My research interests focus on the origins and evolutionary history of extant biodiversity in polar areas, particularly plants and microbial groups, by applying population genetic, phylogeographic and molecular dating methods. Since September 2019 I am working on research projects in both poles (Arctic and Antarctic) at the Natural History Museum of Denmark (University of Copenhagen) and the British Antarctic Survey.
Dryas octopetala in the autumn in Greenland
At the University of Copenhagen and Natural History Museum of Denmark my research is focussed on the evolutionary history of the flora in Greenland. I am particularly interested in:
My research at the British Antarctic Survey aims to better understand present Antarctic biogeographic patterns, adaptation to environmental change and interactions with glacial cycles. In particular, my research aims to assess:
My previous research at the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge was focussed on the timing and origin of Antarctic mosses - the dominant flora in Antarctica (~112 species, compared to two vascular plants). While glacial models and reconstructions suggest nearly all life should have been wiped out in the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), many examples of long-term persistence of the Antarctic terrestrial fauna (e.g. mites, springtails, nematodes) suggest many species have survived the LGM and previous glacial cycles in situ.
Applying population genetic, phylogeographic and molecular dating methods on the dominant Antarctic flora also revealed evidence for long-term (multi-million) in situ survival of several abundant Antarctic moss species, while others likely arrived more recently on a post-LGM timescale. These insights have contributed significantly to the general Antarctic biogeographic knowledge, as well having wider implications for reconstructing the climate in Antarctica throughout previous ice ages. In addition, some species revealed multiple separate dispersal events to the Antarctic, suggesting the region may be less isolated for spore-dispersed organisms than previously thought. Lastly, evidence for increased genetic diversity in the northern maritime Antarctic compared to other regions point at the region including potential refugial areas throughout the Last Glacial Maximum, a finding of relevance to climate research as well as for prioritizing areas for conservation of Antarctic biota.
A moss clump growing in the Antarctic Peninsula
- Biersma E.M., Jackson, J.A., Stech, M., Griffiths, H., Linse, K. & Convey, P. (2018) Molecular data suggest long-term in situ Antarctic persistence within Antarctica's most speciose plant genus, Schistidium. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 6, 77.
- Biersma E.M., Jackson, J.A., Bracegirdle T.J., Griffiths, H., Linse, K. & Convey, P. (2018) Low genetic variation between South American and Antarctic populations of the bank-forming moss Chorisodontium aciphyllum (Dicranaceae). Polar Biology, 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00300-017-2221-1
- Lewis, L.R., Biersma, E.M., Carey, S.B., Holsinger, K., McDaniel, S.F., Rozzi, R., & Goffinet, B. (2017) Resolving the northern hemisphere source region for the long-distance dispersal event that gave rise to the South American endemic dung moss Tetraplodon fuegianus. American Journal of Botany. 104(11), 1651-1659.
- Biersma E.M., Jackson, J.A., Hyvönen, J., Koskinen, S., Linse, K., Griffiths, H. & Convey, P. (2017) Global biogeographic patterns in bipolar moss species. Royal Society Open Science. 4: 170147. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.170147
- Lewis, L.R. & Ickert-Bond, S., Biersma, E.M., Convey, P., Goffinet, B., Hassel, K., Kruijer, H., La Farge, C., Metzgar, J., Stech, M., Villarreal, J.C. & McDaniel, S.F. (2017) Future directions and priorities for Arctic bryophyte research. Arctic Science (ja).
- Dabert, M., Coulson, S.J., Gwiazdowicz, D.J., Moe, B., Hanssen, S.A., Biersma, E.M., Pilskog, H.E. & Dabert, J. (2015) Differences in speciation progress in feather mites (Analgoidea) inhabiting the same host: the case of Zachvatkinia and Alloptes living on arctic and long-tailed skuas. Experimental and Applied Acarology, 1-17.
- Pisa, S. & Biersma, E.M., Convey, P., Patiño, J., Vanderpoorten, A., Werner, O. & Ros, R.M. (2014) The cosmopolitan moss Bryum argenteum in Antarctica: recent colonisation or in situ survival? Polar Biology, 37(10), 1469-1477.
- Convey, P., Abbandonato, H., Bergan, F., Beumer, L.T., Biersma, E.M., Bråthen, V.S., D'Imperio, L., Jensen, C.K., Nilsen, S., Paquin, K., Stenkewitz, U., Svoen, M.E., Winkler, J., Müller, E. & Coulson, S.J. (2014) Survival of rapidly fluctuating natural low winter temperatures by High Arctic soil invertebrates. Journal of Thermal Biology.
- Coulson, S.J., Convey, P., Aakra, K., Aarvik, L., Ávila-Jiménez, M.L., Babenko, A., Biersma, E.M., Boström, S., Brittain, J.E., Carlsson, A.M., Christoffersen, K., De Smet, W.H., Ekrem, T., Fjellberg, A., Füreder, L., Gustafsson, D., Gwiazdowicz, D.J., Hansen, L.O., Holmstrup, M., Hullé, M., Kaczmarek, Ł., Kolicka, M., Kuklin, V., Lakka, H.K., Lebedeva, N., Makarova, O., Maraldo, K., Melekhina, E., Ødegaard, F., Pilskog, H.E., Simon, J.C., Sohlenius, B., Solhøy, T., Søli, G., Stur, E., Tanasevitch, A., Taskaeva, A., Velle, G., Zawierucha, K. & Zmudczyńska-Skarbek, K. (2014) The terrestrial and freshwater invertebrate biodiversity of the archipelagoes of the Barents Sea; Svalbard, Franz Josef Land and Novaya Zemlya. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 68, 440-470.
- Gilg, O., Moe, B., Hanssen, S.A., Schmidt, N.M., Sittler, B., Hansen, J., Reneerkens, J., Sabard, B., Chastel, O., Moreau, J., Phillips, R.A., Oudman, T., Biersma, E.M., Fenstad, A.A., Lang, J. & Bollache, L. (2013) Trans-equatorial migration routes, staging sites and wintering areas of a high-arctic avian predator: the long-tailed skua (Stercorarius longicaudus). PLoS One 8: e64614.
- P.h.D. Thesis (University of Cambridge, UK): Biersma, E.M. (2017) The Evolutionary History of the Antarctic Flora https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.16667
- M.Sc. Thesis (University in Bergen, Norway): Biersma, E.M. (2012) The Diversity and Ecology of Microbial Mats on Two Arctic Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents, Making Use of Metagenomics and Transcriptomics. (grade: A)
- B.Sc. Thesis (University of Groningen, Netherlands): Biersma, E.M. (2010) Ocean Iron Fertilisation: Enrichment or back to the Iron Age? An Overview of Ocean Iron Fertilisation as a Potential Climate Mitigation Tool.