the project

In an interdisciplinary project (physics/ biology) we want to analyze the genetic biodiversity of life in the stratosphere. A balloon from the German Space Agency (DLR) will take our air-sampler to an altitude of 20 — 30 km. Samples from the sorrounding air will be collected on microbial filters. Sophisticated efforts are undertaken to avoid contamination from other sources. Subsequently, DNA will be extracted under laboratory conditions and analyzed using cutting edge Sequencing Technologies (454 Roche GS-FLX Titanium). Bioinformatic analyses using evolutionary algorithms should give results on the diversity and possibly the origin of the anticipated microrganisms in the stratosphere. In a second line of analysis, we would like to compare the genetic diversity in different altitudes: 0 km, 5 km, 15 km and 25 km above ground.

Recently, different microorganisms – mainly resistant bacterial and fungal spores – have been successfully cultivated from these altitudes and the overall view emerges, that life in the athmosphere could be much more diverse than thought. This is reminiscent of the long underestimated biodiversity of the deep sea.  However, modern DNA ultrasequencing techniques have never been applied to such samples. For the very first time, therefore, we hope to obtain a systematic snapshot of the genetic diversity in the stratosphere.


  1. As the author of papers on the microbiology of the high cold biosphere,(i.e.stratosphere) I am very excited by your work and look forward to hearing of the results.Good luck.
    Best Wishes, Prof.(Hon Cardiff) Milton Wainwright, University of Sheffield,UK

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