Bjorn Tytgat

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State-of-the-art techniques for the study of microbial biodiversity patterns in East Antarctica

Polar ecosystems are extremely sensitive to climate changes which influence their functioning and composition. Because of the inaccessible nature of the Antarctic continent, there is a profound lack of basic knowledge on the biota present. This biota consists largely of microorganisms adapted to the extreme environment. Better knowledge of these organisms is needed because

1.  without basic understanding the effects of Global Change and other anthropogenic phenomena cannot be assessed  
2.  these organisms exhibit valuable properties (resistance to radiation, drought, salinity and cold; new antibiotics and enzymes)

3.  a large proportion of these organisms are as yet unknown to science.

Classical methodologies like DGGE, clone libraries and isolation are labour intensive and insufficient to compare a large number of samples. Therefore, we will use high-throughput techniques like pyrosequencing and ARISA (Automated Ribosomal Inter Spacer Analysis) for in-depth terrestrial and limnetic community analysis.