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I am Gayathri Murukesan, currently working at the final stages of my doctoral studies at the University of Turku, Finland. The world of photosynthetic microbes has always been a fascination to me which steered my study focus towards cyanobacteria (majorly) and algae. My previous studies were primarily associated with using A.cylindrica for bio weathering of Icelandic lava rocks as an analogue study with respect to utilization of Martian regolith for nutrient release and uptake. Presently, I have focused my efforts on optimization of artificial micro algal biofilms for improved solar light utilization and efficient sequestration of CO2 by photosynthetic filamentous heterocystous cyanobacteria. These artificial biofilms with entrapped microalgae have a capacity to produce renewable energy (in the form of bio hydrogen), oxygen and some industrially valuable compounds, such as pigments and antioxidants. During the past several years I had been deeply interested in Astrobiology and as a result of my efforts, I had a great oppourtunity to be part of an outsanding international team of young researchers consisting of astronomers, biologists, chemists, and geologists.
With the experience gained from our preliminary campaign in the year 2013 in Iceland (planetary exploration analogue mission), a second expedition was organized in 2015 summer to Iceland by our international team (working title: Field Exploration and Life Detection Sampling for Planetary and Astrobiology Research).
The purpose of this expedition was to study ‘in-situ’ the biodiversity within selected Icelandic lava fields to: