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Department of Geography

Scientists set out to explore microbial life in glacier streams

A team of scientists will spend at least the next four years studying some of the world’s biggest glacier-fed streams. By collecting microorganisms from the streams and extracting their DNA, they hope to better understand how these creatures have adapted to their extreme environments. Michael Zemp, a research associate at the Department of Geography, will provide his expertise in glaciology.

rhonegletscher tongue

What else besides water do we lose as glaciers vanish? That’s the question a team of scientists led by EPFL will set out to answer on an unprecedented expedition set to last at least four years. They will travel to the world’s largest mountain glacier systems, collecting microorganisms from hundreds of glacier-fed streams and analyzing their genomes. Through a combination of environmental sciences, life sciences and geology, they hope to learn how these microbiomes have adapted over the millennia to the extreme conditions they are exposed to.

Press release, 25 July 2018 (PDF, 192 KB)

Photo from J. Alean: