Environmental Microbial Genomics, Extremophiles and Global Ecosystem Health

The Cavicchioli group has a range of research relevant to the environment and health of the planet. The group studies Antarctic microbes and the research involves lab work and field work in Antarctica and on the high seas of the Southern Ocean. Research is orientated at discovering which microbes live in Antarctica and how they grow and survive.

Antarctic research in the group addresses:

  • what types of microbes are present, and how diverse and unique are they?
  • how do microbes adapt, and what enables them to function effectively in the cold?
  • what processes do the microbes perform, and how does this affect ecosystem function?
  • what interactions occur within communities, and how does this affect ecosystem function?
  • how does gene exchange influence speciation, and what enables dominance to arise?
  • how did the organisms evolve from a marine environment to the various lake environments?
  • how will the microbes and the ecosystems they control be affected by human activities including climate change?
  • how can microbes and their cellular products (e.g. enzymes) be used for biotechnological applications?

Honours/MPhil and undergraduate projects can be based in microbial ecology, microbial physiology, microbial genetics, genomics/proteomics, metagenomics/metaproteomics, microbial evolution, bioinformatics, biochemistry/ biophysics or enzymology.

Specific opportunities exist to work along-side Dr Tim Williams, who has unique expertise in meta/proteomics and microbial physiology/ecology, and Dr Susanne Erdmann who is an EMBO Fellow studying viruses and virus defence systems of Antarctic haloarchaea.

All students will be linked to established members of the group, and projects will aligned to those of existing PhD students and research staff.

Selected articles:

  • Yau S et al. 2011, ‘Virophage control of Antarctic algal host–virus dynamics’ PNAS USA 108: 6163-6168.
  • DeMaere MZ et al. 2013, ‘High level of inter-genera gene exchange shapes the evolution of haloarchaea in an isolated Antarctic lake’, PNAS ,110: 16939-16944.
  • Wilkins D et al. 2013, ‘Advection shapes Southern Ocean microbial assemblages independent of distance and environment effects’, Nature Communications, 4: 2457.



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