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Coordination Action for Research Activities on Life in Extreme Environments

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Uniting research on life in extreme environments

Extreme environments have been exploited for mineral products and biotechnological products from their biological communities. To support related research in Europe, an EU-funded initiative provided scientists in the field with exchange of knowledge and networking opportunities.

Climate Change and Environment

Life in extreme environments (LEXEN) is an emerging research area that investigates the diversity of life on this planet and the mechanisms employed by living creatures to survive and reproduce in these extreme environments. The area has attracted considerable interest due to its potential exploitation by industry. Furthermore, the knowledge acquired is being used to plan the exploration of other planetary bodies in our solar system and interpret the results returned from these locations. The EU-funded 'Coordination action for research activities on life in extreme environments' (CAREX) initiative was a European effort to enhance the coordination of LEXEN research by establishing a research agenda for Europe. The project's collaborating partners hailed from the broader scientific community alongside funding and research agencies as well as research institutions in non-EU countries. Through a series of workshops, CAREX aimed to bring researchers in the field together to identify common research grounds and form a community with specific research priorities. The main goal was to enable researchers to exchange knowledge, form collaborations and develop accessible databases. The workshops focused on model extreme environments, enabling technologies and infrastructures. Additionally, they helped to identify the range of potential model organisms that could be utilised for research. CAREX also funded three travel grants and a summer school to aid early career young researchers. An important part of the CAREX project was the drafting of a roadmap related to LEXEN research. This was achieved by a forum that brought together all stakeholders from the workshops and the summer school. Priority areas of the CAREX roadmap entailed the potential utilisation of LEXEN research in response to environmental change, the understanding of how organisms adapt and evolve in extreme environments, and what determines the observed biodiversity. To promote CAREX activities and communicate LEXEN-related information to the public, the consortium established a website and produced a newsletter. Collectively, the work by the CAREX project was destined to emphasise the importance of LEXEN-related research and integrate relevant European activities under one umbrella. The strategic roadmap publication provided recommendations for the future promotion and sustainability of the field, as well as potential avenues of exploitation by the industry.

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