Associate Professor Sophie Leterme

Associate Professor

College of Science and Engineering

place Biological Sciences (230)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

My research focuses on aquatic microbes through 2 principal research streams: (1) Effects of environmental change (i.e. drought, acidification, eutrophication) on plankton biology and ecology, with a special focus on diatoms and copepods and (2) Studies of biofilm formation in aquatic systems, including water treatment and desalination plants.

I founded the Flinders Biofilm Research & Innovation Consortium in 2018. The Consortium develops innovative solutions and provide better control of problematic biofilms relevant to many industries such as desalination & membranes, medical implants, beverage & food, water & wastewater, renewable energy, biosecurity, maritime and mining. I am also a Research Leader of the Flinders Institute for Nanoscale Science & Technology, a collaborative group of chemists, biologists, physicists and engineers working together to solve problems utilising the unique opportunities offered by working on the nanometre scale.

I joined Flinders University in 2006 as a post-doctoral 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 that was funded by the 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.

  • 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 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