Peter Steinberg

Contact details:
+61 2 9385 3273
+61 2 9385 1558
1978: BSc. Zoology, University of Maryland (U.S.A.)
1984: PhD. Biology, University of California (U.S.A.)
  • 2010 - present, Co-Director, Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre (AEBC) 
  • 2009 - present, Director and CEO, Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences (SIMS)
  • 1994 - present, Co-Director, Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation (CMB)
  • 2007 - 2009, CEO, Biosignal Ltd
  • 2005 - present, Professor, UNSW
  • 2003 - 2005, Head, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Science
BIOS2011 - Evolutionary and physiological ecology
BIOS3091 - Marine and aquatic ecology
Climate change and diseases of marine organisms
In the last ten years the effects of disease on natural marine communities have become increasingly apparent, with organisms as diverse as seagrasses, seals and corals suffering from major disease-related die-offs. In a number of these instances human impacts via pollution or climate change are thought to have played a major role in the impact of these diseases. Recent evidence indicates that "bleaching" of the red seaweed Delisea pulchra is due to a bacterial disease. We are now investigating broadly the interplay between bacterial virulence and environmental factors such as temperature, light and nutrients, and natural bacterial inhibitors to understand the epidemiology and impact of disease on the ecology of kelps and other seaweeds.
Marine Chemical Ecology
The identification of novel bioactive compounds is an emergent field that represents a unification of the fields of molecular biology, microbiology, natural products chemistry, and marine ecology. The field of marine chemical ecology has long been dominated by studies of plant/herbivore or predator/prey interactions and our group has a long history of investigating these interactions at all levels, form the molecular to the biogeographical. Increasingly our work in this area also encompasses studies of settlement inducers for invertebrate larvae. Chemical inducers of settlement act as cues for settling propagules (larvae, spores, etc.), enabling these planktonic forms to settle in an appropriate habitat for resumption of the benthic (bottom-dwelling) phase of their life history. The analysis of cues which control settlement in marine organisms and understanding the generality or specificity at which these cues operate is fundamental to advancing our understanding of adult distribution and abundance, population and community variability and hence our ability to manage natural marine systems.
Synergies between marine ecology and environmental microbiology
Marine organisms are subject to a constant bombardment from millions of microbial cells typically found in every millilitre of seawater. Interactions between marine macro- and micro-organisms are important in structuring marine communities and have been linked to the evolution of chemical defences, the maintenance of genetic diversity and even the evolution and persistence of sex. Understanding marine prokaryote/ eukaryote interactions has implications for a remarkably diverse array of endeavours, from the preservation of marine biodiversity to an understanding of diseases of marine and aquatic organisms to the development of novel antibiotics. These studies overlap broadly across our entire research program.
Marine microorganisms predominantly exist in sessile communities rather than as free-living planktonic cells. These sessile communities develop on all surfaces in aqueous environments, as complex surface attached micro-colonies. Such differentiated surface communities, in which bacterial cells are embedded in a macromolecular containing matrix, are called biofilms. Biofilms form on marine eukaryotes ('living surfaces') and here space and nutrient limitations create a highly competitive environment. This has allowed surface microbes to evolve both defensive and antagonistic strategies, including the production of toxins and other biologically active secondary metabolites to evade predators and/or prevent the colonisation and growth of competitors.  
The Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation (CMB)
The Centre for Marine Bio-Innovation (CMB) is an international focal point for interdisciplinary basic and applied research into chemically mediated interactions between organisms. It drives research excellence on a number of platforms, including microbial biofilms and bacterial signalling, marine chemical ecology, prokaryote-eukaryote interactions, environmental and microbial genomics, colonisation biology of marine sessile organisms, novel antifouling technologies, bioremediation, inter-kingdom signalling and the bridge between environmental microbiology and engineering. Based at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, the CMB integrates research across microbiology, marine chemical ecology, biodiversity, ecological theory, chemistry, and organism and community genomics. The interdisciplinary nature of the Centre is made possible through its organisation and the collaboration between its home Schools of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Chemistry. 
Sydney institute for Marine Sciences (SIMS)
Sydney Institute of Marine Science is a collaborative research and training institute bringing together scientists from six NSW universities plus state and federal marine and environmental agencies. SIMS conducts multidisciplinary marine research on impacts of climate change and urbanisation, biological diversity, fisheries, tourism, coastal development, and marine disease. By bringing together NSW's leading marine scientists at one collaborative site, SIMS will maximise the efficient use of resources for research on Australia's critical coastal environments.

The Advanced Environmental Biotechnology Centre is a new Research Centre located within the School of Biological Sciences building. It was set up as part of NTU’s NEWRI Ecosystem. The Centre aims to achieve collaborations with the various Schools and Research Centre within NTU, as well as with other Universities and Research Institutes in Singapore and overseas. The AEBC is well equipped to forge strong research platforms for fundamental and applied environmental microbiology capable of addressing issues that are relevant to Singapore‘s environmental and water industries. The Centre consists of facilities such as Research Staff Office, Research Student Office, Microbial Biotechnology Lab, Bioreactor Engineering Lab, Analytical Biochemistry Lab and Analytical Microbiology Lab.