11 About the Authors


F. Grant Ferris is a Professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Toronto. For the past 30 years, he has been bridging the worlds of microbial geochemistry research and industry applications. With a formal training in microbiology attained during his B.Sc. and PhD degrees at the University of Guelph, Grant went on to complete a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) postdoctoral fellowship at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California, and a Natural Science and Engineering Research Council postdoctoral fellowship at Western University in Ontario. Following his fellowships, Grant joined the private sector where he worked in the oil and gas industry on pipeline corrosion, enhanced oil recovery and cleaning-up refinery wastes. During this time, he designed and patented a biomineral plugging process for reducing the porosity and permeability of subsurface geological formations. After several years working in industry, Grant joined the University of Toronto and established one of the first microbial geochemistry laboratories in Canada.

Over the course of his career, Grant has contributed an immense body of knowledge to the area of microbial geochemistry. His research group has explored some of the most remote and inaccessible environments on Earth. Study sites have ranged from the high altitude of the Atacama Desert in Chile to the abyssal depths of the North Pacific Ocean; hydrothermal fields in Yellowstone National Park to geysers in Iceland and New Zealand; underground nuclear waste disposal facilities in Sweden to ephemeral saline alkaline lakes in British Columbia; and blood red waters of the Rio Tinto in Spain to Ellesmere Island in the Canadian High Arctic. Grant has also served as an editor for several world-renown scientific journals and held executive positions with the American Society for Microbiology and International Society for Environmental Biogeochemistry. He was the only non-American on the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Science (U.S.A) committee on Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions, and an early member of the Astrobiology Working Group of the Canadian Space Agency.

Grant’s contribution to the scientific field is complimented by his dedication to teaching and mentoring of students and postdoctoral fellows. Recognizing Grant’s contributions, in 2012, he was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada.


Natalie Szponar is a multidisciplinary environmental scientist who uses microbial, geochemical, and hydrogeological tools to understand different geological and environmental processes. Natalie received her Bachelor of Science in aqueous geochemistry at McMaster University and Master of Science in stable isotope geochemistry at Memorial University of Newfoundland. For her graduate research, she worked to understand the role of microbes in the cycling of carbon in contaminated and undisturbed aqueous environments. At Memorial University she also completed an internship with the Astrobiology Working Group of the Canadian Space Agency, working to understand the life-supporting potential of non-Earth planets. After completing her Masters, Natalie began working as a hydrogeologist and environmental consultant at a private consulting firm where she worked for more than nine years. As part of her consulting work, Natalie travelled across Canada to work on various environmental assessment and remediation programs. In 2016, she returned to academia to pursue a doctoral degree in Earth Sciences, joining the Trace Metal and Metal Isotope Laboratory Group at the University of Toronto. During her doctoral studies, Natalie largely worked in Peru, building capacity for research and sampling in areas impacted by artisanal and small-scale gold mining and assisting in the Peru’s efforts to understand the effects of these mining operations on the environment.


Brock A. Edwards is a third-year PhD student at the University of Manitoba researching the role of volcanic gas emissions in the global mercury cycle. Along with colleagues at the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the University of Iceland, he recently studied early-eruption emissions of mercury and other gases from the ongoing Fagradalsfjall eruption in southwest Iceland. His previous research as an undergraduate and Master’s student at the University of Toronto focused on the biogeochemical cycling of iron in freshwater environments and the influence of microorganisms on water quality and contaminant mobility.


Groundwater Microbiology Copyright © 2021 by F. Grant Ferris, Natalie Szponar, and Brock A. Edwards. All Rights Reserved.