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Dr Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo

Co-evolution of life and the biosphere

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

Research keywords

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