analyse our large and complex datasets. For a glimpse into our diverse research programs, please see our individual projects below, with study options available.
Characterising the microbial ecology of Australian mammal
Raph studies coevolution - discovering interactions between Australian mammals and their microbes, and determining what these interactions mean for mammal ecology and health. This includes developing microbial therapies for improving captive mammal health and conservation efforts.
Investigating marine organisms in sediments to reconstruct Antarctic ecosystems
Linda's research involves improving the understanding of modern and ancient marine organisms, from the smallest phytoplankton to zooplankton and fish, and their relationships with the environment. Linda's background in marine science is highly interdisciplinary, having trained extensively in sedimentary ancient DNA, marine genomics, micropaleontology, biological oceanography and phytoplankton taxonomy, with a particular passion for the Antarctic environment, ship work at high latitudes and exploring marine sediment records. Currently, she is applying ancient DNA techniques to investigate past harmful algal bloom dynamics off Tasmania, and to reconstruct Antarctic ecosystems using sediment cores from East and West Antarctica, which she collected during her participation in a number of recent Antarctic expeditions (IODP Exp. 382 - Iceberg Alley, Sabrina Seafloor Survey - IN2017_V01).
Photo courtesy Lee Stevens, IODP
Evolutionary history of microbial adaptations to extreme environments
Vilma is visiting ACAD on a Chilean Postdoctoral Fellowship to further her work on the diversity and survival strategies of microbial communities in very extreme environments using both modern and ancient DNA approaches. By examining past microbial adaptation mechanisms to environmental factors, using ancient Chilean hydrothermal soil samples, she will benchmark ancient environmental microbiome studies. Samples are taken from primitive sites so extreme (e.g. sulfur rich, high temperatures springs at 4000 metres above sea level with dangerous UV levels) that makes research difficult, but immensely rewarding. Due to a gap in this field, Vilma is developing laboratory protocols and analytical pipelines that will address some of the evolutionary history of microbes that exist in such extreme environments.