Going Extreme: CAREX Summer School

Last week 40 young scientists gathered in Pieve Tesino (Italy) for a summer school on "Life in Extreme Environments", organised by CAREX (Coordinated Action for Research Activities on life in Extreme Environments).

The summer school was unique in aiming to enhance cross-disciplinal collaboration both in terms of environments and organisms. It covered life in various extreme environments ranging from the Antarctic to tropical mangroves, as well as deep-sea, rock and space environments. Organisms ranged from microbes (fungi, bacteria, algae, and in symbiosis: lichens) to plants (e.g. resurrection plants) and animals (e.g. tardigrades).

Established researchers gave lectures about their work, and shared their experience with the students during splinter session group discussions. All students presented their research through either a talk or a poster.

Amongst the participants was Mieke Sterken, educational officer at IPF and part-time researcher at the KULeuven at the time of subscription. Mieke gave a talk about the newly built Princess Elisabeth Station, and presented a poster on diatom and pigment based reconstructions of Antarctic climate and sea-ice conditions, a topic she studied during her PhD at the University of Ghent.

During a field trip the students observed how organisms adapt to Alpine conditions, took samples of lichen-covered rocks, and examined these during a microscope session. The workshop was very successful, both in scientific and social terms. Participants  created a Facebook group in order to stay in touch with each other, and have been exchanging ideas and information since!