Armando Azua-Bustos The Most Martian Place on Earth

Astrobiologist Armando Azua-Bustos is the CEO of Atacama Biotech, where he’s working to find and characterize species that are able to survive in the extreme conditions imposed by the Atacama Desert in Chile. In the past few years, a range of different lifeforms have been discovered in the Atacama, showing fascinating adaptations to extremely low water availability, high UV radiation, high salinity and other environmental stresses. For these same reasons, the desert is considered as a good analog model of the planet Mars. Azua-Bustos is a TED Fellow. He earned a PhD in molecular genetics and microbiology as well as an MSc in biological sciences and an MSc in biochemistry.

Armando Azua-Bustos studies how microbial life has adapted to survive in the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth.

Armando Azua-Bustos has spent the last 10 years of his life trying to quench his intellectual fascination with life in the Atacama Desert. “I started my career in science almost 15 years ago after realizing that my work as a wine maker wasn’t as challenging as I originally thought it was going to be,” he says. Today, his findings are redefining what is life on Earth. “In 2009, I began my PhD and my line of research on understanding the importance of water for life using microorganisms of the Atacama Desert as my testing sample,” he says.

How can you study Mars without a spaceship? Head to the most Martian place on Earth — the Atacama Desert in Chile. Astrobiologist Armando Azua-Bustos grew up in this vast, arid landscape and now studies the rare life forms that have adapted to survive there, some in areas with no reported rainfall for the past 400 years. Explore the possibility of finding life elsewhere in the universe without leaving the planet with this quick, funny talk.

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