Inaugural Lecture - Prof. Ianina Altshuler


Event details

Date 31.05.2023
Hour 17:3019:30
Speaker Prof. Ianina Altshuler
Location Online
Category Inaugural lectures - Honorary Lecture
Event Language English
Date: 31 May 2023
Time: 17:30 - 19:30
Introductions by the Dean, lectures by Prof. Meret Aeppli, Prof. Ianina Altshuler and Prof. Sara Bonetti. Followed by an Apero.
Place: CO 1
Zoom link

Cryosphere microbiomes in a warming world

Cryospheric environments, such as permafrost, sea ice, snow, polar, and high-altitude systems, present hostile conditions for life, including sub-zero temperatures, nutrient scarcity, and low water availability. Yet, these environments are crucially shaped by active and diverse extremophilic microorganisms which contribute to biogeochemical cycling of nutrients. Environmental adaptation of microbial communities on both population and individual fundamental molecular scales, such as alternative metabolisms and production of cold-specific enzymes, allows organisms to thrive in cryospheric environments. However, these ecosystems are particularly sensitive to climate change and anthropogenic stressors as polar and high-altitude regions are experiencing warming at faster rates compared to the global average. This fragility is further unbalanced as cryosphere degradation is predicted to release stored organic carbon (in permafrost) which could fuel microbial respiration and greenhouse gas emissions in a positive feedback loop of climate warming. Understanding environment adaptation of microbial communities on population and molecular scales in response to warming is key in predicting and mitigating further disruptions to cryospheric ecosystems. My research integrates field in situ metabolic detection and sequencing technologies with controlled laboratory experiments. Here, I will present several case studies focused on cryosphere microbiomes in both polar and high-altitude regions, were we uncovered adaptation strategies to environmental stressors and identified microbial populations responsible for greenhouse gas fluxes. Building on this research in the future, we aim to determine the resilience of alpine and polar microbiomes to warming and associated ecosystem transformations (e.g. reduced snow cover), identify keystone species that influence robustness of cryosphere microbiomes, and identify microbial interactions with eukaryotic organisms for overall ecosystem function.

About the speaker
Prof. Ianina Altshuler joined EPFL in August 2022 as tenure track assistant professor. She is an Arctic and Alpine field and experimental microbial ecologist. Ianina Altshuler holds an Honours BSc in Biological Sciences from York University and an MSc in Environmental Sciences from Windsor University, Canada. She completed her PhD in Environmental Microbiology at McGill University (Québec, Canada) working on microbial responses to climate warming in Arctic permafrost soils and microbial contributions to biogeochemical. She also completed a Postdoctoral fellowship at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences working on greenhouse gas mitigating strategies in agriculture, through engineering of specialized microbial communities. Currently, she heads the MACE laboratory (Microbiome Adaptation to the Changing Environment) at the Alpine and Polar Environmental Research Centre (ALPOLE).

Practical information

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  • Registration required


  • SSIE - Christina Treier

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