Stephen Brian Pointing

Science (Environmental Studies)


Website: Research Website
Website: Google Scholar Citations

View Curriculum Vitae

Professor Stephen (Steve) Pointing earned his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees at the University of Portsmouth. He won a prestigious Sainsbury Scholarship for postgraduate environmental research at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, and was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Microbiology in 1995. Prof Pointing gained a Master of Business Administration, specialising in higher education management from the University of Leicester in 2010. He has spent his entire academic career in the Asia-Pacific region, where he has held academic positions in Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and Singapore. Prof Pointing has committed significant effort to training and mentoring emerging scientists in the region including many postgraduate students from Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Thailand and the Philippines. He has held key academic leadership positions and is an award-winning teacher and media commentator on scientific issues.

Prof Pointing’s research addresses fundamental questions about the ecology of microorganisms in extreme environments. His group has contributed to significant advances in understanding the importance of microbes in deserts and drylands, polar regions, geothermal environments and the atmosphere. Additional applied research in microbiology has focused on the preservation of historic shipwrecks, transformation of pollutants and modelling potential habitats for life on Mars.

View a short video about Prof Pointing’s research


A full list of my journal and book publications is available on Google Scholar Citations:

Ten representative publications

(corresponding author underlined)

    1. Archer SDJ, Lee KC, Caruso T et al. & Pointing SB (2021). Diverse recruitment to a globally structured atmospheric microbiome. Preprint is available at: Research Square.
    2. Archer SDJ, Lee KC, King-Miaow K, Harvey M, Wainwright B, Huang D, Pointing SB (2020). Air mass source determines airborne microbial diversity at the ocean-atmosphere interface of the Great Barrier Reef marine ecosystem. The ISME Journal 14, 871-876.
    3. Archer SDJ, Lee KC, Maki T, Lee CK, Cary SC, Cowan DA, Maestre FT, Pointing SB (2019). Airborne microbial transport limitation to isolated Antarctic soil habitats. Nature Microbiology 4, 925-932.
    4. Warren-Rhodes KA, Lee K, Archer SDJ, Cabrol N, Ng-Boyle L, Wettergreen D, Zacny K, Pointing SB (2019). Subsurface microbial habitats in an extreme desert Mars-analogue environment. Frontiers in Microbiology 10, 00069.
    5. Lee KC, Caruso T, Archer SDJ, Gillman LN, Lau MCY, Cary SC, Lee CK, Pointing SB (2018). Stochastic and deterministic effects of a moisture gradient on soil microbial communities in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Frontiers in Microbiology 9, 2619.
    6. Chan Y, van Nostrand J, Zhou J, Pointing SB, Farrell RL (2013) Functional ecology of an Antarctic dry valley. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 110, 8990-8995.
    7. Pointing SB and Belnap J (2012) Microbial colonization and controls in dryland systems. Nature Reviews Microbiology 10, 551-562.
    8. Bahl J, Lau MCY, Smith GJD, Dhanasekeran V, Cary SC, Lacap DC, Lee CK, Papke RT, Warren-Rhodes KA, Wong FKY, McKay CP, Pointing SB (2011) Ancient origins determine global biogeography of hot and cold desert cyanobacteria. Nature Communications 2, 163.
    9. Caruso T, Chan Y, Lacap DC, McKay CP, Pointing SB (2011) Stochastic and deterministic processes interact to determine global biogeography of arid soil bacteria. The ISME Journal 5, 1406-1413.
    10. Pointing SB, Chan Y, Lacap DC, Lau MCY, Jurgens J, Farrell RL (2009) Highly specialized microbial diversity in hyper-arid polar desert. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106, 19964-19969.

(Not all modules are offered every year)
Common Curriculum
Planetary Health
Principles of Environmental Science