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'Life at the Extremes' encompasses the exploration of organisms, environments, people and societies that exist in environments that are considered exceptionally challenging or harsh, such as extreme temperatures, high altitudes, areas of low nutrient availability and societies recovering from natural disasters. Working together across disciplinary boundaries, Cambridge researchers are delivering new knowledge on the rules of life in extreme environments. Growing our understanding of the biology or resilience in these extreme environments offers important new opportunities to shape the future of resilient life, climate responses and global health.

Collaboration and Engagement

A series of collaboration meetings are taking place across Cambridge to facilitate scientific discussion and innovation within the context of Life at the Extremes. The meetings have produced new collaborations across Departmental boundaries and a number of significant grant applications and philanthropic opportunities.

In 2024 we are launching a new series of live broadcasts with our researchers on location in the extreme environments where their extraordinary research is based. The series kicks off in February with researchers Professor Melody Clark and Professor Lloyd Peck joining us live from Antarctica to share insights into how animals adapt to the extreme cold and how they may react in the face of climate change.

You can watch the recording on the University's LinkedIn page: Life at the Extremes: live from the Antarctic!

Key Collaborators

Extremes and Society, led by Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri and Sarah Lloyd-Fox

Dino Giussani, Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Sarah Lloyd-Fox, Psychology

Jenny Molloy, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Andrew Murray, Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Sue Ozanne, Institute of Metabolic Science

Amanda Sferruzzi-Perri, Physiology, Development and Neuroscience


Organisms and Extreme Environments, led by Laura Itzhaki and Melody Clark

David Aldridge, Zoology

Sam Brockington, Plant Sciences

Adrián Cazares, EMBL-EBI and Wellcome Sanger Institute

Melody Clark, British Antarctic Survey

Matthew Collins, Archaeology

Walter Federle, Zoology

Florian Hollfelder, Biochemistry

Laura Itzhaki, Pharmacology

Gabriele Kaminski Schierle, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Clemens Kaminski, Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology

Johannes Kromdijk, Plants

Kathryn Lilley, Biochemistry

Emily Mitchell, Zoology

Witold Morek, Wellcome Sanger Institute

Lloyd Peck, British Antarctic Survey

Eleanor Raffan, Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

Oliver Shorttle, Earth Sciences

Ewan St. John Smith, Pharmacology

Eske Willerslev, Zoology

Key Publications

Extremes and Society

An expert review of environmental heat exposure and stillbirth in the face of climate change: Clinical implications and priority issues.

Bonell A, Part C, Okomo U, Cole R, Hajat S, Kovats S, Sferruzzi-Perri AN, Hirst JE. BJOG. 2023 Jul 28. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.17622.

Executive functioning skills and their environmental predictors among pre-school aged children in South Africa and The Gambia

Milosavljevic B, Cook CJ, Fadera T...Draper CE, Lloyd-Fox S. Dev Sci. 2023 May 1:e13407. doi: 10.1111/desc.13407.

Genomic Selection Signals in Andean Highlanders Reveal Adaptive Placental Metabolic Phenotypes That Are Disrupted in Preeclampsia

O'Brien KA, Gu W, Houck JA...Murray AJ, Julian CG. Hypertension. 2023 Nov 29. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.123.21748.

Organisms and Extreme Environments

Multi-omics for studying and understanding polar life

Clark MS, Hoffman JI, Peck LS. et alNat Commun 14, 7451 (2023). doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-43209-y

The genome of the glasshouse plant noble rhubarb (Rheum nobile) provides a window into alpine adaptation

Feng T, Pucker B, Kuang T, et al. Commun Biol 6, 706 (2023). doi: 10.1038/s42003-023-05044-1

A 2-million-year-old ecosystem in Greenland uncovered by environmental DNA

Kjær KH, Winther Pedersen M, De Sanctis B. et al. Nature 612, 283–291 (2022).