Christa Schleper is professor at the University of Vienna, Austria, since 2007 and head of the Department of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology. Her work focusses on the ecology, physiology, molecular biology and evolution of Archaea and the development of tools for environmental genomics to characterize uncultivated microorganisms.
Schleper has done her PhD at the Max-Planck-Institute in Munich, postdocs at Caltech and Univ. of Sta Barbara, California, and was assistant professor at the University of Darmstadt and full professor at the University of Bergen, Norway. She is an elected member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and of EMBO. She is currently speaker of the PhD program Nitrogen cycling: From single cells to ecosystems and within her ERC Advanced Grant works on Asgard Archaea, the closest living prokaryotic relatives of eukaryotes. She is also organizer of the new interdisciplinary Climate Change and Climate Crisis lecture of the Univ. of Vienna and actively supports women in science.
In this talk, she will give an update on the current knowledge of the ecology and evolution of archaea, on evolutionary scenarios as well as unresolved fundamental questions.
She will mix in some personal experiences of her own scientific (STEM-fatale) journey that equally bears some unexpected and unresolved scenarios…
Archaea arose about 3 to 4 billion years ago on this planet as a second evolutionary line of descent beside Bacteria. Their adaptations to extreme environments give insights into the physical limits where life is possible and inspire scenarios how life on Earth could have emerged – but they also exclude some. Since their discovery in the late 1970s, phylogenetic reconstructions and also the information processing machineries of Archaea reveal a common ancestry with eukaryotes (plants and animals). Moreover, recent (meta-)genomic studies of novel archaeal lineages have sparked new hypotheses about the emergence of the first eukaryotic cells.
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