Microorganisms and Extreme Environments
Biological sciences probe the limits for life as we know it by studying microorganisms in extreme environments, in environments analogous to the planets and moons of our solar system, and those that lie beyond it. Identifying characteristics that are signatures for life is an essential part of this work.
Biological sciences research in the Institute for Planets and Life (IPL) includes:
- Adaptive mechanisms of extremophiles and responses to environmental stresses
- Ecosystem-level studies of microbial communities at the dry extreme for life. Field sites include the Atacama Desert, the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, and many other deserts around the world
- Exploring life in liquid environments such as the sub-surface oceans on Europa and Enceladus, via laboratory work, modeling, and studies of analogous environments on Earth
- Radiation hazards and mitigation: exploring how cosmic radiation modifies life and signs of life, and whether an atmosphere is needed to protect emergent life
- Characterization of biosignatures resulting from microbial activity