Background

Research at the frontiers of environmental microbiology – in particular, the discovery of microorganisms in several million year old sediments, or even in basement rock – has profoundly altered our perspective on the limits of living organisms and challenged our understanding of their need for nutrients and energy.  Prokaryotic cells in the terrestrial or marine sub-surface comprise a significant fraction of all living microorganisms on Earth.  These organisms subsist at the interface between the inhabited and uninhabited realms of our planet and represent the ultimate biological arbiters of chemical exchange between the biosphere and the geosphere.

In an effort to understand this part of our biosphere, we organize an International Workshop on Microbial Life under Extreme Energy Limitation to explore the biological demand for energy, with a specific focus on microorganisms.  Earlier workshops on a similar theme were held in Denmark in 2007, 2012 and 2015.

 

Scientific goals

The scientific goals of the workshop are to:

  • Define the growing knowledge about minimum microbial energy requirements, with consideration of theoretical, culture-based, and environmental information.
  • Identify gaps in our understanding of the biological demand for nutrients and energy and how this demand may be satisfied by the environment, particularly in regards to life in the deep subsurface.
  • Discuss how low energy availability affects growth, adaptation and evolution.
  • Identify priorities for research and methods development that will most directly address these gaps in understanding.

Additional aim

An additional important aim of the workshop is to stimulate dialog, new thinking, and new, multi-faceted approaches to these questions by bringing together researchers from diverse but complementary disciplines, and engaging the interest of students and young scientists in this topic.