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School of Geography

Laura Molares Moncayo


PhD Student



Research interests: Extremophilic bacteria, Polar/Atmospheric microbiology, Geomicrobiology, Habitability, Astrobiology.


PhD Project: The Role Of The Atmosphere In Shaping And Sustaining Microbial Communities On Glaciers


The atmosphere forms a bridge between Earth’s major biomes, shaping adjacent environments via processes that are not yet fully understood. Airborne microorganisms have been shown to be metabolically active despite the stressful conditions of the atmosphere, with flexible metabolic strategies enabling them to survive in variable or energy-deprived environments, expanding our notion of habitable environments and the physicochemical limits of life. Although research indicates that microbial communities are influenced by atmospheric deposition, contributions and functions of atmospheric inputs onto glaciers and ice sheet biomes remain poorly understood. As such, this project aims to assess the habitability potential of the atmosphere, particularly within its role in shaping microbiome composition in glacier habitats. We will explore how feasible it is for glacial communities to survive off atmospheric trace gases as an alternative source of energy given the physicochemical limitations of this environment. 



Academic Background

MSc Interdisciplinary Master in Life Sciences, École Normale Supérieure - PSL

TrackSystems Biology, Genomics and Computational Biology 

BSc Liberal Arts and Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Major: Molecular and Cellular Biology. 




James Bradley, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Anne Jungblut, Natural History Museum, UK

Chris Greening, Monash University, Australia

Jackie Goordial, University of Guelph, Canada

Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert, Arizona State University, USA




Human Frontiers Science Program grant


Conference publications


Molares Moncayo, L. (2021) Pushing the Limits of Life: Proteometabolomic mechanisms used by Deinococcus radiodurans to resist the damaging effects of oxidative stress induced by extreme radiation doses. Presented at the 72nd International Astronautical Congress. IAF/IAA Space Life Sciences Symposium.


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