Environmental Microbiology Research Initiative (EMRI) seminar triple bill


Environmental Microbiology Research Initiative (EMRI) seminar triple bill

Three Microbiology Academics recently appointed in the School of Biological Sciences, Monash University will deliver 30 min presentations in an extended-time seminar.

Dr Jeremy J. Barr - Bacteriophage interactions with eukaryotic epithelial surfaces
Bacterial viruses are amongst the most numerous biological entities within the human body. Despite the prevalence of these viruses throughout our bodies, the extent of their interactions with human cells, organs and immune system is still largely unknown. Here I will discuss indirect and direct interactions between bacteriophages and epithelial cells and surfaces. Bacteriophages (phages for short) physically interact with the mucosal surfaces lining our lungs, gut, and urinary tract and form a non-host-derived layer of immunity that actively protects mucosal surfaces from bacterial infection. Once past the mucosal layer these phages are capable of direct interactions with epithelial cells. In vitro studies demonstrate the rapid and directional transcytosis of diverse phages across confluent cell layers originating from across the body.

Dr Chris Greening - Living on thin air: a minimalistic strategy for the survival of soil microorganisms
The mechanisms that the “dormant microbial majority” use to remain energised in soil systems have long remained elusive. This seminar will describe how atmospheric trace gases molecular hydrogen (H2) and carbon monoxide (CO) serve as alternative energy sources for dormant bacteria. Genetic and biochemical studies demonstrated that carbon-starved mycobacterial cells persist following carbon starvation by aerobically respiring these gases. Pure culture studies have shown that isolates of at least four dominant soil phyla, i.e. Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Chloroflexi, and Verrucomicrobia, can survive through equivalent mechanisms. A combination of genomic surveys and environmental studies suggest these processes are active in global surface soils. New evidence will be presented that atmospheric trace gases are particularly important for primary production in desert ecosystems. These findings in turn have implications for understanding microbial community structure, biogeochemical cycling, and bacterial dormancy.

Dr Mike McDonald - Sex, adaptation and diversification in experimental microbial populations
Experimental evolution is a powerful method for testing fundamental questions in evolution and ecology. I will present recent work showing how high-throughput sequencing methods can provide insights into a classic problem in evolutionary biology, the evolution of sex, as well as eco-evolutionary dynamics in experiment populations of E. coli (the Lenksi LTE) and yeast. Currently, our understanding of the evolution and ecology of natural communities comes from the “top down” approaches to community ecology and metagenome sequencing. Although experimental evolution has the potential to contribute, most microbial evolution experiments are in laboratory settings far removed from the actual conditions that microbes in the wild would experience. My work seeks to connect these two fields so that the mechanistic insights possible in the lab are applied in experimental settings that better approximate natural and clinical environments.


  • Dr Mike McDonald
    Dr Mike McDonald, Monash University
  • Dr Chris Greening
    Dr Chris Greening, Monash University
  • Dr Jeremy J. Barr
    Dr Jeremy J. Barr, Monash University