Gayathri Murukesan

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Expedition to study ‘in-situ’ the biodiversity within selected Icelandic lava fields

Gayathri Murukesan

Ph.D. Student, Bioenergy from Cyanobacteria and Microalgae Group, University of Turku

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:

  1. Characterise the type and extent of life living in these Mars-like environments
  2. Determine the factors that allow for colonization of volcanic rocks
  3. Simulate and test future astrobiological analytical techniques for Mars
  4. Simulate sample return (which would be a key part in a Mars-landing mission).





CSO Approval date: 14/11/2013
Starting date: 15/05/2014
Ending date: 14/05/2018

Action Chair:
Dr. Muriel GARGAUD (FR)

Vice chair:
Prof. Wolf GEPPERT (SE)

STSM Manager:
Prof. Nigel MASON (UK)

Web Manager:



Grant Holder Financial Representative:

Mrs Annick Caperan

Science Officer:
Dr. Mafalda QUINTAS

Administrative Officer:
Ms Ange Marie Ina Uwase



A Trans-Domain Action supported by COST.

COST is supported by the EU Framework Programme Horizon 2020



Involved countries

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of Member Countries

Participating Countries
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

COST International Partner Countries
Canada (UQAM), South Africa (Univ. of Johanesburgh), Russian Federation (Institute of Geology, Petrozavodsk), Australia (University of Sydney), United States of America (University of Hawai)

Specific Organisations
European Space Agency (ESA)

Short Term Scientific Missions (STSMs)

Aiming at fostering collaboration, sharing new techniques, and infrastructure that may not be available in other participants' institutions or laboratories. STSMs are intended especially for young PhD researchers, but they are open to senior researchers as well. View the documents at this link.

 It should be explicitely noted that Master students are not eligible for STSMs which are for PhD students and more experienced researchers.

The life-Origins COST Project

Life-ORIGINS (TD1308) is a Trans Domain European COST Action dedicated to the scientific investigation of the origins and evolution of life on Earth and habitability of other planets.

The Action has specifically excluded the search for intelligent extraterrestrial life in its portfolio. Creationist theorems are also outside the Action’s remit.

Individuals are not allowed to use the name of the Action, its logo or any corporate identity of COST TD1308 in any communication without prior approval of the Management Committee.

All publications referencing the support of the Action should be sent to the appropriate Working Group chair at the time of submission.