We are studying life on some of the highest elevation volcanoes on Earth. These volcanoes (Llullaillaco and Socompa) are very remote and lie along the Chile-Argentina border. We are collaborating with Dr. Maria Farias' lab in Tucumán Argentina and Dr. Cristina Dorador's lab at the University of Antofagasta, Chile. Our main goal is to understand the distribution and functioning of life in the extreme "soils" that lie above 6000 m (20,000 ft) in elevation. These sites are extremely dry and experience some of the most extreme diurnal temperature fluctuations yet measured on Earth.
Sunset over the Atacama Desert, March 15, 2016. Photo taken from Llullaillaco basecamp (note hood of truck in foreground). photo S.K. Schmidt