Dr Claudia Coleine of the University of Tuscia, Italy presented a fascinating talk entitled “Microbiomes from extreme environments: challenges to thrive in the most prohibitive conditions” at the May FABI International Seminar on 26 May. She is currently a Marie Curie Global Fellow, whose the project will focus on untangling the microbiome of United States of America drylands and defining those physico-chemical conditions that still allow active life, even at the extremely low water regimes (i.e. hyperarid regions), in an era of global warming and rapid desertification.

Extreme environments, defined from our anthropocentric view, are ecosystems typically devoid of macro life forms and are instead inhabited predominantly by highly-adapted and specialized micro-organisms, namely extreme-tolerant and extremophiles that are able to tolerate and even thrive in the most prohibitive conditions (e.g. space and simulated Martian conditions). The discovery and persistence of these organisms have reshaped current concepts regarding the limits of life, for as we know it, on our planet. Yet, to the best of our knowledge, life is limited to earth but the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe has fascinated humankind for ages. Unearthing terrestrial extreme microbiomes will be integral to provide the foundational principles needed to predict what sort of earth-like organisms we might find in the solar system and beyond, and to understand the future and origins of life on earth.