Carex is a cooperative network with the aim of coordinating research into extremophiles in Europe. These are life forms that live outside the so-called ‘norm conditions’ and could be plants, animals or bacteria that live in extremely hostile conditions.
“Examples of such conditions include extreme heat or cold, such as geothermal vents or glaciers, the deep sea or even the stratosphere; anything outside conventional levels of heat or pH,” says Viggó Marteinsson, research group leader at Matis who has been a part of the nine-man coordinating group of the Carex network, a three-year project by the European Union that recently concluded.
In Europe, and indeed all around the world, a great many investigations have been conducted in recent years that, one way or another, relate to extremophiles. The idea behind Carex was to synchronize and coordinate these investigations. The network included 79 research institutions in 25 countries and the fact that Viggó represented the Matís on the coordinating group says a great deal about the company’s standing. “What’s left now is to summarize the project through classifying investigations based on the extremophiles involved, their various conditions, and their habitats and so on. As part of this process various projects related to it have been organized including working groups of scientists, support for research grants for young scientists, courses in summer schools revolving around extremophiles and more. For example in Iceland a test of research equipment was conducted in nature where they were stress tested in both hot and cold environments,” says Viggó. He believes that the road map of extremophiles that the Carex project has delivered will be of great use to scientists and governments to inform their decisions regarding the most urgent investigations into extremophiles in the coming years.
“The success of the project is thus not the least that we have both brought scientists and their investigations together into one network of information on extremophiles. That network may even be expanded upon in the coming years,” says Viggó, pointing out as he does so that Matís and Iceland have a strong standing in this field.
“Iceland is in fact one great big research center for extremophiles due to the many and varied areas that
can be found here; high and low pH levels, high and low temperatures, geothermal vents in the ocean and even deep sea, glaciers and highlands and more. We have already shown a great understanding of extremophiles and their use but we have a great deal more to offer in that field,” says Viggó.