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Staff photo Natuschka Lee

Natuschka Lee

Research on microbial geoecology and astrobiology.

Works at

KB. H4, Linnaeus väg 6, Umeå, A4.38.15 Umeå universitet, 901 87 Umeå

 I am interested in how microbes interact and evolve with the bio- and the geospheres on Earth, and how this knowledge can expand:

  • our understanding of the biodiversity, ecology and principles of life,
  • our possibilities to develop a sustainable and healthy existence, on Earth as well as where possible elsewhere in the universe.

In our attempts to reach this, we use an interdisciplinary approach, combining different fields such as microbiology, plant biology, zoology, evolutionary ecology, geobiology, astrobiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and even humanistic sciences such as philosophy. Guided by a great curiosity and an adventerous spark, we have explored different kinds of fascinating ecosystems all over the world. We are also participating in exciting biological experiments on the space station or in space simulation laboratories on Earth. This has given us a great chance to work with a variety of microorganisms, such as extremophiles, square shaped microbes, microbes relevant to our environment and health, or to explore fascinating symbiotic relations between micro- and macro-organisms. We use an array of strategies and methods, including field studies, laboratory studies, classical biological approaches and modern molecular biological methods. Most of our work is performed in  national and international collaborations.

Research fields:

  • Astrobiology/geomicrobiology
  • Environmental microbiology/biotechnology
  • Microbial ecology of insects and plants
  • Biodiversity and its role for nature and the society


Initiatives to novel networks and outreach activities: 

  • Arctic Astrobiology - a network on astrobiology at the Arctic research centre (Arcum)
  • Arthropopdum - a network on arthropods at the Umeå university campus
  • Research infrastructure at the chemical biological center (KBC): FISH (Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization, for in situ identification of whole cells in their natural environment)
  • "TimeTrek" (Aikavaellus) - an interdisciplinary nature trail on the history and future of the Universe and Earth



  • M Sci in biology and chemistry at the Lund university, 1990.
  • PhD on biological wastewater treatment and environmental biotechnology at the Lund university.1996.
  • Postdoc awardee and guest researcher at Aalborg university in Denmark (environmental biotechnology) and Technische Universität in Munich (microbial ecology), Germany.
  • Complementary studies in applied bioinformatics and high school didactis at the Carl von der Linde Akademie in Munich and the universitites of Heidelberg and Mannheim. 1997-2015.
  • Researcher and associate professor at Umeå university since 2015.
  • Orcid researcher ID: 0000-0003-3611-9882. Researcher ID: I-2106-2015.
  • Ad hoc reviewer for some 30 scientific journals and organisations, e.g. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Astrobiology, BioScience for the Future (UK), Physiologia Plantarum, PlosOne.
  • Memberships: Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, COLOSS Honeybee research association, European Astrobiology Network Association, Humboldt Life, International Society for Microbial Ecology, International Society for Subsurface Microbiology, Nordbiföreningen, Norrlands Entomologiska Förening, Sveriges Biodlares Riksförbund, Svenska Rymdsällskapet, Speleogenesis Scientific Network, Sveriges Speleologförbund, Swedish Astrobiology Network, Tardigrada net, The International Society for the study of the origin of life, Verein für allgemeine und angewandte Mikrobiologie.
  • Publications: For publications from 2016: see separate list on this website. Former publications




SCIENTIFIC EVENTS (examples, for more information, see the Swedish link):


  • Lee N (2016): How well have we explored Life on Earth? Oral presentation at the Annual meeting of the Swedish National Space Board, 16-17 March 2016, Umeå Sweden.
  • Lee N (2016): How Dead is Dead? Detecting Life, Death, or at least Biological Activity on Earth and Elsewhere. Oral presentation at the annual meeting of the Swedish Network of Astrobiology, 21st April 2016, Uppsala Sweden.
  • Lee N (2016): Advanced approaches for detecting identity, activity, function and other changes in life sciences. Oral presentation at the BIOlogy and Mars Experiment Meeting – postflight review of the BIOMEX experiment on board EXPOSE-R2, 10-12 May 2016, Rome, Italy.
  • Lehto K and the eTimeTrek team (2016): The Educational Time Trek: a travel through the Deep Time, the Universe and the Earth. Poster at the 1st meeting of Deutsche Astrobiologische Gesellschaft, Berlin; Annual Astrobiology Conference 27-30 September 2016, Athens, Greece.
  • De Vera JP and the Biomex team (2016): BIOMEX – past, present and future activities of an ISS-experiment. Oral presentation at the Annual Astrobiology Conference 27-30 September 2016, Athens, Greece.
  • Lehto Kirsi, Kauko Anni, Nurmi Pasi, Lee Natuschka, Chatzitheodoridis Elias, Lehto Harry (2017). eTimeTrek: digital deep history of the Universe. Proceedings article from the International Symposium on Education in Astronomy and Astrobiology, Utrecht, The Netherlands, 3-7 July 2017.
  • Lee N (2017): From the middle of Earth to the outer space - how the discovery of extremophiles changed our concepts on the principles and potential of life.  EMG 200 years celebration. 17th August 2017, Umeå.
  • Lee N and the international BIOMEX team with Jean Pierre de Vera et al. (2017). Bacteria, phototrophs and plants in space; Science & Fiction – Are we ready to meet life in the universe? Annual meeting of the Swedish Astrobiology Network  2017: Astrobiology - life on Earth and in the universe, Umeå University, 16-17 October 2017.
  • Lee N (2018). The microbiology of the Nordic honeybee, what do we know and why do we need to know this? Biennial meeting of the Swedish Nordic Honeybee Association, Ånge, 3-4 mars 2018.
  • Lee N (2018). Astrobiology and some suggestions for exciting future visions. Annual Meeting of the Swedish Life Science Industry Organization. 19 March 2018, Stockholm.
  • Lee N (2018). Cosmochemistry, astrobiology and the search for the origin of life. Lecture series on biochemistry and biophysics. Department of Chemistry, 6th April 2018.
  • Lee N (2018). The silent threat to our society and nature - the ongoing decline of insects - what can we do? Umeå Arctic Seminar, 12 april 2018.
  • Lee N (2018). The role of microbes in a changing world – what are the threats and possibilities? University of Pretoria, South Africa. South Africa Sweden Research & Innovation Week, 14-18 May 2018.
    Lee N (2018). Cave biology and astrobiology. Swazi Trails Adventure, Swaziland. 20th May 2018.
    Lee N (2018). Microbial Geoecology and Astrobiology, Microbiology and Environmental Biotechnology Research Group Agricultural Research Council, Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa. 22nd May 2018.
  • Lee N, Gentili F, Funk C, Sellstedt A (2018). Measuring nitrogen fixation - a historical overview and future prospects. 13th European Nitrogen Fixation Conference, 18-21 August 2018, Stockholm, Sweden.
  • Lee N (2019). The bee microbiome. Nordic-Baltic Council Meeting, Gothenburg, 6-7 February 2019.
    Lee N (2019). Honungsbinas mikrobiologi - på gott och ont, vad behöver vi veta och varför? Varbergskretsen biodlareförening och biodlarkurs. 22 mars 2019.
    Lee N, Theresa Backhaus, Sieglinde Ott, Björn Huwe, Jasmin Joshi, Rosa de la Torre Noetzel and the BIOSIGN team, Christiane Funk, Anita Sellstedt, Christine Moissl-Eichinger, Ralf Moeller and the STARLIFE team, Jean-Pierre de Vera (2019). Phototrophs and plant-associated microbes exposed to real or simulated space conditions. BIOMEX meeting at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Berlin.
    Lee N et al. (2019). Sustainable plant, soil and arthropod management - towards a safe, productive and diverse biosphere. SASUF guest lecturer at the North-West University Potchefstroom campus (NWU).


Organization of conferences, workshops, courses:

  • Annual SWAN meeting in astrobiology, Life on Earth and in the Universe, 17-18 October 2017, in Umeå.
  • International course on In Situ Detection of Microbial Structure and Function, autumn 2019.
  • Workshop in South Africa within the South African Swedish  University Forum (SASUF) program in May 2019. Topic: Climate change: plants, microbes, artropods, soil, water and novel environmental biotechnological processes. In collaboration with several universities and research institutes in Sweden and South Africa. 



Some recent examples:

  • Interview with science journalist Karin Gyllenklev: Meet one of Sweden´s 100 coolest researchers. 
  • Soapbox Science in Umeå,26th May 2018.
  • Space event for the public,"The day of Astronomy - Cities in Space",  Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology, 29-30/9 2018, Stockholm.
  • Public lecture at Bildmuseet i Umeå, Astroecology and ecological visions, 7th October 2018, Umeå.
  • Outreach events on pollination ecology in May 2019, Umeå. 
Science Advances, NLM (Medline) 2022, Vol. 8, (36)
Baqué, Mickael; Backhaus, Theresa; Meeßen, Joachim; et al.
Environmental Microbiology, John Wiley & Sons 2022, Vol. 24, (4) : 2059-2077
Keuter, Sabine; Koch, Hanna; Sass, Katharina; et al.
Microbiology spectrum, Washington: American Society for Microbiology 2022, Vol. 10, (5)
Rehamnia, Baraa; Lee, Natuschka; Kuktaite, Ramune; et al.
Systematic and Applied Microbiology, Elsevier 2021, Vol. 44, (6)
Schneider, Martina; Bäumler, Miriam; Lee, Natuschka; et al.
Biotechnological applications of extremophilic microorganisms, Walter de Gruyter 2020 : 197-230
Adeleke, Rasheed; Bello-Akinosho, Maryam; Maila, Mphekgo; et al.
Systematic and Applied Microbiology, Elsevier 2020, Vol. 43, (6)
Herrera-Belaroussi, Aude; Normand, Philippe; Pawlowski, Katharina; et al.
Biotechnological Applications of Extremophilic Microorganisms, Walter de Gruyter 2020 : 357-390
Rehamnia, Baraa; de Cherisey, Renaud; Braissant, Olivier; et al.
Biotechnological applications of extremophilic microorganisms, Walter de Gruyter 2020 : 313-356
Vandewalle-Capo, Marine; Capo, Eric; Rehamnia, Baraa; et al.
Astrobiology, Mary Ann Liebert 2019, Vol. 19, (2) : 145-157
de Vera, Jean-Pierre; Alawi, Mashal; Backhaus, Theresa; et al.
Analytical geomicrobiology: a handbook of instrumental techniques, Cambridge University Press 2019 : 187-212
Lee, Natuschka
Analytical geomicrobiology: a handbook of instrumental techniques, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2019 : 187-212
Lee, Natuschka M.
EPJ Web of Conferences: The International Symposium on Education in Astronomy and Astrobiology (ISE2A 2017)
Lehto, Kirsi; Kauko, Anni; Nurmi, Pasi; et al.
Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Elsevier 2018, Vol. 125 : 197-209
Haas, Julia Christa; Street, Nathaniel R.; Sjödin, Andreas; et al.
Adaption of microbial life to environmental extremes: novel research results and application, Cham: Springer Publishing Company 2017 : 283-325
Lee, Natuschka N; Fritz, Jörg; Fries, Marc D; et al.
Astrobiology, Mary Ann Liebert 2016, Vol. 16, (3) : 201-243
Horneck, Gerda; Walter, Nicolas; Westall, Frances; et al.

Research groups

Head of research
Natuschka Lee lab

Research projects

1 June 2017