Meet an Ecology PhD-student: Pablo Manuel Aguilar Espinosa

Bacterial diversity and community composition from high-elevation aquatic ecosystems
Research Andean lake
Bild: Sampling at Lake Chungará (Chile) (Credit: P. Aguilar)

I graduated in biotechnology at the University of Antofagasta (Chile) with a thesis on the “Phylogenetic diversity and characterization of halophilic and halotolerant bacteria from Salar de Huasco”. Currently, I’m doing my PhD within the “Lake and Glacier Research Group” headed by Ruben Sommaruga. The main aim of my thesis is to study the bacterial diversity and community composition from high-elevation aquatic ecosystems, mainly located in the Andean plateau.

The Andean plateau covers an area of 300 km wide and 1500 km long with an average elevation of 4000 m a.s.l., where the environmental conditions (e.g., high UV radiation, low atmospheric pressure and negative water balance among others) result in a strong impact on the aquatic ecosystems of this semi-arid region. Andean Lake

By using high throughput sequencing (e.g., Illumina) and other methods, I want to understand diversity patterns in relation to ecosystem productivity, as well as the temporal/spatial distribution of bacteria in Andean lakes. Further, I want to compare these results with those obtained from mountain lakes located in the temperate zone, such as in the Tyrolean Alps.

My first results show the “extreme” environmental character of these ecosystems and the unique composition of bacterial communities.


Aguilar P., Acosta E., Dorador C. and Sommaruga R. (2016) Large differences in bacterial community composition among three nearby extreme waterbodies of the high Andean plateau. Front. Microbiol. 7:976 10.3389/fmicb.2016.00976

Aguilar P., Dorador C., Vila I. and Sommaruga R. (submitted) Bacterioplankton composition in tropical high-elevation lakes of the Andean plateau. FEMS Microb Ecol


Pablo Manuel Aguilar Espinosa


Pablo Manuel Aguilar Espinosa

Lake and Glacier Research Group




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