Assoc Prof Ashley Franks
Dr Ashley Franks is an Associate Professor in the School of Life Sciences at La Trobe University.
Environmental microbiology is the study of the composition and physiology of microbial communities in the environment. An understanding of these natural processes is fundamental for comprehension of ecosystem function and application to biotechnology, bioremediation and bioenergy.
Eleonora Egidi (Postdoctoral fellow)
My research field is the biology, ecology and genetics of fungal communities in natural ecosystems, with a focus on biodiversity and management issues.
By linking systematic and population genetic studies to ecological data, I aim to understand the mechanisms that generate or maintain diversity, and use this information to help land managers monitor ecosystem trends, support restoration and improve conservation strategies.
Jen Wood (Postdoctoral fellow)
My research interest is in understanding the ecology of soil microbial communities. Currently I am investigating the use of soil microbial communities to improve the plant-based bioremediation heavy metals by promoting plant growth.
Ultimately I aim to understand how soil microbial communities promote plant growth and what drives them to do so.
Lara Bereza-Malcolm (PhD Student)
My research focus is on the application of synthetic biology to develop biosensor technology with an environmental focus. Whole cell microbial biosensors will be designed to detect dangerous environmental contaminants and compounds, beginning with heavy metals in both terrestrial and aquatic settings.
Lucie Semenec (PhD Student)
My research aims to determine the effects that syntrophic and competitive microbial interspecies interactions have on electrical current production in a microbial fuel cell (MFC).
I will be studying the interactions of various known electrogenic microorganisms when placed in different enrichment media.
MFCs can utilize microbes to: generate electrical current; reduce biological waste; bioremediation or; produce a range of commercially useful organic compounds.
Elizabeth Mathews (PhD Student)
The corrosion of concrete sewer infrastructure is an expensive and widespread environmental problem that affects water utilities worldwide. The corrosion results from microbial sulfur cycling occurring within the sewer. Oxidation of hydrogen sulfide produces sulfuric acid, which erodes the concrete pipes.
My research aims to characterise the microbial communities present in the sewer and investigate the structure of their microbial biofilms. Understanding the processes that lead to sewer corrosion will ultimately further our progress towards a solution. This research is conducted in partnership with Western Water.
Corinne Celestina (PhD Student)
Crop yields across many dryland agricultural zones are often constrained by dense clay subsoils. The addition of organic matter at depth can improve these soils and increase crop yields. Microbes are considered a key agent in this process of soil physical, chemical and biological improvement but their role is poorly understood.
My research aims to investigate the microbial ecology of soil transformation after subsoil manuring, a novel technique for the amelioration of dense clay subsoils.
Gene Drendel (PhD Student)
My research aims to investigate the potential for interactions between photosynthetic organisms and electricigens.
I will be studying these interactions within photosynthetic microbial fuel cells. Ultimately, my aim is to apply the knowledge of these interactions towards improving the efficiency of devices such as photosynthetic microbial fuel cells for applications such as the generation of electricity, bioremediation, or the production of biofuels.
Oonagh Bodin (PhD Student)
Microbes present in our gastrointestinal tract have key roles in the development and maintenance of our immune system and gut motility. Alterations to these microbes can bring about diseased states such as irritable and inflammatory bowel disorders.
My research interest is in understanding how various aspects such as dietary alterations or the introduction of drugs can cause changes to the overall composition of gastrointestinal microbial communities and to identify the bacteria involved.
Andrew Madigan (PhD Student)
My research is investigating the effects of melatonin on soil microbial community structures.
Currently, there is a very limited amount of information detailing how microbes interact with melatonin, a secondary metabolite produced by plants in response to abiotic and biotic stresses. The findings of my research will indicate if soil microbial diversity is affected by melatonin, as well as determining the microbes most responsive to this indoleamine. These results will greatly contribute to addressing the current uncertainty regarding a potential role of melatonin in future crop production practices.
Affiliated Labs & Projects
Thank you to our partners
News and latest publications
YOU CAN FIND THE COMPLETE LIST OF OUR GROUPS PUBLICATIONS HERE
7 May 2017: A new commentary from Jen, Eleonora and Ash on the importance of plant-microbe interactions
A huge congratulations to Jen Wood and Lara Bereza-Malcolm, who have submitted their PhD theses! Well done guys
21st Feb 2017: CONGRATULATIONS to Brittney Phillips who won the Australian Society of Microbiology (ASM) BD award for 'Best Honours Presentation" !
13-15th Feb 2017: Franks Lab were represented at the inaugural AusME conference: Lucie, Elizabeth and Jen with oral presentations and Gene, Eleonora, Corinne and Andrew with poster presentations.
21st Dec 2016: Corinne was interviewed by Warwick Long for ABC Rural's Victorian Country Hour radio show. You can listen to their chat about getting the best out of your soils here [skip to 46:10].
20th Dec 2016: Corinne has an interview detailing her soil microbiology-subsoil manuring project, published in The Weekly Times. Access the article here.
9th Dec 2016: Congrats to Corinne Celestina who is the recipient of both:
The Tim Healey Memorial Scholarship, awarded by the AW Howard Memorial Trust to a deserving postgraduate student studying in a field that benefits the future of Australian farming.
The Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Grains Industry Research Scholarship, awarded for postgraduate research in the priority area of overcoming soil constraints to crop productivity.
What a Boss! Go Corinne!
2nd Dec 2016: Congrats to Jen Wood who was awarded 'best speed talk' at the 2016 ESA conference in Fremantle
9th Nov 2016: New review article with our collborators in the Vibrio research group from UTS "The antimicrobial resistance crisis: management through gene monitoring" Carolyn A. Michael, Ashley E. Franks, Maurizio Labbate
3rd Nov 2016: Publication in the Unlikely Journal of Creative Arts by Megan Moe Beitiks: Our artistic collaborator has published her work titled 'Lab for apologies and forgiveness v.6' which features work done in collaboration with the Franks Lab
2nd Nov 2016: Research article using ARISA to investigate rhizosphere community dynamics has been published in Scientific Reports: "Microbial community dynamics in the rhizosphere of a heavy metal hyper-accumulator" J L. Wood, C Zhang, E R Mathews, C Tang, A E. Franks
12th Oct 2016: CONGRATULATIONS to Elizabeth for winning the Australasian Corrosion Association Brian Cherry Award, it was a fun night!
25th June: Review and meta-analysis on microbes in phytoextraction published pre-print in Soil Biology and Biochemistry: "Microbial associated plant growth and heavy metal accumulation to improve phytoextraction of contaminated soils" Jennifer L. Wood, Caixian Tang, Ashley E. Franks
5th Jul 2016: Jen Wood talks about her journey on the road to science in "From art to Dirt to Microbiology"
Thank you to the LTU marketing and media who have put our research (and our Prof.) into this snappy cartoon:
16th June: Our lab has been featured on the LTU web.
Checkout: "Helpful bacteria and scientific innovation at La Trobe"
7th June 2016: Review on engineering microbial communities for remediation published in AIMS Bioengineering:
"Microorganisms in heavy metal bioremediation: strategies for applying microbial-community engineering to remediate soils"
Jennifer L. Wood, Wuxing Liu, Caixian Tang, Ashley E. Franks
24th May 2016: Published in Bioengineered:
"Bioengineering microbial communities: Their potential to help, hinder and disgust" Diane Sivasubramaniam & Ashley E. Franks
GET YOUR BUTT OFF THE LAWN!
LTU microbiologists, led by Lucie Semenec, are cleaning up LaTrobe. read about our efforts and finding HERE.
26th Mar 2016: Research with our collaborators from the Plant-Soil science group published in SB&B:
"Long-term effects of elevated CO2 on carbon and nitrogen functional capacity of microbial communities in three contrasting soils."
Clayton R. Butterly, Lori A. Phillips, Jennifer L. Wiltshire, Ashley E. Franks, Roger D. Armstrong, Deli Chen, Pauline M. Mele, Caixian Tang
14th Dec 2015:
Gene talks about his journey on the road to science... Read his advice to VCE graduates on university courses and pathways.
4th Nov 2015: Elizabeth is once again talking sewers on the radio, this time with the delightful Breakfasters in the Weird Science segment on Triple R. Access the podcast through Radio on Demand (4/11/15 Breakfasters: 1:46:30 - 1:53:30)
Elizabeth, Dr Franks and Western Water have an interview, detailing her sewer project, published in The Age. Access the article here.
Elizabeth gave a radio interview about bacteria in the sewer on 774 'Red Symons' Breakfast show'. You can check out the podcast here.
Jen has been out on community radio; JOY 94.9's "Is nothing sacred?" chatting about microbial ecology. You can check out the podcast here
Congratulations to Lucie on winning the best student poster award at ABIC 2015.
Review on electrogenic biofilms published in AIMS Bioengineering. Delving through electrogenic biofilms: from anodes to cathodes to microbes. Lucie Semenec and Ashley E. Franks.
With the help of a GEW travel grant for environmental sustainability from the Rotary Club of Balwyn, Jen will represent the Franks Lab in Prague, delivering an oral presentation on Cd contaminated rhizosphere communities at the Ecology of soil Microorganisms 2015.
Eleonora represented the Franks Lab at the 3rd International Conference on Microbial Diversity, hosted in Perugia (Italy). Eleonora presented a talk on fungal communities response to repeated prescribed burning.
Congratulations Jen on winning the university round of 3MT. Good Luck in Brisbane on Oct 2nd in the Trans-Tasman final.
12-15 Jul 2015
We attended the 2015 ASM general meeting in Canberra. Dr Franks, Jen and Lucie and Dr Egidi presented talks. Dr Aracic, Lara and Elizabeth represented at the poster sessions. You can find the posters in our poster archives
The Franks lab extends a warm welcome to our new PhD student Corinne Celestina. Her webpage is coming soon :)
Sanja and Eleonora have been interviewed by Dr Sam Manna for the AMS blog. They talked about their experience as PhD students, current research, and aspirations. Check it out!
Dr Franks, Lucie and Jen have been spreading the word in Warracknabeal rural Victoria as part of La Trobe's pop-up university. Thank you so much to the community of Warracknabeal for making us feel so welcome!
Congratulations to Jen Wiltshire for being selected to compete for the highly competitive ASM BD award. She presented her work titled "Delving into hidden ecology: unraveling ecological interaction in cadmium-contaminated rhizosphere communities".
The Franks lab extends a warm welcome to our two new honours students joining us this year! Ruban and Gene will be starting their lab work in March, good luck guys!
Feb 2015: Our lab was represent by Jen (Oral presentation), Sanja, Lara and Lucie (Poster presentations) at the 2015 Lorne synthetic biology and protein engineering conference. You can find the posters that were presented in our archives.
Lara represented us in Europe for the 16th EMBL PhD symposium to present both a poster and a talk on microbial biosensors.
Our Synthetic Biology research program has received recognition through ARC linkage project funding. The new project will be titled “Synthetic Biology Derived Electroactive Whole Cell Microbial Biosensors” and is a collaboration between Dr Jermont Chen (AOARD), Dr Ashley Franks (La Trobe University), Dr Maurizio Labbate (UTS) and Dr Sarah Strycharz-Glaven (NRL) (pictured below) .
The project aims:
To develop and integrate electric bacteria as biosensors for the detection of heavy metals in the environment using synthetic biology. Novel and natural biological parts, termed ‘biobricks’, will be utilised to genetically-manipulate bacteria to provide an integrated electrical signal in the presence of toxic compounds. This expansion of synthetic biology, and integration of electric bacteria into sensor systems, will result in a new platform technology that will expand our ability to protect the ecology, agriculture and the health of terrestrial and marine environments.
CONGRATULATIONS to Lara who received a $2000 travel grant and came runner up in the La Trobe wide 3MT competition.
Dr Franks speaks about electric bacteria and .. meat pies (!?) in La Trobe's "Big Fat Ideas" series.
Watch the talk here!
Dr Ashley Franks chats about electric bacteria on RRRs 'Einstein A Go Go'.
Listen to the podcast
01 Feb 2012: Environmental Micro Lab established at La Trobe University under the supervision of Dr Ashley Franks.
You can find more podcasts and articles on our work HERE