I am currently an ARC Future Fellow, Deputy Head of School and the Director of Research. My research area is environmental microbiology. I specialise in Antarctic soil biodiversity and perform discovery-based and applied research. I am passionate about integrating single cell technologies with innovative cultivation methods and genomics to the uncover the diversity and functional capacity of uncharacterised soil microbiomes. By doing so, my team recently discovered a novel carbon fixation process where cold adapted bacteria literally ‘live on air’. We coined this microbial-based process ‘atmospheric chemosynthesis’ and published these findings in the prestigious journal Nature. My team also works on using microbes as indicators of soil health, for the assessment of ecosystem recovery during bioremediation and for developeming site-specific ecotoxicity assessments. My future goals are to continue to challenge our understanding of the nutritional limits required for life, while training the next generation of confident scientists.
I am a supportive, approachable superviser with my team being comprised of a high number of PhD and Honours students
Leadership and Service
I have built up strong partnerships across both the Biotechnology industry and government bodies in Australia. My research has real-world applications, driving remediation targets, guideline derivation and conservation efforts in Antarctica.
In Antarctic soils, microbes are the most dominant lifeform and thus they drive geochemical processes, particularly carbon and nitrogen cycling. My research is aimed at unravelling the breadth of microbial diversity and their functioning in soil. My team focuses on microbial dark matter, that is bacteria, archaea and fungi that are yet-to-be cultured or characterised. By integrating single-cell with genomics and new multivariate analyses, my group is exploring the ecology of microbes in both pristine and contaminated soils.
Through collaboration with the Australian Antarctic Division, we are using molecular tools to evaluate soil health in response to both natural and man-made disturbances, from hydrocarbon contamination through to climate induced change. My research is world-class, and of high impact, with our recent discovery of Antarctica bacteria surviving by literally living on air published in the journal Nature. My research is challenging our understanding of the nutritional limits required to support life and opens the possibility for life elsewhere.
Please see Ferrarilab.org for more details including information on our recent expedition to the Windmill Islands, east Antarctica.