Research of the Aeromicrobiology Research Group centers around 3 main questions:
- How do microorganisms survive in the atmosphere?
The atmosphere presents a highly extreme environment where microorganisms have to cope with restricted water availability, rapidly changing temperature and high dose of UV radiation. We are interested in the selectivity of this process that determines which microbes survive aerosolization, transport and successful deposition. One aspect of microbial survival is the ability of cells to retain metabolic activity through which organisms can better come with atmospheric stress and benefit from the opportunities of aeolian dispersal.
- How do microorganisms contribute to formation of precipitation?
Some microorganisms produce specific proteins, the structure of which has evolved to provide a template for ice formation at temperatures close to 0oC. These microbes may be involved in ice formation in mixed-phase clouds and may thus induce formation of rain. We want to elucidate the structure of these proteins, the mechanism behind protein-mediated ice formation and elucidate their evolutionary history.
- Do microorganisms significantly affect weather and climate?
According to the latest IPCC report the interaction between aerosols and clouds is the least understood element affecting radiative forcing. It has been suggested that microbially-sourced biological particles and compounds may play a hitherto overlooked role. We are studying these particles in situ and using laboratory simulation experiments with the aim to produce quantitative results and parameterizations, which can be included in climate and weather models. This includes quantifying the major marine and terrestrial sources of ice-forming proteins as well as constraining their fluxes to and concentrations in the atmosphere.