Doctoral defense in food science – Aurélien Daussin

On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, Aurélien Daussin will defend her doctoral thesis in food science at the University of Iceland's Faculty of Food and Nutrition. The thesis is entitled AirMicrome – The Fate of Airborne Microbes as the First Settlers of Terrestrial Communities. AirMicrome – The fate of depositing airborne microorganisms into pioneer terrestrial communities.

The doctoral defense takes place in Vigdís's world - VHV023 and starts at 1:30 p.m

Opponents: Dr. David Pearce, professor at Northumbria University, UK, and dr. Catherine Larose, researcher at UGA-IGE in Grenoble, France.

Supervising teacher and instructor: Viggó Þór Marteinsson, professor. In addition, researcher Pauline Vannier, Tina Santl-Temkiv, assistant professor at Aarhus University, and Charles Cockell, professor at the University of Edinburgh, sat on the doctoral committee.

Ólöf Guðný Geirsdóttir, professor and dean of the Faculty of Food and Nutrition, presides over the ceremony.

The stream is available on Teams from 13:30.

  • Meeting ID: 393 367 671 646
  • Passcode: adzWK5


Microbes on the Earth's surface can be released into the atmosphere by wind and associated with events such as volcanic eruptions and dust storms. Before they reach a new surface, they are exposed to various stressful environmental factors that prevent the colonization of a large part of them. The diversity and evolution of low bacterial communities in different environments has been quite well studied. However, little is still known about microbial communities in the atmosphere, their colonization on the surface and what effect such colonization has on the microbial communities that are there. This study is the first to discuss the distribution of microorganisms in the Icelandic atmosphere and especially their colonization in a volcanic environment. Airborne microbial communities from two unique but different volcanic areas, both at sea level and at high altitude, were examined and compared. The research was carried out on the protected volcanic island of Surtsey and at the lava flow on Fimmvörðuhálsi, by analyzing the microbial communities of the atmosphere and their colonization in lava rock after one year. The atmosphere was also studied as an important source for the distribution of microbial communities in the soil and the methods by which microbes manage to withstand the harsh environmental conditions of the atmosphere. Cultivable and non-cultivable microbial detection methods were used to describe and compare the microbial communities. The diversity of uncultivated microbes was analyzed by isolating DNA from 179 samples and sequencing the 16S rRNA gene of the microbes ("amplicon" sequencing). A total of 1162 strains belonging to 40 genera and 72 species were isolated. Of these, 26 strains were probably new species. One new Flavobacterium species was fully described and the resistance of selected strains to atmospheric stressors was investigated. The origin and trajectory of the populations was determined with a special prediction model "source-tracking analysis". Results show that the microbial communities at both sampling sites consisted of Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Bacteroides, but the proportion of their numbers was controlled by the environmental factors of each area. The aerial and terrestrial communities were very different, which is reflected in the different environmental aspects of each environment. Interestingly, the bacterial communities in the lava rock at Fimmvörðuhálsi were more or less the same after one year of colonization, compared to a nine-year period, which suggests that the stability of the first settler community is achieved after one year, but that the progress of the community slows down after that. At Surtsey, over 80% of bacterial communities found in lava rock after a one-year period originated from the local environment. The communities showed tolerance to atmospheric stressors, which probably helped them to survive air dispersal and facilitated their colonization of the lava rock. In accordance with previous studies, it was also found that the most influential selection factors were freezing, thawing and cyclic permeabilization of the cells, and that Proteobacteria and Ascomycota seemed best suited to survive such atmospheric stress factors. Results indicate that stress-resistant microbes from the atmosphere are the source of microbes that are the first settlers in the nearby, newly formed environment by forming unique and diverse microbial communities in a short time or less than a year. These results provide important insights into the early stages of microbial colonization and demonstrate the importance of airborne microbial studies to advancing our understanding of Arctic volcanic ecosystems.


Surface microorganisms can be aerosolized into the atmosphere by wind and events such as volcano eruptions and dust storms. Before depositing, they experience stressful atmospheric conditions which preclude the successful dispersal of a large fraction of cells. While bacterial diversity and succession on different low-bacterial environments are reasonably well characterized, research on airborne atmospheric communities and the significance of their deposition for community assembly remains poorly understood. This study is the first to address microbial distribution in the Icelandic atmosphere and particularly in their colonization in volcanic environments. We assessed and compared the bioaerosols communities from two dissimilar unique volcanic sites located at sea level and at high altitude, the protected volcanic island Surtsey and Fimmvörðuháls lava field, by analyzing in situ atmospheric microbial communities and communities in lava rocks after one year of exposure time . Additionally, we investigated the air as a significant source for the dissemination of the microbial communities into soil and their potential strategies to withstand atmospheric stresses. Culture-dependent and culture-independent methods were employed to describe and compare these microbiomes. The uncultivated diversity was analyzed by DNA extraction from 179 samples and 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. A total of 1162 strains were isolated and affiliated to 40 genera and 72 species, with potentially 26 new species. A new Flavobacterium species was fully described and the survival of selected strains against simulated air stress factors was investigated. The origin and dispersion of the isolates was predicted using a detailed source-tracking analysis program.

Our findings reveal that the microbial communities in both sampling sites are dominated by Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, and Bacteroides, but their proportions were influenced by the unique characteristics of each site. The atmospheric and lithospheric communities showed significant differences, reflecting different environmental pressures from each site. Interestingly, the bacterial communities in the lava rocks of Fimmvörðuháls were similar after one year compared to nine years of exposure, suggesting rapid microbial colonization and slow succession of the community. On Surtsey, over 80% of the bacterial communities that colonized the lava rocks after one year exposure, originated from local surroundings. These communities displayed stress-resistant properties that likely helped their survival during air dissemination from close environments and facilitated their colonization into the lava. Furthermore, in line with previous studies, we observed that the most stringent selection factors were the freeze–thaw and osmotic shock cycles and that the strains affiliated with Proteobacteria and Ascomycota were the best to survive simulated atmospheric stresses. Our results suggest that atmospheric stress-resistant microbes that deposit from local sources in newly formed environments, form unique and diverse communities in a rather short time or less than one year. These findings provide important insights into the early stages of land colonization of microbes and puts emphasis on the important role of bioaerosol research in enhancing our understanding of subarctic volcanic ecosystems.

Peer-reviewed articles

Enhancement of Soybean Meal Alters Gut Microbiome and Influences Behavior of Farmed Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)

The aquaculture sector relies heavily on soybean meal (SBM) and soy-derived proteins, largely due to their availability, low price and favorable amino acid profile. However, for Atlantic salmon, the inclusion of soybean meal, and soy protein concentrate (SPC) in certain combinations has been associated with impacts on gut health and welfare. This study evaluated two SBM treatments that target improved gut health and were formulated for inclusion in freshwater phase salmon diets: enzyme pre-treatment (ETS), and addition of fructose oligosaccharide (USP). These were compared with untreated soybean meal (US) and fish meal (FM). The effects on growth performance, gut microbiome, and behaviors relevant to welfare were investigated. Both diets containing the treated SBM supported growth performance comparable to FM and altered the gut microbiome. Fish fed SBM displayed a tendency towards more reactive behavior compared to those fed the FM-based control. All fish tested had a low response to elicited stress, although ETS-fed fish responded more actively than those fed the US diet. SBM-fed fish had the lowest repeatability of behavior, which may have implications for welfare. Both treatments of SBM are a promising option to optimize the application of this widely used protein source for aquaculture feeds.


Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is one of the world's most domesticated fish. As production volumes increase, access to high quality and sustainable protein sources for formulated feeds of this carnivorous fish is required. Soybean meal (SBM) and soy-derived proteins are the dominant protein sources in commercial aquafeeds due to their low-cost, availability and favorable amino acid profile. However, for Atlantic salmon, the inclusion of soybean meal (SBM), and soy protein concentrate (SPC) in certain combinations can impact gut health, which has consequences for immunity and welfare, limiting the use of soy products in salmonid feeds. This study sought to address this challenge by evaluating two gut health-targeted enhancements of SBM for inclusion in freshwater phase salmon diets: enzyme pre-treatment (ETS), and addition of fructose oligosaccharide (USP). These were compared with untreated soybean meal (US) and fish meal (FM). This study took a multi-disciplinary approach, investigating the effect on growth performance, gut microbiome, and behaviors relevant to welfare in aquaculture. This study suggests that both enhancements of SBM provide benefits for growth performance compared to conventional SBM. Both SBM treatments altered fish gut microbiomes and in the case of ETS, increased the presence of the lactic acid bacteria Enterococcus. For the first time, the effects of marine protein sources and plant protein sources on the coping style of salmon were demonstrated. Fish fed SBM showed a tendency for more reactive behavior compared to those fed the FM-based control. All fish had a similar low response to elicited stress, although ETS-fed fish responded more actively than US-fed fish for a single swimming measure. Furthermore, SBM-fed fish displayed lower repeatability of behavior, which may indicate diminished welfare for intensively farmed fish. The implications of these findings for commercial salmonid aquaculture are discussed.


What's for dinner in 2050

Birgir Örn Smárason, professional director of the professional group Sustainability and fire, gave a speech at the Food Congress 2023, which was held recently. The talk has attracted a lot of attention, as he asked a question that many would like to know the answer to, What is for dinner in 2050?

The talk was, in line with the title, somewhat futuristic, but he used, for example, artificial intelligence in the creation of all visual material that appeared on the slides.

What's for dinner on a traditional Tuesday night in 2050? Birgir asked, and the artificial intelligence didn't answer. According to her, on offer will be cell cultured meat, insects, algae, both microalgae and macroalgae, 3D printed food and drink made from recycled water.

The need for change is considerable, as current food systems play a major role in climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss. We therefore need to change gears in order to reduce these negative effects, but it is also important to adapt food production to the changes that have already taken place. In addition, the population on earth is increasing rapidly at the moment, and the demand for food will increase significantly in the coming years.

Adaptation and transformation are key when it comes to ensuring sustainable food production for the future, and technological development will play a major role in enabling us to make changes.

At Matís, much has been predicted about the future and the solutions we need to adopt to ensure the future of food production. For example, we have been involved in many projects, large and small, related to neoproteins. These include proteins derived from insects, macroalgae, microalgae, protozoa and grass protein. We have worked with people here in Iceland and around the world who are developing these new proteins and the technology behind them.

He gave specific examples of the projects NextGenProteins and Giant Leaps. The first project is a large European collaborative project that was completed this fall and was led by Matís. It focused on research on three types of sustainable neoproteins; microalgae, insect proteins and single cell proteins. The latter is a new project along these lines, but it seeks ways to accelerate changes in people's diets by influencing us, the consumers. They also seek to influence policies and orientation and try to overcome the regulations that are in force and prevent the use of new proteins and the technology behind them.

The technological revolution that is about to begin and the devices and tools that will affect food production in the coming years and decades were also the focus of Birgi's talk, and the artificial intelligence had no problem envisioning this.

In the end, the artificial intelligence created a picture of people who are deeply thoughtful about how our food systems work today and how they will develop in the coming decades, but that is exactly what we need to do, Birgir believes.

A recording from the Food Congress 2023 is available here and Birgis' speech begins at 6:01:30

Birgir will present the NextGenProteins project and its main results at the conference Green and Resilient Food Systems in Brussels 4.-5. december The main focus of this year's conference is the transition towards a sustainable food system for the benefit of the environment and the economy, and the NextGenProteins project seemed to speak particularly well to this theme.

The conference is organized by the European Commission and Food 2030. It will be possible to watch online, but the program and link to the stream is available here: Food 2030: green and resilient food systems

Peer-reviewed articles

Catalyzing Progress in the Blue Economy through Joint Marine Microbiome Research Across the Atlantic

International agreements recognize the importance of cooperative scientific research to conserve and promote sustainable development of a shared Atlantic Ocean. In 2022, the All-Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Alliance Declaration was signed. The All-Atlantic Declaration continues and extends relations forged by the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation and the Belém Statement on Atlantic Ocean Research and Innovation Cooperation. These efforts are consistent with programs, actions, and aims of the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. In preparation for implementation of the All-Atlantic Declaration, members of the Marine Microbiome Working Group and the Marine Biotechnology Initiative for the Atlantic under the Galway and Belém Statements respectively, joined forces to call for cooperation across the Atlantic to increase marine microbiome and biotechnology research to promote ocean health and a sustainable bioeconomy. This article reviews the goals of the marine microbiome and biotechnology initiatives under the Galway and Belém Statements and outlines an approach to implement those goals under the All-Atlantic Declaration through a Blue Biotech and Marine Microbiome (BBAMM) collaboration.


Matís visits a company in the Austfjörður - great growth in food production

Two of Matís' stage managers, they Guðmundur Stefánsson and Jónas R. Viðarsson, were on a rampage last week and visited some well-chosen food production companies in the Austfjörður. They were accompanied by the regional manager of Matís in East Iceland, Stefán Þór Eysteinsson, who is also the company's professional manager in the field of biomass and measurements.

The companies that were brought home were Herring processing, Ash tree, Fur processing and Búlandstindur. The group was extremely well received by all the companies, and their representatives emphasized the importance of Matís having a strong establishment that provides good service in the local community. After all, the branch is made up of a select team that prides itself on servicing the companies in the area.

Earlier this year, Þorsteinn Ingvarsson retired due to age, but he had been Matís' regional manager in the East for over a year. All those who were interviewed at the companies gave him a particularly good account of the story, and it is clear that those who have now accepted the torch are receiving a good fortune and reputation.

Matís thanks the companies visited for the warm welcome and looks forward to good cooperation in the near future, as there is a lot of growth in food production in the East.


The Icelandic database on the chemical content of food (ÍSGEM): What is the situation and where are the opportunities?

The Icelandic database on the chemical content of food (ÍSGEM) is managed by Matís and á you can find information about the nutrients that have been registered in the database. It also contains explanations and information about the data and its origin. ÍSGEM has collected data on the main nutrients in many types of food that are on the market in Iceland. This is the only database of its kind in Iceland, as it is an official database for Iceland.

The role of databases that store information about the nutrients in our food is to provide users with reliable information about these substances. It is essential that this information is correct because many individuals rely on it for special needs or to maintain good health. Counselors must provide correct information to clients and patients, and company staff must provide correct information about the nutritional value of their products.

Screenshot from the ÍSGEM database

When registering data on nutrients in ÍSGEM, a special quality system is used to ensure that all information is correct. It must be ensured that the working methods have been of good quality, from sampling and chemical measurements to the presentation of the results. Information about the data is recorded accurately so that it is traceable to the original source.

Today, the internet, social media and artificial intelligence make it possible for us to easily access all kinds of information anywhere and anytime, but it is often not clear who the original source is. The information can be very detailed, but sometimes it is limited, misleading or outright wrong. Often, information is even presented to serve commercial goals or to follow fashion trends. When it comes to nutrients and health, it is essential to have access to verified, quality-assessed information, as can be found in ÍSGEM's open access.

There have been many users of ÍSGEM throughout history, but the database was created in 1987 at the Agricultural Research Institute, when measurements of nutrients and other substances in Icelandic foods were made for the first time.

The general public has downloaded information there, especially those who need to pay attention to their diet for their health. Research staff in nutrition and nutrition consultants can also be mentioned. All Icelandic national dietary surveys have used ÍSGEM. People in food companies have also used this database for product development and nutritional value labeling.

Not all food products have nutritional value labels on their packaging, but the importance of keeping track of their chemical content is no less urgent.

The ÍSGEM database is one of Iceland's infrastructure. By its very nature, ÍSGEM needs to be updated regularly because the composition of foods changes, for example, due to environmental effects, changed feeding, changed recipes, and new results need to be added when new foods come on the market.

It is especially important to maintain up-to-date information in the database so that the people of the country can continue to easily access reliable and correct information that is reviewed by scientific personnel.

Research funds generally do not support infrastructure maintenance, but at Matís we primarily work for grants. Matís is also working on a service contract with the Ministry of Food, but it is expected that work on the ÍSGEM database will be part of the service contract from 2024.

Ólafur Reykdal was one of the founders of the ÍSGEM database and Eydís Ylfa recently started work related to ÍSGEM.

Over the years, the database has been used in various projects in collaboration with various parties, as mentioned. The Food Foundation funded the project in 2022-2023 Nutrient data – Importance for public health and product development. In this project, a quality system for ÍSGEM was developed, a user manual was compiled and part of the data was updated. A recent project that was worked on at Matís in collaboration with Samtok small producers of food products/ Straight from the farm with a grant from the Food Fund involved the development of a web application that calculates the nutritional value of food based on a recipe. It is a web application that retrieves information from ÍSGEM, but it greatly facilitates the calculation of nutritional value. The web application can be accessed here.

It is hoped that in the coming years it will be possible to use ÍSGEM to disseminate information on the carbon footprint of food. The project Carbon footprint of Icelandic food (KÍM) which is carried out in collaboration with Matís, the Department of Nutrition at the University of Iceland and Efla Engineering Studio, was recently awarded a grant from the Food Fund. The aim of the project is to provide consumers, the government and stakeholders in Iceland with reliable, transparent and comparable information about the environmental impact of Icelandic food. One of the project's three main goals is to update the ÍSGEM database, which will then also publish the carbon footprint of Icelandic foods alongside nutritional information when the project ends.

The opportunities for the ÍSGEM database are many and exciting, as there is enormous value in having reliable information on the nutritional content of foods available to people and companies. The vision for the future is that ÍSGEM can become a comprehensive information source on food. It is important to ensure support for maintenance and additions, and it will be interesting to follow the progress of these issues in the coming seasons.

The ÍSGEM database is available along with explanations and instructions for use here: The Icelandic database on the chemical content of food (ÍSGEM) 

An informative podcast about ÍSGEM is available here: ÍSGEM: Information source on food ingredients


Visit to a company in the Westfjords - the future is bright

Two of Matís' stage managers, they Guðmundur Stefánsson and Jónas R. Viðarsson, put their best foot forward last week and visited some well-chosen food production companies in the Westfjords.

So that the delegation was now not only made up of "experts from the south", they joined them Gunnar Þórðarson regional manager Matís á Vestfjörður and Guðrún Anna Finnbogadóttir from Vestfjörður room.

Vestfjörður welcomed the group extremely well, with sunshine and smiles in their hearts. The companies that were visited were Arnarlax in Bíldudal, Oddi in Patreksfjörður, Arctic Fish and Drimla in Bolungavík, Klofningur and Fisherman in Suðureyri, as well as representatives of Vesturbyggð had a meeting with the group to introduce the activities planned for Vatneyrarbúd in Patreksfjörður.

Aðalsteinn at Fisherman shows the company's processing facilities in Suðureyri, but the company offers an ambitious product range of seafood in consumer packaging.

This visit to Vestfjörður was extremely enjoyable and instructive, as there is a lot of work going on in the area. Matís expects that it will be possible, in the coming months, to nurture even better the good cooperation that the company has had with parties in the region. The future is bright for employment in the Westfjords

ÍSGEM: Information source on food ingredients

Ólafur Reykdal and Eydís Ylfa Erlendsdóttir are experts in the Icelandic database on the chemical content of foods, which is always called ÍSGEM. They are interviewees in this episode of Matvælin, Matís' podcast about research and innovation in food production.

In the episode, they discuss the history of ÍSGEM and the purpose of the database, whose history can be traced back to 1987, when the nutrients of various foods were recorded for the first time in Iceland. They also discuss the value of ÍSGEM and discuss why it is important that people in Iceland have access to verified, quality-assessed information about food and nutrients in open access.

They also discuss how the data can be accessed and used, what the current state of the data is, where the opportunities lie and, not least, how the base could be added to and expanded so that it becomes a universal information source for food.

Listen to the full episode here:


Natalie's climate project kick-off meeting

On the days 7-10 last november took place in Limoges, France, the opening meeting of the Natalie project, to which Matís is a member. The main focus of the project is to develop NSB's nature-based solutions to monitor and/or respond to the effects of climate change.

Natalie is a five-year project, which will be carried out by 42 participants from all over Europe. Iceland's role in the project is to verify new implementations of nature-based methods for assessing the effects of climate change on coastal areas and their ecosystems. The project is extensive and complex in its entire implementation, and the meeting was aimed at getting everyone to the table, introducing themselves and the parts of the project that each has at their disposal.

During the meeting, the management part of the project was thoroughly reviewed, i.e. what is expected of each of its members. There was also a presentation of all seven work parts of the project (e. work package, WP) together with the presentation of all the 42 parties involved in the project, i.e. their participation in the project and their background.

The meeting days were long but successful as planned. In addition, people managed to talk to each other and get to know each other, which is an extremely important part of such busy projects that cover as long a time as Natalie's proposed five years.

After the meeting, it is clear that there are exciting times ahead as Matís will participate in the development of the evaluation of new solutions to prevent the loss of important ecosystems. The challenges of climate change are numerous, including the threat to ecosystems that support food production, thereby threatening our food security as a nation due to local changes, but also on a global scale.

You can follow the progress of the project on its project page here: Natalie.

Also on the foreign project page of the partners here: Natalie.


Matís at the Food Congress 2023

The Food Congress will be held in Harpa on Wednesday, November 15, but the circular economy, in the context of the newly approved food policy until 2040, is the main subject of the congress, which is now being held for the second time.

Two representatives from Matís are on the list of speakers Eva Margrét Jónudóttir, project manager and Birgir Örn Smárason, professional director of the professional group sustainability and fire.

Eva Margrét will be one of four participants in a panel discussion entitled Are there solutions hidden in the remains? Utilization of raw materials - nothing thrown away. For example, she will discuss what opportunities there are for increased utilization, which resource flows could be used better, what the situation is today and what the future prospects are. Congress guests will be able to submit questions to be discussed by the panelists.

Birgir Örn will deliver the talk What's for dinner in 2050? – the future of food production. Among other things, he will discuss the food that will be eaten in 2050, the changes that food systems will most likely undergo in the coming decades, and the reasons why food systems need to change.

More information about the event and registration here: Food Congress 2023