The Environmental Microbiology Research Initiative (EMRI) is a research consortium that aims to explore how environmental microorganisms influence ecosystem and human health, change the chemistry of the planet, respond to the impacts of industrial contamination and climate change, and potentially yield new biotechnologies.
Environmental systems harbour complex microbial networks and interactions that reflect biological (including microbes and animal/plant hosts) and geological co-evolution, including the impacts of the Anthropocene. Only recently have the vastness, novelty and ingenuity of Earth’s microbiomes been revealed through technological advances and utilisation of multi-omics and visualistion approaches. Understanding the distribution, complexity and functionality of the planet’s largely non-pure-cultivated environmental microbes presents a new frontier of science.
EMRI is an interdisciplinary research initiative created to explore and make discoveries across this new frontier. EMRI involves five faculties at the University of Melbourne: Science; Engineering; Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences; Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences; and Arts.
- EMRI Research Program Overview
EMRI RESEARCH PROGRAM
EMRI research is grouped into three interconnected themes of microbial resilience, microbial systems and microbial evolution. The three themes underpin the research program that will address five key research objectives:
- Contribute strategically to the growing global catalogue of environmental genomes and metagenomics datasets
- Understand key environmental factors that shape microbial communities
- Predict adaptations in microbial communities and their functionality under changing environmental conditions
- Identify novel metabolic/enzymatic pathways for nutrient cycling or contaminant remediation
- Use metagenomics to drive cultivation-based hypothesis-testing experiments and selective enrichment/species isolations.
- EMRI Governance
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research): Professor Jim McCluskey
Dean of the Faculty of Science: Professor Karen Day
Associate Dean of the Faculty of Science (Research and Industry): Professor Laura Parry
EMRI Director: Professor Linda Blackall
EMRI Academic Specialist: Vacancy currently being filled
Prof Linda Blackall (Chair, EMRI Director, Faculty of Science, School of BioSciences/School of Earth Sciences)
Prof Jillian Banfield (Faculty of Science, School of Earth Sciences)
Prof Laura Parry (Faculty of Science, School of BioSciences)
Prof Ute Roessner (Faculty of Science, School of BioSciences)
Prof Jim He (Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, School of Agriculture and Food)
Dr Robyn Schofield (Faculty of Science, School of Earth Sciences)
Prof Robyn Sloggett (Faculty of Arts, Grimwade Centre)
Prof Dick Strugnell (Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, Department of Microbiology & Immunology)
Prof Michael Stumpf (Faculty of Science, Melbourne Integrative Genomics/School of BioSciences)
Prof Andrew Western (Faculty of Engineering)
- Bioinformatics and Statistics Committee
The Bioinformatics and Statistics Committee ensures that EMRI researchers are kept abreast of information, skills, hardware/software and training courses in this field at the University of Melbourne. The committee will be aware of EMRI needs via surveys and other communications methods. It is anticipated that EMRI will facilitate specific courses and the committee will lead or oversee and ensure broadcasting of them.
Dr Heroen Verbruggen (Faculty of Science, School of BioSciences) (Chair)
- Heroen's interests span the fields of algal evolution, microbial symbiosis, genome evolution and bioinformatics. Heroen's research into the evolutionary diversification of marine algae, uses molecular phylogenetics to explore their diversification and answer specific questions about their evolution. Bioinformatics and phylogenetics take a central position in his approach to research questions.
Dr Dieter Bulach (Melbourne Bioinformatics and Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences) (Deputy Chair)
- Dieter is an experienced bioinformatician specialising in microbial genomics. He is the European Molecular Biology Laboratory-Australian Bioinformatics Resource (EMBL-ABR) Activity Lead for Prokaryotes Bioinformatics. He works on a range of public health projects at the Peter Doherty Institute. Dieter specialises in both microbiology and bioinformatics, working on several major projects dealing with viruses and bacteria, especially pathogens.
Dr Kim-Anh Lê Cao (Melbourne Integrative Genomics and Faculty of Science, School of Mathematics and Statistics)
- Kim-Anh's main research focus is on variable selection for biological data (`omics' data) coming from different functional levels by the means of multivariate dimension reduction approaches. Since 2009, her team has been working on developing the statistical R toolkit mixOmics that is dedicated to the integrative analysis of `omics' data, to help researchers make sense of biological big data.
Dr Patrick Buerger (CSIRO and Faculty of Science, School of BioSciences)
- Patrick is a postdoctoral researcher with CSIRO's Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform and the University of Melbourne. His research focuses on climate change and anthropogenic impacts on coral reef ecosystems and he uses genetic engineering and a range of Omics technologies to investigate the thermal resilience of algal symbionts in corals.
Ms Evelyn Chou (Faculty of Science, School of BioSciences)
- Evelyn is a graduate researcher who explores density-dependent cell-cell chemical communication (quorum sensing) in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Her work has shown that P. falciparum undergoes density-dependent cell death characterized by changes in parasite gene expression that are associated with sexual stage transmission, programmed cell death and clonal variation (a key regulator of infection and host interaction). Evelyn combines cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, metabolomics, functional genomics, and bioinformatics to identify and understand the mechanisms underlying these responses.
- Social Psychology and Ethics Committee
Practical applications of discovery in environmental microbiology involve engaging with society. For example, water generated from bioremediation of polluted water could be used for irrigation and food grown on such irrigated land might be deemed negatively by some cohorts in society. Thus, attention to society's thoughts and opinions and to their embracing environmental microbiology applications must be considered early in several research projects. Our research and how our discoveries can benefit humanity and the environment must be communicated to the public early in the work timetable and in an effective manner.
Prof Yoshihisa Kashima (Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences; firstname.lastname@example.org) (Chair)
- Yoshi's current research goal is to develop a social psychological theory of cultural dynamics, that is, how concrete individuals’ context specific activities in interaction with each other can generate and transform what we call culture. More specific projects include cultural comparisons in self and identity, narrative social influence in cultural transmission and transformation, cultural dynamics of nationalism, patriotism, and stereotyping, and connectionist modelling of cultural processes.
Dr Brock Bastian (Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences; email@example.com)
- In his search for a new perspective on what makes for the good life, Brock has studied why promoting happiness may have paradoxical effects; why we need negative and painful experiences in life to build meaning, purpose, resilience, and ultimately greater fulfilment in life; and why behavioural ethics is necessary for understanding how we reason about personal and social issues and resolve conflicts of interest.
Prof Madeleine van Oppen (Faculty of Science; firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Her research focuses on microbial symbiosis in corals, adaptation/acclimatisation to climate change, and connectivity of coral reefs. Her work is increasingly focusing on ‘assisted evolution’, where mechanisms of adaptation and acclimatisation in corals and genetic manipulations to enhance stress tolerance and fitness of corals in a changing environment are explored.
Dr Kate Howell (Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences; email@example.com)
- Kate studies food biochemistry and microbial ecology, by investigating yeast and bacterial communities in food ecosystems. Of interest are biochemical pathways of yeasts that influence flavour production during fermentations in a range of different foods and beverages.
- Graduate Research Association
Dr Douglas Brumley (Chair) (School of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Science)
- Colloquium Committee
International Conference Organising Committee Membership:
- Gordon Research Conference – Marine Molecular Ecology (Novel Insights into Marine Patterns and Processes) 14-19 July, 2019 Hong Kong. Madeleine van Oppen (organising chair) and Linda Blackall (vice chair).
- Microscale Ocean Biophysics 5.0. 10-16 January, 2019, Whistler, Canada. Douglas Brumley on the organising committee and invited speaker.
EMRI 2nd General Workshop held on 17th August, 2018.
- Dr Kim-Anh Lê Cao wins 2019-2022 Career Development Fellowship (CDF2) from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ‘Microbiome biomarkers of human disease: novel computational methods to facilitate therapeutic developments’, $483K.
- Prof Karen Day (Dean of the Faculty of Science) awarded the title of Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor for her outstanding leadership within the University’s professoriate.
- EMRI funds 2 PhD students (2018-2021) – Mr Francesco Ricci and Mr Heyu Lin.
- Prof Madeleine van Oppen wins Australian Research Council (ARC) Laureate Award for Engineering microbial symbionts that increase coral climate resilience (2019-2023; $3,011,916).
- Dr Douglas Brumley wins ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award for The mechanisms driving microbial navigation in marine systems (2018 – 2021; $348,575)
- Prof Jillian Banfield receives 2018 UK Microbiology Society Prize Medal.
- Prof Jillian Banfield elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS)
- EMRI scientists host 3 Uni Melbourne symposia (till August, 2018)
International Conference Presentations:
- The 17th International Symposium on Microbial Ecology Leipzig, Germany – Ms Katarina Damjanovic, Ms Giada Tortorelli, Mr Leon Hartman
- The 9th International Symbiosis Society Congress Corvallis, Oregon, USA – Ms Ashley Dungan, Ms Giada Tortorelli, Prof Linda Blackall
EMRI 1st General Workshop held on 11th July, 2017.
- Prof Jillian Banfield wins prestigious VM Goldschmidt Award from the Geochemical Society.
- EMRI academics appointed (0.4 FTE) – Prof Jillian Banfield, Prof Linda Blackall.
- Dr Heroen Verbruggen, Prof Linda Blackall, Assoc Prof Kat Holt for Hybrid assembly of holobiont genomes in the coral skeleton ($19,971; seed funding from Univ Melbourne Computational Biology Research Initiative)
- Damjanovic K, Blackall LL, Webster NS, van Oppen MJH (2017) The contribution of microbial biotechnology to mitigating coral reef degradation. Microbial Biotechnology, doi:10.1111/1751-7915.12769.
- Prof Madeleine van Oppen featured on ABC Catalyst
- EMRI scientists host 7 Uni Melbourne symposia
Presentations of interest (latter two in October)
- Animal Sex Determination by Genes, Chromosomes and the Environment by Prof Jenny Graves, La Trobe University. A Melbourne Integrative Genomics seminar on Friday 21 September, 12.00-1.00pm at University of Melbourne.
- Our Dynamic Microbiomes and Gut Health – the Nicholas Catchlove Lecture on Wednesday 17 October at the Charles Perkins Centre, The University of Sydney, NSW 2006 by Professor Rob Knight, University of California and the American Gut Project.
- Can Evolution keep up with Rapid Climate Change by Professor Johanna ‘Annie’ Schmitt, University of California, Davis on Wednesday 17 October, 6.30-7.30pm (book now) at University of Melbourne.
University of Melbourne events (most relevant to EMRI):
- The University of Melbourne, School of BioSciences posts events each week – here are the events for the week starting 17 September, 2018.
- Melbourne Integrative Genomics posts events each week – here are the events for the week starting 17 September, 2018.
Conferences and Courses:
On this week – 17-21 September:
- Careers in Computational Biology run by Computational Biology Research Initiative on Monday 17th September. RSVP essential!
On next week (but registration/applications likely earlier – see bolded key dates)
- COMBINE RNA-seq workshop – register by 19 September. Workshop 26-27 September, 2018.
- Microbial Ecology-Environmental Microbiology (MEEM) in Victoria (ECR and PhD speakers, afternoon tea, post meeting informal social) on Thursday 27th September, 2018 from 14:00-17:30 at La Trobe city campus, 360 Collins Street, Melbourne (Room: 360C-2.10) – to promote communication/collaboration among microbial ecologists and gratefully sponsored by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Society for Microbiology. Contact: Prof Linda Blackall – firstname.lastname@example.org.
On later in 2018 (but registration/applications likely earlier – see bolded key dates):
- The Future of Microbiome Research, 26-27th November, 2018 (RSVP for catering purposes by 16th November) at Manly Novotel, 55 North Steyne, Manly NSW 2095. Supported by the the University of Bordeaux and the ARC Laureate Project ‘A Philosophy of Medicine for the 21st Century’, Charles Perkins Centre.
- Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society meeting 26-30 November, 2018, at University of Melbourne. COMBINE Student Symposium 26 November, 2018; ABACBS conference 27-28 November; associated workshops 29-30 November, 2018. Key dates: 10 September; Abstracts and travel bursary applications close. Early October: Notification of talk/poster. 24 October: Early bird registration deadline.
- Graduate Researchers
Courses, seminars for PGs by Professional Development for Graduate Researchers:
- Effective communication – Social media. 1. Theory 18th September 10.30am-12.30pm. 2. Practice 20th September 10.30am-12.30pm. Register now.
- Graduate Researchers Orientation (for new Uni Melb graduate researchers) on Tuesday 25th September 9am-1pm – register now.
- Life Beyond your Thesis: Careers Post Graduate Research on Wednesday 10th October 10am-12noon – register now.
Mr Francesco Ricci (2018-2021) (email@example.com)
- Supervisors: Dr Heroen Verbruggen, Prof Linda Blackall, Prof Michael Kühl (University of Copenhagen, Denmark).
- Project Title: Physicochemical micro-niches in the coral skeleton and their relation to the microbiome
- Brief Description: I investigate the micro-niches within the calcium carbonate skeleton of scleractinian (stony or hard) corals, using planar optode imaging to analyse their physicochemical properties and molecular techniques to characterise the associated microbiota.
Mr Heyu Lin (2018-2021) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Supervisors: Dr John Moreau, Assoc Prof Kat Holt
- Project Title: Investigating the potential for mercury methylation by marine micro aerophilic bacteria
- Brief Description: This project will employ culturing-based and culture-independent techniques to understand the mechanisms for microbial mercury methylation in aerobic marine water columns. We will be looking for new genes and pathways employed by marine bacteria to metabolize or resist anthropogenic mercury contamination, in order to investigate the role of bacteria in the marine biogeochemical mercury cycling.
EMRI Affiliated Postgrads
Ms Evelyn Chou (2014-2018) (email@example.com)
- Supervisors: Prof Karen Day, Dr Michael Duffy
- Project Title: Characterization and mechanisms of a novel density-dependent death phenotype in Plasmodium falciparum
- Brief Description: I explore quorum sensing in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, a form of cell-cell communication in which unicellular organisms count themselves through the secretion and reception of signaling molecules. Responses to quorum sensing can include the production of inhibitory factors that prevent or reduce growth and proliferation. P. falciparum parasites are temporally exposed to conditions of high parasite density during sequestration in the microvasculature, providing the ideal environment for density-dependent differential behavior. I show that P. falciparum undergoes density-dependent cell death characterized by changes in parasite gene expression that are associated with sexual stage transmission, programmed cell death and clonal variation (a key regulator of infection and host interaction). I also combine cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, metabolomics, functional genomics, and bioinformatics to identify and understand the mechanisms underlying these responses.
- Supervisors: Prof Ute Roessner, Assoc Prof Alex Johnson, Prof Michelle Watt (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany), Dr. Borjana Arsova (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany)
- Project Title: The role of lipids in the formation of beneficial interactions between plant roots and soil microbiota under heat stress
- Brief Description: The plant root-soil microbe interface is a major frontier with potential opportunities for addressing crop agricultural challenges, especially under abiotic stress. This study will harness specific plant growth promoting soil microbes and demonstrate their beneficial effects using the model plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, under heat stress. In particular, we aim to investigate the biochemical nature of the plant-microbe interaction, focusing on lipids as key signalling molecules, and explore how temperature under predicted global warming scenario will impact this interaction using high-throughput shoot and root phenotyping platforms and state-of-the-art lipidomics technologies.
- Supervisors: Dr Hang-Wei Hu, Prof Jim (Jizheng) He
- Project Title: Understanding the Core Resistome and Microbiome in Urban Environment
- Brief Description: Gaol: Identify the core resistome and core microbiome (the most common and ubiquitous antibiotic resistance genes and bacterial phylotypes) in urban environment. Explore factors that shape the microbial community structure and impact on resistome in urban environment.
- Supervisors: Prof Jim (Jizheng) He, Dr Hang-Wei Hu, Prof Deli Chen
- Project Title: Understanding the role of the newly-discovered comammox bacteria to nitrification in terrestrial ecosystems
- Brief Description: A recent discovery found that the complete ammonia oxidizers within the Nitrospira genus are capable of converting NH3 to NO3- in a single organism. It was called “comammox Nitrospira”. This project will assess the environmental prevalence and functional importance of comammox Nitrospira, and to re-evaluate the relative contribution of comammox Nitrospira and canonical nitrifiers to nitrification in terrestrial ecosystems.
- Supervisors: Prof Jim He, Prof. Deli Chen, Dr Hang-Wei Hu
- Project Title: Transmission of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in Agro-ecosystems.
- Brief Description: Investigate the abundance, diversity and transmission potential of ARGs in various animal manures and Australian agro-ecosystems. Explore the major routes for transmission of ARGs from the rhizosphere to vegetables grown in soils fertilized with manure.
- Supervisors: Dr John Moreau, Prof Jillian Banfield (Univ Melbourne, Univ California, Berkeley, USA)
- Project Title: Geomicrobiology of rare earth elements
- Description: The project aims to discover novel microbial compounds that liberate rare earth elements and phosphorus from minerals. By focusing on the interactions between soil microorganisms and lanthanide-phosphate minerals, this proposal seeks to understand how microbes break down these highly insoluble secondary minerals in the environment. Expected outcomes include new strategies for accessing phosphorus in depleted agricultural soils and recovering lanthanides from currently uneconomical mine tailings. This project will provide new knowledge of the microbially-controlled processes mediating the biogeochemical cycling of phosphorus and lanthanides in nature, for harnessing to improved land management and economical resource extraction.
Mr Angus Keillar (2016-2020) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Supervisors: Dr Jay Black, Dr John Moreau, Dr Andre Mu
- Project Title: Understanding microbial responses to supercritical CO2 stress, and the implications for CO2 geosequestration
- Description: In this research, we will use a high-pressure and temperature experimental apparatus to simulate geological conditions at 1-2 km below the Earth’s surface, where supercritical carbon dioxide will be stored in large plumes that may trigger microbial metabolic responses with consequence for aquifer geochemistry and mineralogy. Specifically, we are interested in the viability of microbial biofilms that might help trap or limit the migration of subsurface supercritical carbon dioxide plumes.
Mr Farhad Shafiei (2018-2021) (email@example.com)
- Supervisors: Dr Mathew Watts, Dr John Moreau, Dr Berin Boughton
- Project title: Determining microbial community structure and metabolic pathway changes in a thiocyanate biodegradation system under environmental perturbations
- Description: This project will examine how bioreactor microbial communities self-structure and metabolise thiocyanate and intermediation breakdown products during thiocyanate bioremediation of mining wastewater. We are particularly interested in resolving the species-dependent metabolic “handoffs” of nitrogen, sulfur and carbon, with broader implications for these biogeochemical cycles in both industrial-scale bioremediation systems and natural aqueous environments.
Ms Ashley Dungan (2017-2020) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Supervisors: Prof Linda Blackall, Prof Madeleine van Oppen
- Project Title: The exploration of bacterial probiotics in the model organism Exaiptasia pallida to increase climate resilience in corals
- Brief Description: The goal of my research is to develop a probiotic to mitigate the effects of thermal stress in E. pallida by understanding the phenotypic and genetic traits of their symbiotic bacteria and how these bacteria might neutralize toxic reactive oxygen species. I use pure culturing techniques, fluorescence in situ hybridisation, whole genome sequencing, metabarcoding, and physiological assessment of the anemone host to answer my questions.
Ms Katarina Damjanovic (2015-2019) (email@example.com)
- Supervisors: Prof Linda Blackall, Prof Madeleine van Oppen
- Project Title: Manipulating prokaryotic symbionts to enhance coral tolerance to stress
- Brief Description: This project consists in exploring the feasibility of manipulating the coral prokaryotic microbiome by targeted exposures into the laboratory and gaining insights into the transmission mode of bacteria and Symbiodinium in corals with different reproductive strategies.
Miss Giada Tortorelli (2017-2020) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Supervisors: Prof Geoff McFadden, Prof Madeleine van Oppen, Prof Simon Davy (Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
- Project title: Dissecting the symbiotic partnership between algae and animals that powers coral reefs
- Brief description: I am interested in the really initial steps during the establishment of symbiosis between Cnidaria and Symbiodinium. My main aim is to dissect the inter-partner molecular signalling that allows recognition between host and photosymbionts in the setup of symbiosis.
Mr Leon Hartman (2016-2020) (email@example.com)
- Supervisors: Prof Linda Blackall, Prof Madeleine van Oppen, Prof Damien Hicks (Swinburne University of Technology)
- Project Title: Manipulation of prokaryotic communities in the coral model organism: Exaiptasia pallida
- Brief Description: We are establishing Australia’s first cultures of the coral model organism, E. pallida, and characterising its prokaryotic communities. Having access to this model and its baseline microbiome data will facilitate investigation of coral bleaching mitigation strategies, particularly inoculation with probiotic bacteria, which is the focus of my work.
Ms. Sneha Gupta (2016-2019) (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Supervisors: Prof Ute Roessner, Assoc Prof Penelope Smith (La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia), Dr. Siria Natera
- Project Title: The effect of salt stress on below ground biology
- Brief Description: This project aims to study the root-soil-microbe nexus which includes the spectrum of relationships between plant and microbes that span from pathogenic to mutually beneficial. With the focus on salinity stress, we will be able to add new understanding to this complex landscape investigating the chemical dialogue of these interactions along with the information on colonization of beneficial microbes specifically Trichoderma harzianum T-22 into roots under one of the greatest abiotic stresses, salinity, affecting agricultural production worldwide. This will be achieved by deploying biochemical analysis that will reveal information on chemical statement on these interactions, using various high-end metabolomics tools.
- Supervisors: Prof Ute Roessner, Assoc Prof Penelope Smith (La Trobe University, Victoria, Australia), Prof Michelle Watt (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany), Dr Borjana Arsova (Forschungszentrum Jülich, Germany)
- Project Title: The Impact of beneficial Microbes on Root Architecture and Metabolism of the Model Grass Brachypodium distachyon grown under non-optimal Temperatures
- Brief Description: During my PhD I will investigate the interaction between Brachypodium distachyon and the plant growth promoting bacterium Azospirillum brasilense at sub-optimal temperatures. In particular, I am focusing on the effect of bacterial colonization on Brachypodium's roots phenotype, transcriptome, proteome and metabolome at different time points. The aim of my project is to study which metabolic pathways are mainly influenced during the plant-bacterium interplay at various temperature scenarios.
- Supervisors: Dr Kate Howell, Prof Rudi Appels (Murdoch University), Assoc Prof Nils Arneborg (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
- Project Title: Community ecosystems in food and beverage fermentations: the role of yeasts in quorum sensing in mixed culture fermentations.
- Brief Description: This project will investigate the phenomenon of quorum sensing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae with the overall goal of providing an understanding of the interactions between different microbial species during food and beverage fermentations.
- Supervisors: Dr Kate Howell, Prof Deli Chen, Dr Pangzhen Zhang
- Project Title: Microbial Terroir: Understanding the importance of the soil microbial community to Australian winemaking
- Brief Description: This project aims to examine microbial terroir as a crucial factor of wine terroir, which describe the regional variation in grape and wine quality characteristics. Investigate soil-borne community across multi-scale viticultural zones in Victoria to validate microbial biogeography associated with local climate, geography, and soil properties. Identify key taxa for microbial biogeography and wine characteristics. Explore potential translocation of soil-borne microbes to grapevines. In doing this, we expect to quantify wine terroir and provide new insights to agriculture management.
- Postdoctoral and Early Career Researchers
Dr Patrick Buerger (2017 – 2020) (email@example.com)
- Collaborators: Prof Madeleine van Oppen, Dr John Oakeshott (CSIRO, Canberra), Dr Owain Edwards (CSIRO, Canberra)
- Project Title: Enhancing the thermal tolerance of coral algal symbionts through genetic engineering.
- Brief Description: My research project is focused on climate change and anthropogenic impacts on coral reef ecosystems. Using genetic engineering and a range of Omics techniques, Patrick leads investigations into the thermal resilience of algal symbionts in corals.
- Current Supervision: Master of Science student Ms Ruby Vanstone (Univ Melbourne)
DEAN OF SCIENCE
Karen Day, Dean, Faculty of Science
DIRECTOR (from 1st September, 2018)
Linda Blackall, School of BioSciences and School of Earth Sciences
Much of EMRI research is multi-disciplinary with investigators located in their domain-specific home faculties.
- Faculty of Science
Alex Adrianopoulos, School of BioSciences
Jillian Banfield, School of Earth Sciences
Linda Blackall, School of BioSciences and School of Earth Sciences
Douglas Brumley, School of Mathematics and Statistics
Mike Duffy, School of BioSciences and Honorary at Royal Melbourne Hospital
Ralf Haese, School of Earth Sciences
Ary Hoffman, School of BioSciences
Alexander Idnurm, School of BioSciences
Alex Johnson, School of BioSciences
Kim-Anh Lê Cao, School of Mathematics and Statistics
Michael McCarthy, School of BioSciences
John Moreau, School of Earth Science
Laura Parry, School of BioSciences
Ute Roessner, Head of School, School of BioSciences
Robyn Schofield, School of Earth Sciences
Madeleine van Oppen, School of BioSciences
Heroen Verbruggen, School of BioSciences
Peter Vesk, School of BioSciences
- Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Science
EMRI investigators are in the School of Agriculture and Food. Many are in the Centre for Healthy Soils for Sustainable Food Production and Environmental Quality, whose manager is Dr Ee-Ling Ng.
Deli Chen, School of Agriculture and Food
Jim He, School of Agriculture and Food
Kate Howell, School of Agriculture and Food
Hang-Wei Hu, School of Agriculture and Food
Herbert Kronzucker, School of Agriculture and Food
Ee-Ling Ng, Centre Manager
Tony Weatherley, School of Agriculture and Food
- Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences
EMRI investigators are in the School of Biomedical Sciences, (Dept of Microbiology and Immunology, Dept of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Melbourne Diagnostics Unit), the Melbourne Dental School and Melbourne Advanced Microscopy. They are located in the Peter Doherty Institute, Bio21 and the Melbourne Dental School.
Sammy Bedoui, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Andrew Brooks, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Dieter Bulach, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Stuart Dashper, Melbourne Dental School
Mark Davies, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Zoe Dyson, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Institute
Eric Hanssen, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Advanced Microscopy Facility, Bio21 Institute
Kathryn Holt, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Institute
Ben Howden, Molecular Diagnostics Unit, Peter Doherty Institute
Stephan Kaiser, Administration Support, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Andre Mu, Peter Doherty Institute
Hayley Newton, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Timothy Stinear, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Dick Strugnell, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
Karena Waller, Department of Microbiology and Immunology
- Faculty of Engineering
EMRI investigators are in the Melbourne School of Engineering – School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering and School of Electrical, Mechanical and Infrastructure Engineering (Department of Infrastructure Engineering)
Sally Gras, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
Anne Steinemann, Infrastructure Engineering
Geoff Stevens, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering
Michael Stewardson, Infrastructure Engineering
Andrew Western, Infrastructure Engineering
- Faculty of Arts
EMRI investigators are in the Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation.
Caroline Kyi, Grimwade Centre
Robyn Sloggett, Grimwade Centre
Many EMRI research projects are cross-disciplinary but are grouped into the general topics below:
- Geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry of mercury methylation
Geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry of mercury methylation
The Moreau Geomicrobiology Lab studies the processes by which certain microorganisms convert toxic ionic mercury (Hg2+) into the more toxic organometallic compound, methylmercury (CH3Hg+).
This process occurs in aqueous environments from riverine sediments to the open ocean, but the mechanisms and triggers for microbial mercury methylation are still poorly understood.
- Bioremediation of mine wastes
Bioremediation of mine wastes
Some environmental microorganisms can biodegrade these contaminants into less harmful or non-toxic substances.
The Moreau Geomicrobiology Lab applies both cultivation-based and molecular biology approaches to developing new biotechnologies for mitigating mining impacts on soil and groundwater
Plant and Soil Microbiology
- Understanding the transmission of antibiotic resistance in agro-ecosystems
Funded by the ARC – DP170103628, $399,800
The emerging spread of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) represents a serious threat to human health. However, we have very limited knowledge about the pathways and mechanisms for transmission of ARGs in the environment. This project will use advanced molecular approaches to investigate all the major classes of ARGs in typical vegetable farms and animal manure, and to explore the major routes for transmission of ARGs from manure to soil and from rhizosphere to the vegetable surfaces and endophytic bacterial communities. The results will be integrated to identify the priority ARGs indicators with high likelihood of spread into food chain, and contribute to the development of management options to tackle environmental antibiotic resistance.
- Soil microbial indicators for efficient use of nitrification inhibitors
Funded by the ARC – LP160101134, $237,000
Nitrification inhibitors are one tool widely used to improve nitrogen fertiliser efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas nitrous oxide emissions. However their effectiveness is variable across soil types and one possible reason is the different microbial communities that exist in these soils. The project addresses the key knowledge gaps of interactions between the nitrification inhibitors and the soil functional microbial communities. The project aims to fundamentally improve our understanding of the efficiency and governing factors of the nitrification inhibitors in different agricultural soils, and thus provide guidance to develop sound management strategies to improve fertiliser nitrogen use efficiency in Australian Agricultural soils.
- Reserving nitrogen in soils through microbial nitrate reduction to ammonium
Funded by the ARC – DP160101028, $248,000
This project aims to identify those microbes able to transform nitrate to ammonium and thus increase soil nitrogen conservation. More than 50 per cent of the nitrogen in fertilisers applied to soils is lost into the environment, which is both a financial loss to farmers and a main anthropogenic source of nitrogen pollution. Some microbes can transform nitrate into ammonium through dissimilatory reduction (DNRA) and thus increase soil nitrogen retention. However, the DNRA process and the responsible microbial groups remain largely unknown. This project plans to use isotope tracing and biomolecular approaches to identify those DNRA microbial groups and elucidate the DNRA reaction process. The findings may support the use of DNRA to improve soil nitrogen.
- Fungal Biodiversity
The fungal kingdom are likely the most species rich group of microbes on earth, yet we have described less than 3% of all estimated species, and have only a limited understanding of how fungi contribute to the many environments in which they are found. From the species that have been studied, it is clear that fungi are critical for nutrient cycling and in interaction with plants and other microbes.
We are interested in fungal diversity from two perspectives. First is the impact of fungi and other microbes on disease in agricultural settings, in our case how other microbes impact the major diseases that impact the Australian canola (Brassica napus) industry. Second, is with colleagues at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria we are investigating the diversity and distribution of some of the poorly understood fungal taxa.
- Manipulation of microbes to assist coral adaptation to climate change
Funded by the ARC – DP160101468, $494,700 (van Oppen and Blackall) and FL180100036, $3,011,916 (van Oppen)
Our group is called the Marine Microbial Symbiosis group. We explore how corals interact with their associated microbial communities, and attempt to augment the capacity of corals to tolerate stress by manipulating these communities. Our research aims to support development of novel coral reef restoration approaches.
We use the sea anemone Exaiptasia pallida as a model animal, and focus on the role of prokaryotes and the algal symbiont Symbiodinium. The approaches used to manipulate microbial communities include use of probiotics, experimental evolution and genetic engineering.
See our Recent publication: Damjanovic K, Blackall LL, Webster NS, van Oppen MJH (2017) The contribution of microbial biotechnology to mitigating coral reef degradation. Microbial Biotechnology, doi:10.1111/1751-7915.12769.
- Fluid dynamics of corals
Fundamental processes underpinning the health and function of corals such as nutrient uptake, oxygen exchange and bacterial infection occur at the microscale, yet we still largely lack a quantitative understanding of the governing transport processes. The cilia that corals use for feeding and cleansing also generate dramatic vortical flows, which affect mass transport and may provide a barrier against infection. My research investigates the nature and consequences of these active vortical flows. I use state of the art visualisation of flows, tracking of individual bacterial cells, and mathematical modelling to quantitatively understand the coupling between ciliary flows, nutrient and oxygen dynamics, and pathogen behaviour.
- Micro-niches in the coral skeleton
Coral reefs are spectacular ecosystems held together by calcium carbonate structures secreted by corals (their skeletons). The diversity, spatial structure and functions of the microbiota residing in the skeleton underneath the coral tissue are barely understood.
We study the coral skeleton microbiome, focusing on the interactions between microbiota and the steep environmental gradients in oxygen, light and other nutrients present in the skeleton. We use planar optode imaging to visualise gradients in physicochemical properties and characterise of the microbial communities at different positions along the environmental gradients using molecular techniques.
- Endosymbiosis in the algal world
Microbial endosymbiosis, i.e. symbiosis where one cell lives inside another cell, is very commonly found in nature. These partnerships range from transient, fairly loose associations to well-established symbioses where neither of the partners can live without the other.
We are interested in many aspects of microbial symbiosis in marine algae. We characterise the nature and evolution of bacterial endosymbionts living within seaweeds and the origins of algal chloroplasts through endosymbiosis. We use a combination of microscopy, metabarcoding and whole-genome sequencing to characterise the partners, how they interact, and how their associations have evolved through geological time.
- Microbiologically influenced corrosion
Microbiologically influenced corrosion
Accelerated low water corrosion (ALWC) is a type of microbiologically influenced corrosion that substantially increases damage to metal structures in seawater around the low tide level. ALWC is a costly global issue.
We hypothesise that the functional features of microbes, including their propensity to attach to metal surfaces and their metabolic pathways, facilitate ALWC. We aim to identify the microbes in ALWC tubercles with the aim of better understanding this phenomenon.
A recent paper: In Microbiology Australia, September 2018. Development of a laboratory test for microbial involvement in accelerated low water corrosion. By Scott Wade and Linda Blackall
- Microbial diversity and interactions in food ecosystems: from model to meal
Why does food taste better when a community of microbes is present? What can interactions between microorganisms tell us about wider ecological systems? The Howell lab studies yeast and bacterial communities in a wide variety of food ecosystems, including bread, beer, wine and chocolate. Analytical methods help us to understand the biochemical pathways of yeasts and bacteria that influence flavour production and draws these together with broader ecological and social understandings of taste, health and sustainability.
Contact: Dr Kate Howell
Computational Statistics and Microbiology
- Development and application of multivariate methods for microbiome studies
There are major statistical and computational challenges in analysing microbial communities that currently hinder the potential of microbiome research to substantially advance biomedical understanding. We are currently expanding mixMC to better characterise and understand important microbiome-host interactions. Some of our methods developments aim at addressing batch effects in microbiome experiments and analyse scarce temporal sampling in time course studies.
We analyse microbiome datasets from our collaborators for a wide range of studies, including investigating the role of gut and oral microbiome in spondyloarthropathy diseases, the development of intestinal or salivary microbiota in toddlers and infants, investigating the gut-brain crosstalk in Huntington’s disease.
See a publication by Kim-Anh:
- Development of the mixOmics R toolkit package
mixOmics is one of the few R package dedicated to the integration of multiple ‘omics data (19 novel methodologies implemented so far, amongst which 13 were developed by our lab) and with an increasing uptake from the research community. The package has been downloaded > 29K times in 2017, (R CRAN package download logs). Programming developments are on-going for interactive web interfaces, and efficient programming for large-scale studies. Check our our recent publication (Rohart et al. 2017b) and a poster that gives an overview of this large project. The mixOmics team run multiple day workshops for an introduction to multivariate projection-based methods for data integration using mixOmics, see our website www.mixOmics.org for news and tutorials.
- Microbial fluid dynamics
Microbial fluid dynamics
Fluid mechanics at the microscale governs a myriad of physical, chemical and biological processes in the environment.
We apply advanced video-microscopy and microfluidic techniques to directly visualise dynamic processes at the single cell level, from the collective beating of cilia to the active search behaviour of motile bacteria.
These results will uniquely inform the development of mathematical models with far-reaching ecological insights.
Microbial Ecology-Environmental Microbiology in Victoria
Microbial Ecology-Environmental Microbiology (MEEM) in Victoria What: Microbial Ecology-Environmental Microbiology (MEEM) in Victoria (4 ECR speakers, 3 PhD speakers; afternoon tea, post meeting social event) When: Thursday 27th September, 2018 from 14:00-17:15 Where: La Trobe city campus, 360 Collins Street , Melbourne (Room: 360C-2.10). Why: Promote communication/collaboration for those interested in microbial ecology, environmental microbiology, evolutionary microbiology, and related disciplines Sponsor: Australian Society for Microbiology Organisers: Assoc …News
Prof Ute Roessner “Imaging mass spectrometry – where are metabolites located?”, Tues 11 Sept, 12noon-1pm
EMRI member and Head of the School of BioSciences Prof Ute Roessner will deliver the School of BioSciences Visions Seminar Imaging mass spectrometry – where are metabolites located? on Tuesday 11th September, 12noon-1pm, Turner Theatre, BioSciences 2 Building.News
Imaging and Modelling of Cellular Life Symposium – Biological Optical Microscopy Platform
A reminder that registration is open for the Biological Optical Microscopy Platform Imaging and Modelling of Cellular Life Symposium. This symposium will highlight research that uses high-end imaging, quantitative image analysis and mathematical modelling methods. 1-5pm, Friday 14th September Peter Doherty Institute Auditorium, The University of Melbourne Registration: Free and open to all. Please register here. We have now completed the program and the speaker …News
Introduction to R Workshops – 11th September and 13th September
Introduction to R Workshops Tuesday Sept 11th and Thursday Sept 13th 9:00am-5:00pm Learn how to use R for data manipulation, analysis and visualisation. R is commonly used in many scientific disciplines for statistical analysis and its array of third-party packages. The emphasis of this one-day workshop is to give attendees a strong foundation in the fundamentals of R. No previous knowledge is required. September …News
Careers in Computational Biology – 17th September, 2018
Careers in Computational Biology run by Computational Biology Research Initiative on Monday 17th September. RSVP essential!News
Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society (ABACBS) conference 26-20 November, 2018
Australian Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Society meeting 26-30 November, 2018, at University of Melbourne. COMBINE Student Symposium 26 November, 2018; ABACBS conference 27-28 November; associated workshops 29-30 November, 2018. Key dates: 10 September; Abstracts and travel bursary applications close. Early October: Notification of talk/poster. 24 October: Early bird registration deadline.News
COMBINE RNA-seq Workshop register by 19th Sept
Details: What: Melbourne RNA-Seq Workshop Date: 26th-27th September Registration closes: 5 pm, 19th September Venue: Seminar Room 2, WEHI (1G Royal Parade, Parkville VIC 3051, Australia) Registration: www.abacbs.org/rnaseq-analysis-in-r#!event-register/2018/9/26/rna-seq-analysis-in-r Course materials: combine-australia.github.io/2018-09-26-RNAseq-Melbourne/ The COMBINE Melbourne Team are offering a two-day Introduction to RNA-seq workshop on 26th-27th September in Melbourne. In this workshop, you will be learning how to analyse RNA-seq count data, using R. This will include reading the data into R, quality control and performing differential …News
Prof Karen Day (Dean of Science) named Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor
Prof Karen Day (Dean of the Faculty of Science) awarded the title of Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor for her outstanding leadership within the University’s professoriate.News
Kim-Anh Lê Cao wins prestigious Career Development Fellowship from the NHMRC
EMRI member Kim-Anh Lê Cao wins prestigious 2019-2022 Career Development Fellowship (CDF2) from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) ‘Microbiome biomarkers of human disease: novel computational methods to facilitate therapeutic developments’, $483K. This new CDF2 follows on from Kim-Anh's previous 2015-2019 NHMRC Career Development Fellowship (CDF1) on ‘Development of statistical methodologies and application to clinical cancer studies’News
Dr Doug Brumley on organising committee of Microscale Ocean Biophysics 5.0, 1-16 January, 2019, Whistler, Canada
EMRI member Dr Doug Brumley on the organising committee of Microscale Ocean Biophysics 5.0, 10-16 January, 2019, Whistler, Canada.News
Prof James Prosser, University of Aberdeen: Harnessing soil microbiomes for agricultural production: transforming hype and hope into reality. Tuesday 4th September, 6pm.
Public Lecture: Professor James Prosser, Chair in Molecular and Cell Biology at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen, will present a seminar "Harnessing soil microbiomics for agricultural production: transforming hype and hope into reality." Please join us for pre-seminar refreshments at the venue, from 5.00pm - 6.00pm. Tuesday 4 September, 6.00pm, Theatre 1 (B103), Building 379, 207 Bouverie Street. For …News
Careers in Computational Biology Workshop – 17th September
ATTENTION: ALL STUDENTS, POSTDOCS & EMCRs The Computational Biology Research Initiative (CBRI) would like to invite you to participate in the Careers in Computational Biology Workshop to be held on Monday 17th September, 11am-2pm. The workshop will be divided into two parts: 1. A career advice session with guest presenters from across the Parkville precinct with experience working in industry, government and academia; and 2. A CV feedback session, where workshop participants will have …News