Geomicrobiology and bioprospecting of Arctic microbes

About the project

With the advent of culture-independent, NGS-based microbial community analysis, environmental microbiology has opened up to research avenues hitherto only indirectly available. This includes the new field of geomicrobiology, investigations into the interaction between biological and geological/geochemical processes. Among ongoing research in this area is the study of the microbiotas of methane gas seepage pockmarks in the Öxarfjörður graben, where we investigate the impact of local geochemistry on the taxonomic composition of the microbiotas, and, using culture-based methods, bioprosect those microbiotas for bacteria with properties utilizable for bioremediation of petroleum-contaminated environments.


  • Oddur Vilhelmsson, Professor at the School of Business and Science
  • Auður Sigurbjörnsdóttir, Adjunct, School of Business and Science


  • Guðný Vala Þorsteinsdóttir, Icelandic Institute of Natural History
  • Þórarinn Sv. Arnarson, Orkustofnun
  • Anett Blischke, ÍSOR


  • Guðný Vala Þorsteinsdóttir. Thesis defence scheduled 23 March 2018. Bioprospecting the microbial communities of the gas seepage pockmarks at Austursandur, NE-Iceland (working title). M.Sc. thesis. University of Akureyri.
  • Þorsteinsdóttir, G. V., and Vilhelmsson, O. (in press) Bioremediative potential of bacteria in cold desert environments. In “Biotechnological Applications of Extremophilic Mircroorganisms (Life in Extreme Environments)” (ed.: N. M. Lee). deGruyter, Germany.
  • Sigurbjörnsdóttir, M. A., and Vilhelmsson, O. (2016) Selective isolation of potentially phosphate-mobilizing, biosurfactant-producing and biodegradative bacteria associated with a sub-Arctic, terricolous lichen, Peltigera membranacea. FEMS Microbiol. Ecol. 92, fiw090. DOI: 10.1093/femsec/fiw090
  • Sigurbjörnsdóttir, M. A., Heiðmarsson, S., Jónsdóttir, A. R., and Vilhelmsson, O. (2014) Novel bacteria associated with Arctic seashore lichens have potential roles in nutrient scavenging. Can. J. Microbiol. 60, 307-317. doi: 10.1139/cjm-2013-0888.
  • Jóelsson, J. P., Friðjónsdóttir, H., and Vilhelmsson, O. (2013) Bioprospecting a glacial river in Iceland for bacterial biopolymer degraders. Cold Regions Sci. Technol. 96, 86-95 doi: 10.1016/j.coldregions.2013.03.001.
  • Markúsdóttir, M., Heiðmarsson, S., Eyþórsdóttir, A., Magnússon, K. P. and Vilhelmsson, O. (2013) The natural and anthropogenic microbiota of Glerá, a sub-Arctic river in northeastern Iceland. Int. Biodet. Biodeg. 84, 192-203. doi:10.1016/j.ibiod.2012.04.001.
  • Guðný Vala Þorsteinsdótir and Oddur Vilhelmsson. 2013. in Icelandic: Skyggnst í örverulífríki Undirheima. [Bacterial life in the Netherworld – the culturable microbiota of Vatnshellir cave] Náttúrufræðingurinn 83, 127-142.