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Our work centres on the molecular genetics of low-biomass samples collected from extreme environments which has led to our primary research focus in the emerging field of aerosol microbiology. Little is known about the dynamics of the airborne microbial communities due to the technological challenges of biomass retrieval, which has provided us an excellent opportunity to conduct valuable foundational work. Recently, we have developed techniques that can reliably characterise microbial communities using high-volume vortex air samplers and high-throughput sequencing. By reducing sampling time down from typically 24 hours to an hour, we have established one of the most rapid approaches available for aerosol microbiome study. We have implemented this consistent methodology to understand the microbiology of the atmosphere at various temporal and spatial scales both locally and internationally. This approach is critical in addressing fundamental biogeographic questions regarding the global presence and dispersal of microorganisms, with significant implications relating to public health, biosecurity, and engineering of built environments.
Current research projects include: