Antarctic Aquatic Microbiology

The Cavicchioli group studies Antarctic microbes and the research involves both lab work and Antarctic field work. Research is orientated at discovering which microbes live in Antarctica, what processes they perform and how they will be affected by ecosystem changes. The group specialises in the 3rd domain of life – the Archaea – with a major focus on Antarctic haloarchaea.

Antarctic research in the group includes:

  • which microbes are present, whether they are endemic, and overall how unique they are (microbial dark matter)
  • how Antarctic microbes adapt to their natural environment (e.g. temperature, salinity, sunlight, physical isolation)
  • the processes microbes perform, and how these processes affect ecosystem function
  • the changes in taxa and microbial processes that occur throughout a complete annual cycle (summer-winter-summer)
  • interactions occurring between members of the communities, particularly virus-host interactions
  • the influence of gene exchange on speciation, and the evolutionary processes enabling dominance to arise
  • the impact of human activity, including introduced species and global warming, on indigenous microbial communities

Projects can be based in microbial ecology, microbial physiology, microbial genetics, genomics/proteomics and metagenomics/metaproteomics

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

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

Selected articles:

  • Erdmann S et al, 2017, ‘A plasmid from an Antarctic haloarchaeon uses specialized membrane vesicles to disseminate and infect plasmid-free cells’ , (in press).
  • Cavicchioli R, 2015, ‘Microbial ecology of Antarctic aquatic systems’ Nature Reviews Microbiology, 13: 691–706.
  • DeMaere MZ et al, 2013, ‘High level of inter-genera gene exchange shapes the evolution of haloarchaea in an isolated Antarctic lake’, Proc Natl Acad Sci, 110: 16939-16944.
  • Wilkins D et al, 2013, ‘Advection shapes Southern Ocean microbial assemblages independent of distance and environment effects’, Nature Communications, 4: 2457.
  • Yau S et al, 2011, ‘Virophage control of Antarctic algal host–virus dynamics’ Proc Natl Acad Sci, 108: 6163-6168.






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