Dr Laura Newsome
Current research projects
Understanding the geomicrobiology of UK groundwater and its impact on geoenergyGeothermal energy is a low carbon energy source, not only is it beneficial for limiting climate change, it also enhances energy security. Microbes are present in most subsurface environments and microbial metabolism influences the environmental conditions via biogeochemical cycling of metals, sulfur, carbon and nitrogen. However, little is known about the effect of geothermal energy production on microbial communities, nor on how microbial processes might impact on the performance of geothermal systems. This research project will study how subsurface microbial communities respond to drilling, as well as addressing fundamental questions regarding the influence of geology and hydrogeology on microbial communities. More information about the UKGEOS programme: https://www.ukgeos.ac.uk/
Does microbial community functioning control the success of mine waste rehabilitation?
Waste materials abandoned from historic metal mines sometimes hundreds of years old are polluting our environment today. Toxic metals are eroded from mine waste by wind and water then transported into the environment as dust or washed into rivers and estuaries. Plants can be grown on mine waste to minimise this erosion, but we don’t fully understand why in some cases plants thrive, but in other cases their growth suffers. In all soils microorganisms play a crucial role in providing the essential elements that plants need to grow. This project will investigate how soil microorganisms help plants to grow in wastes at an abandoned metal mine site, and whether microbial activity might help to protect the plants from the impact of toxic metals.
Previous research projects
Cobalt: Geology, Geomicrobiology and Geometallurgy
The principal aim of CoG3 project is to understand the natural behaviour and biogeochemistry of cobalt in order to develop and apply novel bioprocessing strategies for cobalt extraction, recovery and the synthesis of targeted products using an integrated multi-institute and multidisciplinary approach. Our work package focussed on understanding the natural biogeochemistry of cobalt in both aerobic and anaerobic environments. Further information at: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/our-science/our-work/sustainability/cog3-cobalt-project.html
Nanoscale imaging of microbe-mineral interactions
Microbial processes mediate the redox state of many metals, which in turn controls their mobility in the environment and the stability of a wide range of mineral phases. Advances in molecular ecology, genomics and post-genomic technologies have given us significant insight into the diversity of the organisms responsible for these important processes, and the underpinning physiology, often at a genetic level. In parallel, developments in nano-scale imaging and spectroscopy now offer the potential to reveal how these biological processes impact on the geosphere at an atomic-scale. The overall aim of this project was to gain a deeper understanding of key microbial-mineral interactions at the nano-scale using a combination of new state of the art synchrotron imaging techniques, including STXM, alongside microbiological, microscopy, geochemical and modelling approaches. My work focussed on the microbial reduction of insoluble Fe(III) oxyhydroxides, to identify the nano-scale processes controlling this ubiquitous form of anaerobic respiration, and its impact on arsenic mobility.