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BESE Seminar - Dr. Paraskevi Polymenakou

Start Date: September 13, 2017
End Date: September 13, 2017

TITLE: Marine Extreme Environments and Genomic Observatories: What Microbes Can Tell Us?
DATE: Wednesday, September 13, 2017
TIME: 8:45 - 9:45 a.m.
LOCATION: Building 2 · Level 5 · Room 5209

Similarly to the Red Sea, the Eastern Mediterranean is a dynamic region with unique hydrographic and geomorphologic features (e.g. Mediterranean Ridge) that concentrates a wide variety of the most peculiar microbial habitats that can be found on Earth. These include highly oligotrophic coastal and deep sea ecosystems, extreme environments, such as hydrothermal vents, gas chimneys, submarine volcanoes, seamounts, deep abyssal plains, anoxic marine caves, etc. Over the last years, our research has focused on the use of state-of-the-art molecular tools to investigate microbial community structure and its function in ecosystems of major economic (e.g. tourism, fisheries, biotechnology), ecological and scientific value that span from highly oligotrophic coastal environments to extreme active submarine volcanoes. In this context, two major research directions have been pursued: a) the microbiological exploration of the Hellenic volcanic arc with special focus on a unique CO2-rich submarine volcano that can serve as a natural laboratory for ocean acidification studies and b) the establishment of a marine genomic observatory allowing the investigation of microbial life in the oligotrophic ecosystems of the eastern Mediterranean vulnerable to climate change. Our results uncover the magnitude of microbial and habitat diversity along the eastern Mediterranean Sea and provide valuable insights about the role and function of marine microbial life.
Paraskevi Polymenakou is a Biologist with a specialization in Environmental Microbiology. She currently holds a Researcher position at the Institute of Marine Biology, Biotechnology and Aquaculture (IMBBC) of the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR, Greece).  The research of Dr. Polymenakou is mainly focused on marine microbial diversity and functioning in a wide range of environments, including marine extreme environments of submarine volcanoes and hydrothermal vents, deep-sea basins, coastal oligotrophic ecosystems, as well as atmospheric habitats. To accomplish these research goals, she applies state-of-the-art molecular techniques (e.g. genomics/metagenomics) in marine samples of different types (microbial mats, seawater, sediments etc). Her work strives to determine the environmental factors that control microbial community composition in highly diverse ecosystems, to identify key microbial communities and processes and to uncover novel lineages and functions. She is the scientific responsible of the Genomic Observatory of the IMBBC-HCMR (marine monitoring station OSD100) which is supportive to the global Genomic Observatory Network.
She has been involved as collaborator or Principal Investigator in several European Union research projects (e.g. SeaBiotech, Micro-B3, isoSoil, Hermione) and sampling campaigns. She has been the Chief Scientist of two recent oceanographic campaigns at the submarine volcanoes of the Hellenic Volcanic Arc and she has been successfully participating in Global Sampling Efforts such as: the Global Ocean Sampling day Events, the Sorcerer II Global ocean Sampling expedition organized by the C. Venter Institute, the Nautilus Live expedition to the Kolumbo volcano organized by the Ocean Exploration Trust. 
Dr. Polymenakou graduated from University of Crete (UoC) in 1998 with a degree in Biology, completed her MSc in Environmental Sciences and Engineering in 2000 and her PhD in Environmental Organic Chemistry and Marine Microbiology at UoC in collaboration with the Uppsala University, Sweden in 2005. In the period 2009-2015, she was a member of the Board of Directors of the Hellenic Mikrobiokosmos Society which was established to promote research on microbes at the Hellenic environments. So far, the research findings of her work have been presented through 34 publications in peer-reviewed international journals of high impact (e.g. Nature Sci Rep, Environmental Microbiology) and numerous scientific conferences.