Welcome to the Astrobiology Research Group!

The focus of our research is planetary habitability and astrobiology. Our goal is to understand habitable environments on Earth and beyond, and to develop life detection instrumentation for past and present life. Our research group is led by Prof. Dr. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and our project group leaders Dr. Janosch Schirmack, Dr. Jacob Heinz, Max Riekeles, Felix Arens, and Christof Sager.

For further information on our research, please check out the descriptions of our recent subprojects BRINES, BALMAC and Microbial Motility, as well as our publication list.


Latest Research

Fischer, F.C., Schulze-Makuch, D., Heinz, J. (2024) Microbial preference for chlorate over perchlorate under simulated shallow subsurface Mars-like conditions. Sci Rep 14, 11537, doi: 10.1038/s41598-024-62346-y.
Riekeles M, Albalkhi H, Dubay MM, Nadeau J and Lindensmith CA (2024) Motion history images: a new method for tracking microswimmers in 3D. Front. Imaging. 3:1393314. doi: 10.3389/fimag.2024.1393314
Sager, Christof (2023), Formation and development of polygonal soils in the hyper-arid Atacama Desert and their relevance as a habitat on earth and beyond, Doctoral Thesis, https://doi.org/10.14279/depositonce-17841
Sager, C., Airo, A., Mangelsdorf, K., Arens, F. L., Karger, C., & Schulze-Makuch, D. (2023). Habitability of Polygonal Soils in the Hyper-arid Atacama Desert after a Simulated Rain Experiment. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 128, e2022JG007328. https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JG007328
Jentzsch, L., Grossart, H.-P., Plewe, S., Schulze-Makuch, D., and Goldhammer, T. (2023) Response of cyanobacterial mats to ambient phosphate fluctuations: phosphorus cycling, polyphosphate accumulation, and stoichiometric flexibility. ISME COMMUN. 3, 6. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43705-023-00215-x.
Heinz, J., Doellinger, J., Maus, D. Schneider, A., Lasch, P., Grossart, H.-P., and Schulze-Makuch, D. (2022) Perchlorate-Specific Proteomic Stress Responses of Debaryomyces hansenii Could Enable Microbial Survival in Martian Brines. Environmental Microbiology, 24, 11, doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.16152.
Sager, C., Airo, A., Arens, F.L., Schulze-Makuch, S. Eolian erosion of polygons in the Atacama Desert as a proxy for hyper-arid environments on Earth and beyond. Scientific Reports 12, 12394 (2022). doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-16404-y
Baqué, M. Backhaus, T., Meeßen, J. Hanken, F., …24 authors…, Schulze-Makuch, D., Selbmann, L., Serrano, P., Szewzyk, U., Verseux, C., Wagner, D., Westall, F., Zucconi, L., and de Vera, J.-P. P. (2022) Biosignature stability in space enables their use for life detection on Mars. Science Advances 8, 36 doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abn7412
Liu, Y., Jeraldo, P., Herbert, W., McDonough, S., Eckloff, B., de Vera, J.-P., Cockell, C., Leya, T., Baqué, M., Jen, J., Schulze-Makuch, D., and Walther-Antonio, M., (2022) Non-random genetic alterations in the cyanobacterium Nostoc sp. exposed to space conditions. Scientific Reports 12: 12580, doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-16789-w
Liu, Y., Jeraldo, P., Herbert, W., McDonough, S., Eckloff, B., Schulze-Makuch, D., de Vera, J.-P., Cockell, C., Leya, T., Baqué, M., Jen, J., Walther-Antonio, M., (2022) Whole genome sequencing of cyanobacterium Nostoc sp. CCCryo 231-06 using microfluidic single cell technology, iScience 25 (5), #104291, doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2022.104291.
Wynne, J.J., Titus, T.N., … 31 authors…., Schulze-Makuch, D., Wagner, R.V., Whittaker, W.L., and Williams, K.E. (2022) Fundamental science and engineering questions in planetary cave exploration. JGR-Planets 127, e2022JE007194, https://doi.org/10.1029/2022JE007194
Heinz, J., Rambags, V., Schulze-Makuch, S. (2021) Physicochemical Parameters Limiting Growth of Debaryomyces hansenii in Solutions of Hygroscopic Compounds and Their Effects on the Habitability of Martian Brines. Life, 11 (1194), doi:10.3390/life11111194.
Schulze-Makuch, D.; Lipus, D.; Arens, F.L.; Baqué, M.; Bornemann, T.L.V.; de Vera, J.-P.; Flury, M.; Frösler, J.; Heinz, J.; Hwang, Y.; Kounaves, S.P.; Mangelsdorf, K.; Meckenstock, R.U.; Pannekens, M.; Probst, A.J.; Sáenz, J.S.; Schirmack, J.; Schloter, M.; Schmitt-Kopplin, P.; Schneider, B.; Uhl, J.; Vestergaard, G.; Valenzuela, B.; Zamorano, P.; Wagner, D. (2021) Microbial Hotspots in Lithic Microhabitats Inferred from DNA Fractionation and Metagenomics in the Atacama Desert. Microorganisms, 9 (1038); doi: 10.3390/microorganisms9051038.
Schulze-Makuch, D. (2021) The Case (or Not) for Life in the Venusian Clouds. Life, 11, 255, doi:10.3390/life11030255.
C. Sager, A. Airo, F. Arens and D. Schulze-Makuch (2021) New types of sand wedge polygons in the salt cemented soils in the hyper-arid Atacama Desert. Geomorphology, Volume 373, doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2020.107481
M. Riekeles, J. Schirmack, D. Schulze-Makuch (2021) Machine Learning Algorithms Applied to Identify Microbial Species by Their Motility. Life 2021, 11, 44. doi:https://doi.org/10.3390/life11010044
A.C. Waajen, J. Heinz, A. Airo, and D. Schulze-Makuch (2020) Physicochemical salt solution parameters limit the survival of Planococcus halocryophilus in Martian cryobrines. Front Microbiol, 11:1284, doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2020.01284
J. Heinz, T. Krahn, and D. Schulze-Makuch (2020) A New Record for Microbial Perchlorate Tolerance: Fungal Growth in NaClO4 Brines and its Implications for Putative Life on Mars. Life, 10 (5), doi: 10.3390/life10050053
J. Heinz, and D. Schulze-Makuch (2020) Thiophenes on Mars: Biotic or Abiotic Origin? Astrobiology, 20 (4), doi: 10.1089/ast.2019.2139
D. Maus, J. Heinz, J. Schirmack, A. Airo, S.P. Kounaves, D. Wagner, and D. Schulze-Makuch (2020) Methanogenic Archaea Can Produce Methane in Deliquescence-Driven Mars Analog Environments. Scientific Reports, 10 (6); doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-56267-4
J. Heinz, A.C. Waajen, A. Airo, A. Alibrandi, J. Schirmack, and D. Schulze-Makuch (2019) Bacterial Growth in Chloride and Perchlorate Brines: Halotolerances and Salt Stress Responses of Planococcus halocryophilus. Astrobiology, 19 (11) 1377-1387, doi: 10.1089/ast.2019.2069
→ Full publication list here

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