Professor Sophie Leterme


College of Science and Engineering

place Earth Sciences (204)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I am passionate about solving issues related to biofilms and biofouling for industry applications and ecological restoration. I use molecular-based and microscopy techniques to characterise the microbiological complexities of biofilms. My specific focus is on developing collaborations with like-minded academics, industry partners and government agencies to work jointly on these issues. In 2018, I created the Biofilm Research & Innovation Consortium which was successful at securing external funding support from industry partners. Building on FUBRIC, I am now the Director of an ARC Industry Transformation Training Centre (ITTC) on Biofilm Research & Innovation. This centre focuses on the training of PhD students and ECRs in biofilm research in a collaborative environment that actively involves industry partner organisations.

I joined Flinders University in 2006 as a postdoctoral researcher to work on the ecology of the Coorong wetlands, focusing on the impact of environmental change on microbial and plankton communities. I took on a Lecturer position at Flinders University in 2008 and furthered my research on the adaptation of plankton to salinity fluctuations with an ARC through a Discovery Project.

I was the deputy node leader of SA-IMOS (South Australian Node of IMOS (Integrated Marine Observing System)) for 2009-2015, leading the biological program of SA-IMOS. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer (2013) and developped my research on the impact of microbial communities in the biofouling of desalination plants which was funded by the National Centre of Excellence in Desalination - Australia (NCEDA).

I became Associate Professor in 2016 and joined the Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science & Technology, a collaborative group working on sustainable problems at the nanometre scale. While most of my research currently focuses on biofilms, I also continue working with governmental agencies to tackle issues related to microplastic pollution.

  • Graduate Certificate in Higher Education from Flinders University (conferred in 2017).
  • PhD in Marine Biology at the University of Plymouth, UK - Impact of climate and physical processes on phytoplankton dynamics
  • Master in Biological Oceanography at l'Universite Pierre & Marie Curie - Paris VI, France - Spatial and temporal variability of particles between 1 and 1200µm in the North Atlantic Ocean (Cruises POMME)
  • Honours in Marine Biology (First Class) at l'Universite des Sciences & Technologies de Lille I , France - Microscale variability of Phytoplankton biomass in a high-hydrodynamic coastal ecosystem
  • BSc in Biology at l'Universite des Sciences & Technologies de Lille I, France - Long distance dispersal of the brown algae Turbinaria ornata (Fucale) invading Coral reefs of French Polynesia
Honours, awards and grants


Marine National Facility (MNF) - sea time on RV Investigator since 2019 - Microplastic in the food chain: impact on microbial and planktonic organisms

Visiting Professor (Universite de Toulon & USTL, France) 2018

ACSR-YSEP Fellowship (IOCAS Qingdao, China) 2014, 2015

Visiting Research Fellowship (Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology) 2007

FR3CE Visiting Scholar Fellowship (Flinders University) 2006-2007

Selected Recent Major Grants

  • ARC ITTC Leterme et al., Industry Transformation Training Centre for Biofilm Research & Innovation (2023-2028)
  • ARC Discovery, Project DP210101243 Andersson, Leterme et al., Conducting coatings for control and eradication of unwanted marine biofilms (2021-2023)
  • DEW (SA) Waycott, Leterme et al., Investigating the drivers and controls of filamentous algae and restoration of aquatic plants in the Coorong (2019-2022)

  • Defence Innovation Partnership (DIP) Collaborative Research Fund, Andersson, Leterme et al., Develop and test active coatings to prevent the growth of unwanted organisms on marine surface (2019-2021)

  • Australian Institute of Nuclear Science and Engineering (AINSE) Research Award ALNGRA15036 Leterme (2014), ALNGRA14027 Leterme & Popelka-Filcoff (2013)

  • BP funded GAB Science Plan - Project Proposal2.1.Van Ruth, Leterme et al.(2013-2017)

  • Integrated Marine Observing System - Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (IMOS–CRIS) Middleton, Leterme et al., ANMN–SAIMOS Mooring sub-facility, Shelf and slope moorings, field surveys and associated analyses to produce data streams (2013)

  • ARC LEIF, Project LE130100115 Prideaux et al.(2012)
  • National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia (NCEDA), Project08313 Leterme et al., Assessing the biofouling role of microbes in the desalination system; from the intake pipe to the reverse osmosis membranes (2011-2015)
  • ARC Discovery, Project DP110101679 Leterme et al., Primary Producers; morphological flexibility under environmental constraints (2010-2013)
  • NCEDA, Project07631 Leterme et al., Nanostructure of Diatoms: A predictive model for species sustainability (2010-2012)
Teaching interests

Supervision of Honours, Master and postgraduate research students

Topic coordinator
STEM3100 Research Project in Science
STEM8100 Research Project in Science GE
BIOL3702 Marine and Freshwater Biology
Topic lecturer
BIOL3782 Advanced Microbiology
Supervisory interests
Biological oceanography
Desalination, effects on marine environments
Ecosystem dynamics
Environmental impact assessment
Environmental microbiology
Membranes and biofilms
Higher degree by research supervision
Principal supervisor: Zooplankton, wetlands, climate change (1), Biofouling, desalination, metagenomics (1), Phytoplankton, diatoms, wetlands, climate change (1)
Associate supervisor: Wetlands, biostatistics (1), Wetlands (1), Algae, diatoms, metagenomics (1), Algae, zooplankton (1), Harmful algae, dinoflagellates (1), Algae, diatoms, biofuel (1)
Associate supervisor: cyanobacteria, oceanography (1), Algae, Aquaculture (1)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Jan-Georg Jendyk

National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia PhD Scholarship - JUN 2012

Deevesh Hemraj

National Centre of Excellence in Desalination Australia PhD Scholarship -

Expert for media contact
Marine science
Available for contact via
Or contact the media team
+61 8 82012092
0427 398 713
Media expertise
  • Biology
  • Climate
  • Marine science
  • Microbiology
  • Oceanography
  • Salinity
  • Biofouling
  • Plankton