Dr Neil Gray
Reader in Geomicrobiology and RCUK Research Fellow

  • Email: neil.gray@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 4887
  • Address: School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences
    3rd Floor
    Devonshire Building
    Newcastle University
    Newcastle upon Tyne
    NE1 7RU


 I have over 15 years research experience in experimental approaches and techniques which explicitly link microbial biodiversity’s structure to function and geochemical conditions. These approaches and techniques have been applied widely to determine changes in community structure, relative abundance and activities of micro-organisms in response to natural and artificial environmental perturbations. I have applied these techniques to study varied geochemical processes (sulfur cycling, nitrogen cycling, methanogenesis, methane oxidation) in a number of different geochemical environments (soils, freshwater and marine sediments) with the overall objective of understanding how microorganisms influence the geosphere and visa versa.


As a Geomicrobiologist I am fascinated by the interaction of microbes with their geochemical environments. It is clear to me that these interactions have far reaching effects on ecosystems, global processes and human societies. I am often struck by the relevance of microbial communities and their activities (which occur at relatively such small scales) to the larger scale environmental issues e.g. ecosystem damage and regeneration, climate change and its mitigation, soil productivity and health, water quality). This is of course because of the shear diversity and distribution of microbial processes. Compared to plants and animals microbes use a staggering range of metabolic paths to consume inorganic and organic substrates. New metabolisms are still being discovered and it is this richness which allows microbes to directly influence environments stretching from the deep biosphere to the upper atmosphere.


PhD Chemistry (Cardiff University, 1994)

BSc (hons) Chemistry (Cardiff University, 1989)

Roles and responsibilities

CEGs Director of Postgraduate Studies  

Module Leader for CEG8601 Research Methods

Lecturer Introduction to Microbiology CEG8604

Lecturer  Solid Waste Management CEG8105

Lecturer Engineering Biology through Molecular Microbial Ecology CEG8109

CEGs Radiation Protection Supervisor   

Member of the University Radiation committee

Member of CEGs safety committee


Member of the Society for General Microbiology

Research Interests

Microbial diversity and its link to function;
Ecological mechanisms which control microbial diversity and distribution;
The freshwater sedimentary sulfur cycle;
The geomicrobilogy of constructed wetlands;
The effect of soil improvement treatments on microbially mediated geochemical processes (nitrification, denitrification, methanogenesis and methane oxidation;
The use of stable isotopes to determine pathways of carbon mineralization in freshwater, estuarine, and marine environments;
Petroleum degradation in anaerobic deep sub-surface environments

Postgraduate Supervision

Microbial ecology and geochemistry of natural and engineered environments e.g. soils, lake and river sediments, engineered wetlands

Esteem Indicators

Member of the Natural Environment Research Council, Peer Review College (2006-2009)

Member of the editorial board of the Journal of Microbiological Methods

Invited oral presentation for the Society for General Microbiology's 163rd Meeting, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland — 8-11 September 2008

Co-convener with Francesca de Ferra (Eni E&P Division) of a European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE) workshop in Rome Sunday 8 June 2008. The workshop will encompass the Microbial Ecology of Petroleum Systems.

Invited article for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Ecology to be published by Elsevier in 2008 (written in collaboration with Ian Head)

Recent paper (Gray et al. ISME J 2007 Nov 1(7):596-605) has been selected for the Faculty of 1000 Biology www.f1000biology.com/article/id/1103375. Faculty of 1000 Biology is an online service that highlights and evaluates the most interesting papers published in the biological sciences, based on the recommendations of over 2000 of the world's top researchers.

Co-convener of the 12th Molecular Microbial Ecology Group meeting (MMEG12) held at Newcastle 24th-25th July 2006. MMEG is an annual gathering of UK molecular microbial ecologists held on a rotational basis at different institutions throughout the UK.

Invited author for a new book series entitled Microbiology Monographs, The unique role of intracellular calcification in the genus Achromatium. Microbiology Monographs. Vol. 1 Inclusions in Prokaryotes, edited by Jessup Shively, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 299-309

Invited paper and oral presentation for a meeting of the Society for Applied Microbiology (SFAM)Edinburgh 3rd-6th July 2006. The theme of the meeting is Living together - Polymicrobial Communities

Invited paper and presentation (Minerals, mats, pearls and veils: themes and variations in giant sulfur bacteria) for the Society for General Microbiology's symposium on Microorganisms and Earth Systems: Advances in Geomicrobiology, Keele University, UK. 12-15 September 2005

Recent research on niche differentiation in Bacteria from the genus Achromatium highlighted in an article entitled-Living together, Nature-microbiology reviews, July 2004

Invited speaker for the Geological Society William Smith Meeting: Life in earth: Energy, minerals, mars and the deep biosphere, Burlington House (2002)

Invited author of a mini-review for the Journal Environmental Microbiology: Linking genetic identity and function in uncultured bacteria (2001. See publications.

Invited author for a special issue of the Journal Hydrobiologia: Molecular Ecology of Aquatic Communities.
(eds), J.P. Zehr & M.A. Voytek (1999). See publications.


Principle scientist - Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme No. 7181-Graphite resources Ltd and Newcastle University Development of anaerobic digestion biotechnology to convert autoclaved MSW into biogas (methane). Technology Stragey Board, £202,000 . 2008-2012

Mitigation of pollution from abandoned metal mines Phase II, £101,000, Environment Agency, 2011-2012

Mitigation of pollution from abandoned metal mines Phase I, £166,000, Environment Agency, 2009-2011 

The effect of copper geochemistry on the abundance and activity of methane oxidizing bacteria in the Arctic’ (NERC small grant, 2009-2010)

Role of methanobactin in methane oxidation rates in the presence of mineral copper: Natural Environment Research Council (NERC): £581,763 from Mar 2008 to Feb 2011 

Crude oil oxidation without an electron acceptor; syntrophic hydrocarbon degrading microbes work together to "crack" a tough problem
Prof Ian Head, Dr Neil Gray, Dr Martin Jones
NERC, 2007-2010, £420,379

The use of waste Mn oxides as contaminated land remediation products
The project represents a close collaboration between the University of Durham (Dr Karen Johnson and Dr Fred Worrell) and Newcastle University (Dr Neil Gray and Russell Davenport).
EPSRC 2007-2010

Biological recovery of energy assets (Brea/Methmax)
Prof Steve Larter, Prof Ian Head, Dr Neil Gray
Industrial sponsors Norsk Hydro, 2005-2007, £337,352

NERC consortium Grant (Universities of Southampton, Bristol, British Antarctic Survey and Newcastle. (2008-11) Chemosynthetically-driven Ecosystems in the Southern Ocean (CHESO). Newcastle component (£346,340) co-author with Nicholas Polunnin (MAST) and Helen Talbot.

Academic fellowships (3 x £125K) 2006-211in Earth Systems Science Engineering and Management obtained under the 2006 RCUK fellowships scheme. Co-authorship with Russell Davenport and Matt King

Leverhulme Trust (Grants to Institutions) Competition, niche adaptation and biogeography in uncultured sulfur bacteria. (£118,559) 20003. Co-authorship with Ian Head.

Postgraduate Teaching

Module Leader for CEG8601 Research Methods

Lecturer Introduction to Microbiology CEG8604

Lecturer Solid Waste Management CEG8105

Lecturer Engineering Biology through Molecular Microbial Ecology CEG8109