Life at the extreme: understanding the microbiome of the cryosphere

About the project or challenge area

Microbial communities thrive in the cryosphere with adaptations to extremes of temperature, desiccation and ultraviolet radiation. These diverse assemblages of microalgae, bacteria and fungi have major impacts on biogeochemical and hydrological cycles. By understanding microbial community composition amongst distinct cryospheric environments, the biological processes of the cryosphere’s microbiomes can be examined. Through state-of-the-art DNA sequencing, this project will investigate the composition and diversity of microbial communities in the cryosphere. Analysis of metagenomic data will reveal the commonalities and differences between microbial communities sampled from distinct cryospheric environments (e.g. alpine glaciers, ice sheets) and more broadly provide insights into the role of microbial life of the cryosphere for major global cycles.

Why choose this opportunity?

You will have the opportunity to work at the forefront of research into microbial life in the cryosphere, receiving training in state-of-the-art DNA sequencing and analysis and develop an understanding of glacial microbiology.

About you

You will have a broad interest in polar microbiology and experience of DNA sequence and statistical analysis although training will be provided where necessary.

Bench fees

A bench fee of £1,000 is required.

How to apply

All students can apply using the button below, following the Cabot Masters by Research Admission Statement. Please note that this is an advertised project, which means you only have to complete Section A of the Research Statement.

Before applying, we recommend getting in touch with the project's supervisors. If you are interested in this project and would like to learn more about the research you will be undertaking, please use the contact details on this page.


Your supervisor for this project will be Chris WilliamsonLecturer in Polar Microbiology in the School of Geographical Sciences. You can contact him at +44 (0) 117 42 82 366 or email


Your co-supervisor for this project will be Alex Bowles in the School of Geographical Sciences.

Find out more about your prospective research community

The Environmental Change theme is a vibrant community of researchers who integrate expertise across multiple disciplines to provide the evidence base and solutions to tackle the world's most pressing environmental challenges. Find out more about the Environmental Change research theme.

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