New microbial inocula and carriers for fast tailings remediation (microbial biotechnology)

Based at University of Western Australia, Queensland University of Technology, or the University of Newcastle


Tailings and mine wastes typically host low diversity, low biomass microbial communities unless targeted remediation efforts are completed, posing a major barrier to development of a functional, healthy soil. Microbial communities have been assumed to behave only as passive responders to remediation; however, opportunities also exist to engineer microbial communities to play active roles in achieving remediation goals. Recently, we demonstrated that a targeted microbial inoculum added to tailings can significantly accelerate attainment of a specific remediation goal, pH neutralisation.

This project will develop additional new microbial inocula and bioremediation technologies to accelerate tailings remediation. First, inocula with key functional capacities such as nitrogen fixation will be cultured and isolated. Then, new high performance bio-inspired microbial carriers will be tailored to the inocula to optimise their survival and function after addition to tailings.


Microbiological techniques including DNA/RNA extraction and sequencing (16S/18S amplicons, metagenomics, and metatranscriptomics), fluorescence activated cell sorting, and high throughput culturing will be coupled with geochemical analyses and microscopy to build a comprehensive understanding of how these new microbial inocula and carriers function, and the extent to which they accelerate remediation in tailings.

This position can be based at the University of Western Australia (Talitha Santini), Queensland University of Technology (Gene Tyson), or the University of Newcastle (Khay Fong).

Research team leader: Associate Professor Talitha Santini

My research interests are centred on soil formation and weathering, geochemistry, mineralogy, and microbiology; in particular, the interactions between abiotic and biotic processes that drive soil development and global biogeochemical cycles.


How to Apply

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project - The ideal candidate will have a Bachelors or Masters degree in Microbiology, Biotechnology, or a relevant field of Chemistry or Biology. Previous experience in mining environments is helpful but not essential.
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact [email protected] to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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