My lab focuses on bacterial-fungal symbiotic associations and on bioprospecting Arctic and sub-Arctic habitats for environmental biotechnology applications.
1994, BS, University of Iceland.
1995, MS, University of Iceland.
2000, PhD, The Pennsylvania State University.
2000-2002, Postdoctoral fellow, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
2001-2002, Academic visitor, Oxford University
2002-2004, Postdoctoral fellow, Aberdeen University
2004-present, Professor at the University of Akureyri.
Lichen-associated bacteria are thought to play important roles the lichen symbiosis. Elucidating these roles is a major goal of ongoing research into lichen-associated bacteria worldwide. Among important members of the microbiome associated with multiple lichen species are sphingomonads, comamonads, frankiae and flavobacteria. The potential roles of these bacteria in the symbiotic associations within lichen thalli are currently under investigation in our lab. Metagenomic analysis of the Peltigera membranacea associated microbiome has indicated that organic nutrientscavenging may be among important roles of these members of the microbiome. Among ongoing projects is characterization of a P. membranacea-associated comamonad with high similarity to Variovorax paradoxus. In this project, the strain's genome has been sequenced and partially assembled. The assembly is currently being partially annotated, focusing particularly on genes involved in degradation of recalcitrant aromatic compounds. Biodegradative activity of the strain will also be investigated in culture, with a view to elucidate its possible role in P. membranacea organic nutrient scavenging, focusing initially on a carboxymethylenebutenol hydrolase.
Bacteriological research has been conducted in Iceland for a century, but even so the population structures and their interactions in the habitats most characteristic of Icelandic nature, such as glacial ice, desert soils, glacial rivers, highland moors and mires, etc., remain almost completely unknown. Many of the psychrotrophic organisms likely to thrive therein can be expected to possess valuable and exploitable properties, such as cold-active biodegradation of environmental pollutants and production of cold-efficient biosurfactants. Several projects in our lab thus tackle the microbial ecology and bioprospecting of these habitats. Among recent and current projects are the microbial ecology of Vatnshellir cave slime, glacial river water of Glerá, Jökulsá á Fjöllum and Skjálfandafljót, the recently formed glacial thaw lake in Ok, and bioprospecting for biosurfactant-producing Nevskia bacteria from various cold habitats. These microbial ecology projects are often inspired by, and in part conducted within, an international summer course in Arctic Microbial Ecology run by our lab in collaboration with several domestic and international partners. Student videos from the summer course can be found on Youtube, for example here, here, here and here.
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