Members of the Biology Department’s Group for Extreme and Marine Microbiology (GEMM)

have recently participated in a scientific expedition to the Islands of Cabo Verde. The international, cross-disciplinary team, led by Dr André Antunes, and also including Dr Marta Filipa Simões (Biology), Dr James Rowson (Geography), and Aires da Moura (Universidade Jean Piaget de Cabo Verde), has successfully collected water and sediment samples from several salterns in the islands of Maio, Boavista, and Sal. These islands have a long tradition of salt-production, but several of their salterns are now under threat due to decrease in commercial importance of salt production and increased pressure from construction and tourism.

The expedition is part of the on-going project CHASE (Cabo Verde Hypersaline Environments: Analysis, Survey and Exploration), supported by the Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF), which aims to elucidate the geochemistry of these sites, isolate new microbial species and identify new microbial strains with potential for future biotechnological applications (e.g. biominerals, bioplastics, antimicrobial compounds, hydrolytic enzymes). The project hopes to assist in the preservation of these fragile ecosystems by characterising them and capturing their microbial biodiversity before they’re completely lost. Results of these studies will be shared with the national and local authorities, as well as with the general public to increase awareness of the enormous untapped biological and biotechnological value associated with the salterns.