MICROCENO PROJECT – Selvagens Islands Expedition 2021

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Mineralogy and Microbiology research on a North Atlantic’s volcanic island.

Microceno Project, funded by the “Foundation for Science and Technology”, is it coordinated by Ana Zélia Miller, a geomicrobiologist at the Institute of Natural Resources of Agrobiology of Seville (IRNAS-CSIC) and research member at the HERCULES Laboratory at Évora University in Portugal.

The main objective was to study, for the first time, the microbiology and mineralogy of the Selvagens terrestrial and marine volcanic caves, to understand which microorganisms grow in these pristine ecosystems and their interactions with the minerals.

Ever since volcanic caves were discovered on Mars, researchers have wondered whether these caverns hold the key to understanding whether microbial life has existed on the Red Planet. To prepare themselves for future manned missions, researchers have begun to explore the microbiology and mineralogy of volcanic caves on Earth with greater intensity.

To learn more about volcanic caves on Earth, Miller brought 17 researchers together from seven countries for an expedition to the Selvagens Islands, a remote archipelago in the North Atlantic part of the Portuguese Autonomous Region of Madeira.

The expedition provided the opportunity for scientists from different disciplines to explore one of the most unique natural laboratories in the World.