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Dr Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo

Dr Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo

Dr Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo
B.Sc.(Los Andes, Bogota), Ph.D.(UC Berkeley)

Royal Society University Research Fellow and Reader

Area of research

Co-evolution of life and the biosphere

Office G10.aN
University Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1SS
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 954 6858


My research aims to understand how cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae) have contributed to global nutrient cycles (e.g., nitrogen, carbon, oxygen) through geological time. The timing of diversification of some marine cyanobacteria lineages suggests that cyanobacteria have played a key role in regulating the global environment and past climatic events. By studying cyanobacteria evolution my lab aims to understand how these organisms contributed to making our planet increasingly habitable during the early Earth.

Evolution of marine planktonic cyanobacteria

Marine planktonic cyanobacteria first evolved around 800-600 million years ago (Cryogenian). Their origin and diversification appear to be linked to major disruptions to the Earth’s nutrient cycles such as some of the most extreme glaciations (e.g., Snowball Earth) and the widespread oxygenation of the oceans, both of which occurred prior to the emergence of animals.

Marine N-Fixers 

Cyanobacteria from the Cryosphere

Cyanobacteria are major primary producers in glacial ecosystems contributing to nitrogen fixation and organic carbon accumulation. In my lab, we are currently isolating and sequencing cyanobacteria genomes from the Artic and the Antarctica. By studying the evolution of cold-adapted cyanobacteria we aim to understand how cyanobacteria have contributed to past/present nutrient cycles in polar environments during the Earth’s history.

 Lake Huere


I did my Biology degree at the Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia. I obtained my PhD from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. This programme gave me a strong foundation in phylogenetics and evolutionary theory as well as molecular techniques for testing evolutionary hypotheses. I developed my own research project on a recent radiation of high Andean ferns. I addressed innovative theoretical issues in evolutionary biology such as adaptive radiation, convergent evolution, biogeography and heterochrony. I obtained the following awards to fund my PhD research: National Science Foundation - Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant; Vice Chancellor for Research Fund Award; and several others smaller grants from other sources.  At Berkeley, I also worked on the phylogenetic relationships of KNOX transcription factors with Prof Sarah Hake.

I held two post-doctoral positions at Bristol University on molecular ecology (2001-2007). The first one aimed to follow natural populations of phytoplankton in freshwater lakes using phylogenetic analyses and quantitative PCR. The second one aimed to unravel genes related to toxin expression in Planktothrix, byapplying molecular techniques and sequencing and annotating its genome.  I have worked on non-academic flexible jobs to look after my very young family (2010-11) as a graduate school developer in the School of Biological Sciences at Bristol University and Research Theme Facilitator for the Predictive Life Sciences at Bristol University. 

In June 2011, I returned back to science with a Daphne Jackson Fellowship shared between the Schools of Biological and Geographical Sciences.  In January 2012, I started a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship.


World in Crisis (Year 1), School of Geographical Sciences, Bristol University


  • • Adaptive radiation • Phylogenomics • Neoproterozoic Oxygenation Event • Cyanobacteria • Biogeochemical cycles • Co-evolution • Molecular Clock • Nitrogen

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system


Dr Sanchez-Baracaldo currently teaches 1 courses:

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