Small streams make big rivers …

Donations to the Kilian Jornet Foundation in support of the ALPALGA project allow researchers to characterize each new species of microalgae that they isolate in the snow. Microalgae are minute photosynthetic cells and the corresponding species are extremely difficult to distinguish solely based on microscopy. The DNA contained in the chromosomes of a microalga, known as its “genome”, is like an ID card and a key to understanding how the species evolved and adapted to its environment.

DNA sequencing techniques used to be very expensive, but today they are more accessible. Each time we collect 5,000 euros, it is thus possible for us to sequence an entire genome, to define without error the position of the species in the Tree of Life, and to identify all the genes. Each time we reach this donation sum, we will publish the list of donors, who accept it, on an Acknowledgement page. Each of the donors will thus contribute to advancing scientific knowledge on unknown species.

In addition, a collection of 4000 euros can allow us to analyze, by cutting-edge mass spectrometry methods, all the lipid molecules (there are thousands of them) that are characteristic of the species studied. Why is this important? There are many links between the lipids an organism produces and its life in an environment. For example, when an organism hibernates (bear, marmot, but also microalgae), it is well known that it lives on its fat reserves, its lipids. As there is a very large number of possible lipid molecules to store, this analysis will allow researchers, for example, to understand how a microalgae adapts to its life in the snow by this very specific process. Each time we reach this donation sum, we will publish the list of donors, who accept it, on an Acknowledgement page. Each of the donors will thus contribute to advancing scientific knowledge on the biology of microalgae living in the snow.

You can find more informations about the project here.