Conference : Pr Sophie Leterme - Microbial and planktonic investigations of South Australian environments
Sophie has made significant research contributions in the field of marine plankton ecology by using a whole microbial food-web approach in her research, examining interactions and communities’ response to environmental changes from the scale of viruses to zooplankton. She completed a PhD at the University of Plymouth (UK), exploring the response of plankton to climate change at the scale of the North Atlantic basin and of the North Sea, providing essential background knowledge extracted from time series spanning over 44 years. Since joining Flinders University in 2006, she reduced the spatio-temporal scales of her work, studying environmental changes in a coastal lagoon, the Coorong (South Australia), and focusing on their impact on microbial and planktonic community composition. She also collaborated with molecular biologists, microbiologists, physical and organic chemists investigating ecological adaptations of diatoms through the study of their nanostructure and composition, with a specific focus on salinity gradients. She also assisted experts in desalination with developing monitoring plans to assess the performance of desalination plants under microbial accumulation. This collaboration led to developing a collection of bacterial strains from biofilms that she used in experiments to develop better understanding of the biofilm dynamics under high pressure conditions like encountered in desalination plants. Those extensive research projects allowed for the successful isolation, culture and sequencing of marine bacteria and diatoms from marine biofilms, including those formed in desalination plants, and on their use in experiments to study growth and composition of biofilms.