Skip to main content

Research Group Sattler

Research Topic

Living Cryosphere

Research Interest

Once thought to be barren of life the cryosphere is now acknowledged as a living biosphere for microbial communities. Investigations focus on the microbial characterization of lake ice, glaciers, ice sheets and caps as well as the snow cover and – as a novel aspect – also cloud systems. Despite harsh living conditions living communities are capable of altering the Earth’s carbon budget by contributing to the availability of new organic carbon, which in turn supports higher forms of life. These ecosystems are sensitive to temperate rise due to resulting enhanced availability of liquid water which is the prerequisite for life.

Mag. Dr., Priv.-Doz. Birgit Sattler

Department of Ecology, University of Innsbruck



  • Klemens Weisleitner (Ph.D) Project Assistant
  • Maria Reichhold (BSc) Master Student
  • Max Kortmann (BSc) Master Student
  • Sebastian Pohl (BSc) Master Student

Klemens Weisleitner Ph.D.


Maria Reichhold, BSc


Sebastian Pohl, BSc


Max Kortmann, BSc

Selected Publications

  • Stevens, I. T., Irvine-Fynn, T. D., Edwards, A., Mitchell, A. C., Cook, J. M., Porter, P. R., Holt T. O., Huss M., Fettweis X., Moorman B. J., Sattler B. & Hodson, A. J. (2022). Spatially consistent microbial biomass and future cellular carbon release from melting Northern Hemisphere glacier surfaces. Communications Earth & Environment3(1), 1-10.
  • Weisleitner, K., Perras, A. K., Moissl-Eichinger, C., Andersen, D. T., & Sattler, B. (2019). Source environments of the microbiome in perennially ice-covered Lake Untersee, Antarctica. Frontiers in microbiology, 10, 1019.
  • Weisleitner, K., Hunger, L., Kohstall, C., Frisch, A., Storrie-Lombardi, M. C., & Sattler, B. (2019). Laser-Induced Fluorescence Emission (LIFE) as Novel Non-Invasive Tool for In-Situ Measurements of Biomarkers in Cryospheric Habitats. JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments), (152), e60447.
  • Cuthbertson, L., Amores-Arrocha, H., Malard, L. A., Els, N., Sattler, B. and Pearce, D.A. (2017). Characterisation of Arctic Bacterial Communities in the Air above Svalbard. Biology, 6(2), 29; doi:10.3390/biology6020029
  • Weil, T., De Filippo, C., Albanese, D., Donati, C., Pindo, M., Pavarini, L., Carotenuto, F., Pasqui, M. Poto, L., Gabrieli, J., Barbante, C., Sattler, B., Cavalieri, D.Miglietta F. (2017). Legal immigrants: invasion of alien microbial communities during winter occurring desert dust storms. Microbiome, 5, 32.
  • Pearce DA, Alekhina IA, Terauds A, Wilmotte A, Quesada A, Edwards A, Dommergue A, Sattler B, Adams BJ, Magalhães C, Chu W-L, Lau MCY, Cary C, Smith DJ, Wall DH, Eguren G, Matcher G, Bradley JA, de Vera J-P, Elster J, Hughes KA, Cuthbertson L, Benning LG, Gunde-Cimerman N, Convey P, Hong SG, Pointing SB, Pellizari VH and Vincent WF (2016) Aerobiology Over Antarctica – A New Initiative for Atmospheric Ecology. Front. Microbiol. 7:16. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00016
  • Rettberg Petra, Anesio Alexandre M., Baker Victor R., Baross John A., Cady Sherry L., Detsis Emmanouil, Foreman Christine M., Hauber Ernst, Ori Gian Gabriele, Pearce David A., Renno Nilton O., Ruvkun Gary, Sattler Birgit, Saunders Mark P., Smith David H., Wagner Dirk, and Westall Frances. Planetary Protection and Mars Special Regions—A Suggestion for Updating the Definition. Astrobiology. February 2016, 16(2): 119-125. doi:10.1089/ast.2016.1472.
  • Sattler, B. (2015): Living Cryosphere. Paneuropean Networks. Science & Technology 17: 256-257.
  • Taraba, M., Fauland, H., Turetschek, T., Stumptner, W., Kudielka, V., Scheer, D., Sattler, B., Fritz, A., Stingl, B., Fuchs, H., Gubo, B., Hettrich, S., Hirtl, A., Unger, E., Soucek, A., Frischauf, N., Grömer, G. (2014). Passepartout Sherpa – A low-cost, reusable transportation system into the stratosphere for small experiments. Advances in Space Research 54:2259-2273.
  • Björkman, M.P., Zarsky, J.D., Kühnel, R., Hodson, A., Sattler, B., and Psenner, R. (2014). Microbial Cell Retention in a Melting High Arctic Snowpack, Svalbard. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research 46(2):471-482. doi:
  • Grömer, G., Sattler, B., Weisleitner, K., Hunger, L., Kohstall, C., Frisch, A., Jozevowicz, M., Meszynski, S., Storrie-Lombardi, M. and Mars 2013 team(2014). Field trial of a dual-wavelength fluorescent emission (L.I.F.E.) instrument and the Magma White Rover during the MARS2013 Mars analog mission. Astrobiology 14(5): 391-405. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2013.1081
  • Sattler, B. (2013), Antarctic Ecosystems. An Extreme Environment in a Changing World A.D. Rogers, N.M. Johnston, E.J. Murphy, A. Clarke (Eds) Chichester, UK; Hoboken, NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. 756 pp. ISBN: 978-1-4051-9840-0. Hardback; GBP 85. Marine Ecology, 34: 503–505. doi: 10.1111/maec.12091
  • Zarsky J.D., M. Stibal, A. Hodson, B. Sattler, M. Schostag, L.H. Hansen, C.S. Jacobsen and R. Psenner. 2013. Large cryoconite aggregates on a Svalbard glacier support a diverse microbial community including ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Environ. Res. Lett. 8 035044. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035044
  • Orgel C., Á.Kereszturi, T. Váczi, G. Groemer, B. Sattler. 2013. Scientific Results and Lessons Learned from an Integrated Crewed Mars Exploration Simulation at the Rio Tinto Mars Analogue Site, Acta Astronautica,
  • Edwards A., Pachebat J.A., Swain M., Hegarty M., Hodson A.J., Irvine-Fynn T.D.L., Rassner S.M.E., & Sattler B. (2013). A metagenomic snapshot of taxonomic and functional diversity in an Alpine glacier cryoconite ecosystem Environ. Res. Letters. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/035003
  • Edwards A., Rassner S.M., Anesio A., Worgan H.J., Irvine-Fynn T. D.L., Williams H.W., Sattler B., Griffith G.W. (2013). Contrasts between the cryoconite and ice-marginal bacterial communities of Svalbard glaciers. Polar Research 32, 19568,
  • Hell K., Edwards A.E., Zarsky J., Podmirseg S., Girdwood S., Pachebat J., Insam H., Sattler B. (2013). The dynamic bacterial communities of a melting High Arctic glacier snowpack. ISME 10.1038/ismej.2013.51.
  • Edwards A., Douglas B., Anesio A. M., Rassner S. M., Irvine-Fynn T. D. L., Sattler B., Griffith G.W. (2013). A distinctive fungal community inhabiting cryoconite holes on glaciers in Svalbard. Fungal Ecology 6: 168-176.
  • Groemer G.E., Hauth S., Luger U., Bickert K., Sattler B., Hauth E., Foeger D., Schildhammer D.,  Agerer C., Ragonig C., Sams S., Kaineder F., Knoflach M. (2012) The Aouda.X space suit simulator and its applications to astrobiology, Astrobiology, 12(2):125-134.


  • 2016-2020: MicroArctic – Microorganisms in Warming Arctic Environments (EU-Horizon 2020, Marie Curie Actions – Innovative Training Networks ITN)
  • 2015-2018: Ice and Life in Alpine and Polar Regions (TAWANI-Foundation)
  • 2013-2022: BIO.CRYO – Biological Processes in the Cryosphere (TAWANI-Foundation)
  • LIFE: Rotmoosferner as Model Glacier for Microbial L.I.F.E. (Laser Induced Fluorescence Emission as Non-Invasive Tool to Assess Carbon Contribution of a Glacial Ecosystem). Alpine Forschungsstelle Obergurgl
  • TriPolar: Mikrobielles Leben in der Atmosphäre – ein extremer Lebensraum als Analog zu Exoplaneten.
  • LIFE: SPA04_147. Microbial Life in Ice Caves. bm.w_f. (Sparkling Science)
  • GLAC: AFG 1918. Svalbard Science Forum (Norway, Arctic Field Grant): Contribution of Airborne Microbial Communities to Organic Carbon Production to Supraglacial Arctic Habitats – Origin and Fate