EMI Lecture 2018: Professor Ken Timmis

Extremophiles and 20 years of Environmental Microbiology (EMI)

This year SfAM celebrated the twentieth year of the Environmental Microbiology (EMI) journal. To mark this special occasion, Chief Editor Ken Timmis delivered the Annual EMI Lecture, a free event for SfAM Members.

Ken introduced his lecture with a few words about the early days of EMI and explored ideas about how environmental microbiology may play out over the next 20 years. Much of his lecture concerned water, which is of course the medium of life: the parameters that determine water availability, natural habitats where water availability becomes life-limiting, and which microbes best handle the stress close to the inviable limits of water availability. 

Two particularly fascinating types of habitat he discussed were the hypersaline brine lakes sitting on the Mediterranean Sea bed, and the deep subsurface of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, which, as study objects, presented some interesting logistical issues. These environments are also populated with fascinating microbes playing at the edge of life, the study of which may inform whether extraterrestrial life might exist where similar conditions occur on other planets.