New Science Leader in Marine Microbiology announced at AIMS


2 October 2007

One of the world's leading microbiologists will join the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) in February 2008 to lead and develop their Marine Microbiology Research.

Currently the Scientific Director of the Advanced Water Management Centre (AWMC) at the University of Queensland, Professor Linda Blackall has an international reputation in the field of biological wastewater treatment and molecular method development in microbial ecology.

Professor Blackall is a distinguished scientist who has published 122 peer reviewed, international journal articles, edited the benchmark book The Microbiology of Activated Sludge, and is listed in the top 1% of Researchers in microbiology (Essential Science Indicators, The Web of Knowledge). She is a member of the Australian Biotechnology Advisory Council, a member of the Queensland Water Commission Expert Advisory Panel, Chairman of the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee, Board member of the International Society for Microbial Ecology (ISME) and Chairman of the Organising Committee for the 12thISME congress in August 2008. In 2008 she was the recipient of the Smart Women-Smart State award for Excellence in Science and she also received the Women in Technology Research Science Award.

Professor Blackall's research revolves around the application of molecular and genetic technologies to describe and understand complex microbial communities. This involves detailed studies into microbial community structure, architecture, communication and function.

Marine microbes encompass all microscopic organisms found in the sea including viruses, bacteria, archaea and micro-algae groups that differ considerably in their biological characteristics. Although unseen, microbes constitute the vast majority of marine biomass. They are the oldest life forms, the primary catalysts of energy transformation, and fundamental to the biogeochemical cycles that shape our oceans. They were the only kinds of life on Earth for approximately 80% of the planet's history and all multicellular life depends upon microbial processes.

Only 0.1–1.0% of marine microbes present in seawater can be cultured using conventional approaches, which is indicative of the state of our knowledge of this unseen world. Despite that, we know that microbial communities are the most significant decomposers and recyclers of nutrients in the oceans: hence an essential element in global cycles and among the most serious of information gaps when we try to forecast how ecosystems will respond to change.

Professor Blackall commented, "I look forward to the challenges that the position will provide in science leadership and in understanding marine microbes and their symbioses. The vast unseen microbiota of the oceans comprise a major player in global climate control and the practical applications of knowledge from this immense field will ensure that our globe has a sustainable future."

Marine science cannot continue to overlook the unseen world of microbes and Australia must build capacity in this area. AIMS has recognised this need and is building capacity in marine microbiology with an initial focus on areas where microbial processes are central to issues of immediate concern to the world's coral reefs including climate change impacts and coral diseases.

AIMS CEO, Dr Ian Poiner, said, "Professor Blackall will provide visionary leadership for AIMS in pure and applied microbial sciences relevant to the environmental and biotechnology areas of the Institute's Research Plan. She will build on our existing international profile and reputation as her experience brings substantial strategic leadership in research with a record of innovation and excellence."

Media contacts:

Professor Linda Blackall
Mobil: 0407 038 239

Dr Ian Poiner, Chief Executive Officer, AIMS
Phone: 07 4753 4490
Mobil: 0419 702 652
eMail: i.poiner@aims.gov.au

Wendy Ellery, AIMS Media Liaison
Phone: 07 4753 4409
Mobil: 0418 729 265
eMail: w.ellery@aims.gov.au