Microbiology Research Group
Microbes dominate and define the boundaries of life on our planet. Of the many constituent Kingdoms that make up the three Domains of Life, all but two (animals and plants) are microbial, and even animals and plants depend on their microbial partners to survive. The tremendous genetic and metabolic diversity of microbes means they play fundamental roles in all Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. In large part due to the huge genetic diversity they encompass, microbes are fundamental to all biogeochemical processes. Examples of key ecosystem services delivered by microbes include at least half of the planet’s CO2 fixation, biological nitrogen fixation, degradation of complex biomolecules (e.g. lignocellulose), evolution of potent greenhouse gases such as methane, and mineral weathering. It is even thought microbes such as marine algae and ice-nucleating bacteria influence our weather! A major interest of the group is in microbial pathogenic mechanism as they interact with their host – whether plant or human – and in the defence responses that they elicit. Therefore our research is of direct relevance to the Food Security agenda and medical practice.
Despite their impressive properties, the invisible nature of microbes means that the biology of microorganisms is somewhat less accessible than that of plants or animals. However at Aberystwyth we apply a diverse range of cutting edge and traditional methods to study microbes, including bioinformatics, flow cytometry, stable isotopes, environmental chemistry, metabolomics and proteomics, in addition to the core methodologies of modern molecular biology and genomics in our research.
Simon Cameron, Catherine Withers, Anushen Sivakumaran (LM), Lucy Hill (HMD), Aitor Martinez (AE), Sofanit Abebe (DEW), Graham Brand, Tony Callaghan, Brian Douglas, Adam Malik (GWG).
Dr. Andrew Detheridge (with John Scullion on the SEREN project), Jenny Bussell (PhD joint with John Scullion), Nia Blackwell (PhD joint with Bill Perkins, IGES) and Lisa Clancy (PhD joint with Roger Santer), Graham Price (Lab Manager).
The Microbiology group comprises five research teams, based on the IBERS Penglais campus. We interact to study the ecological, physiological and metabolic capabilities of a wide range of micro-organisms, in particular fungi and bacteria, in order to understand their important roles in ecosystem function, discover how better to exploit them in biotechnology, and modulate their impact, both beneficial and harmful on humans, domesticated animals, plants and the natural environment. Facilities Available to our group include several flow cytometers, GC-MS, iQ Cycler. Current Projects include The SEREN Project and more recently COVER.UP: Protecting Europe’s glacier ecosystems?
Our research interests also encompass the social aspects of microbial life, including intercellular communication, pathogenesis, reproduction, dormancy and death. Our research is funded by the research councils (BBSRC/NERC), European Union, the UK (DEFRA) and Welsh Government (WORD), industry (Aber Instruments, Silage Solutions Ltd., DLF Trifolium Ltd.), conservation organisations (Countryside Council for Wales) and others (Sasakawa Foundation).
History of Microbiology at Aberystwyth
Research and teaching of microbiology at Aberystwyth dates back to the appointment of Professor Gareth Morris FRS CBE to the newly created Chair in Microbiology and establishment of the Department of Botany and Microbiology in the early 1970s. There were also strong elements of microbiological research in other departments too (now all merged under IBERS), notably plant pathology within the Department of Agricultural Botany and microbial metabolism within the Department of Biochemistry. A key feature of our research has been the strong links with other universities in Wales, fostered by annual meetings held for many years at Gregynog Hall. Further details of this meeting (and its history) can be found here.
A more detailed account of microbiological endeavours at Aberystwyth can be found here.