Listen: Soils as living systems – the 2017 Leeper Lecture

Tony O'Donnell explained the unusual character of Western Australia's Yilgarn Craton – one of the world’s oldest land masses and the site of the state's wheat belt – and its effects on the soil microbiology in the 2017 Professor G.W. Leeper Memorial Lecture. Listen to the lecture below.

The Yilgarn Craton has endured extensive and prolonged weathering, giving rise to infertile soils deficient in essential elements such as phosphorus, molybdenum, zinc and copper. This  can also result in soils that are acidic, high in available iron and deficient in copper.

In this lecture, Professor O’Donnell discusses the impact of these distinct soil physiochemical properties on the structure and functioning of the soil microbiome in Western Australia and show how some of the key biogeochemical processes that support plant growth really can be different in the West.

Professor O'Donnell's slides are available here:

The Professor G.W. Leeper Memorial Lecture is an annual public lecture hosted by the Victorian branch of Soil Science Australia and the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences. 

Professor Tony O’Donnell is Pro-Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of Science at the University of Western Australia. He was born and educated in the UK, graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1976 and completed his PhD at the University of Bristol in 1980. 

Professor Tony O'Donnell delivering the 2017 Leeper Lecture. Photo: Hang (Tina) Gao.

In the last ten years, the importance of the soil microbiome in maintaining a sustainable biosphere has been widely recognized. This has resulted in a surge of activity in environmental microbiology, and the development of novel technologies to better interrogate the role of microorganisms in soil.

Professor O’Donnell has used these techniques to investigate gene-environment interactions in a range of systems, including agricultural soils and contaminated land. Central to Professor O'Donnell's research is the need to understand the functional consequences of the interactions between the soil microbiome and management of the abiotic soil environment.

Before moving to Western Australia in August 2008, he worked at the University of Newcastle in the Northeast of England where he held senior research and administrative positions. Whilst at Newcastle he established and was the first Director of the multidisciplinary Institute for Research in Environment and Sustainability (IRES).

Banner image: Hang (Tina) Gao.