Researcher

Associate Professor Belinda Carlene Ferrari

My Expertise

Microbial diversity of soil bacteria and the development of novel culturing approaches for the hitherto uncultured majority

Field of Research (FoR)

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Biography

Biography

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...view more

Biography

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

  • Uncovering the diversity of novel secondary metabolites in polar soils - Nicole Benaud, PhD; Completed 2020
  • Residual toxicity and bioremediation of soils at Casey station, Antarctica - Sarita Pudasaini, PhD; Completed 2020
  • Isolation and characterisation of Candidatus Dormibacteraeota (AD3) in Antarctic soil- Kate Montgomery, PhD
  • Understanding drivers of the nitrogen cycle in pristine and hydrocarbon contaminated polar soils - Sally Crane, PhD
  • Microbial diversity and drivers of community assembly across east Antarctica - Eden Zhang, PhD
  • Mapping the global significance of atmospheric chemosynthesis - Angelique Ray, PhD
  • Microbial community shifts after a decade of change in the Windmill Islands, east Antarctica - Sin Yin Wong, PhD
  • Microbial bioactives and elucidating their role in Antarctica - Carolina Gutiérrez-Chávez, PhD
  • Cultivation and characterisation of ammonia oxidising Archaea from Antarctic Enrichments – Devan Chelliah, PhD
  • Ecotoxicity assessments of aged hydrocarbon contaminated soils at Casey station - Jessica Dai, Honours
  • Can Candidatus Eremiobacterota be cultivated? - Dana Tribbia, Honours

 

Leadership and Service

  • UNSW Sydney, Deputy Head of School and Director of Research, School of BABS, 2018 - current
  • UNSW Sydney, University Promotion Committee (A/Prof) 2018 - 2020
  • UNSW Sydney, Senior Lecturer Promotion Committee, Faculty of Science 2017-2018
  • International Scientific Committee Member for Polar and Alpine Microbiology conference, 2019
  • Australian Microbiome Scientific Co-ordination Working Group, 2019 - current
  • UNSW Sydney, Faculty of Science Board member, 2018 - current
  • Royal Society of New Zeakand, Marsden Fund, Panelist Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour, 2017-2019
  • Academy of Sciences National Committee for Antarctic Research, 2012-2016

My Grants

  • Herman Slade Foundation Grant, HSF20/114 2020-2023
  • ARC LEIF, LE200100016
  • Australian Antarctic Science Grant, AAS-4592 2019- 2022
  • ARC Future Fellowship, FT170100341  2017-2021
  • Australian Antarctic Science Grant, AAS-4406 2017- 2020
  • Herman Slade Foundation Grant, HSF13/15 2015-2019

My Qualifications

Education

  • Macquarie University Research Fellowship, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia 2002-2005
  • Postdoctoral Scientist, University of Copenhagen, Denmark 2001-2002
  • PhD in Microbiology at Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia 2001
  • BSc (Hons) in Microbiology at the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, 1994

My Awards

  • Faculty of Science, Staff Excellence Award for Research Excellence, 2018
  • ARC Future Fellowship, 2017
  • Winner of one of three 'Outstanding Supervisor' awards, UNSW Sydney, 2015
  • Macquarie University Research Fellowship, 2002

My Research Activities

My Research Goals

  • Determine the resilience of Antarctic soil microbial communities to global change
  • Determine the global significance of atmospheric chemosynthesis
  • To develop novel cultivation approaches for yet-to-be cultured bacteria and fungi
  • Develop new approaches for modelling environmental drivers of soil microbial communities
  • Develop site-specific ecotoxicity assessments using microbes as indicators of soil health
  • To isolate and characterise cold-adapted hydrocarbon degrading fungi and bacteria

My Research in Detail

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.

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Location

Room 4102, Level 4, E26


Map reference (Google map)

Contact

(+61 2) 9385 2032
(+61 2) 9385 1483

Publications

by Associate Professor Belinda Carlene Ferrari