Professor Southam is the Vale-UQ Chair in Geomicrobiology. He is an interdisciplinary researcher who crosses the traditional boundaries between biological and geological sciences to examine bacterial transformations of materials composing the earth's crust, and the impact these transformations have had over geologic time. Field sites have ranged from Yellostone National Park, to Axel Heiberg Island in the Canadian high arctic, to the ultradeep gold mines in the Republic of Southam Africa (up to 4 km below land surface, to the Amazon Basin. Following his appointment as a Canada Research Chair in Geomicrobiology and Director of Environment and Sustainability at Western University, Canada, Dr. Southam has moved to the University of Queensland where he is leading projects on:
Gold exploration, examining the fundamental roles that bacteria play in catalysing the formation of placer gold;
Mineral carbonation, using acid generating bacteria to enhance weathering of ultramafic mine waste, promoting mineral carbonation (CO2 sequestration);
Methanogenesis, looking to transform abandoned coal mines into methane generators;
Bioremediation of iron mine sites, by enhancing the biogeochemical cycling of iron to promote the formation of ferruginous duricrusts (canga), and
Bioleaching, focussing on low-grade copper in arid through tropical ecosystems (Australia and Brazil).
He is joined by Dr. Emma Gagen and Dr. Carla Zammit who are helping to lead projects on canga formation and bioleaching, respectively, in Brazil (the Vale initiative)