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Armando Azua-Bustos, Ph.D.

Department of Natural Sciences


Ph.D. in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2013. Ph.D. degree homologated by the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in 2017.
M.Sc., in Biological Sciences, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2010.
M.Sc. in Biochemistry, Universidad de Chile, 2005.
Agricultural Engineer, Fruit Culture and Wine Making, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 1997.

Practice Areas

  • Environmental Microbiology
  • Xerophiles
  • Astrobiology

Publications and Media Placements

As First and Corresponding Author:

Armando Azua-Bustos, Carlos González-Silva, Cristián Arenas-Fajardo and Alberto G. Fairén. 2022. The Atacama Desert in Northern Chile as an Analog Model of Mars. Frontiers in Space Sciences 8: 810426.

Armando Azua-Bustos, Alberto G. Fairén, Carlos González Silva, Daniel Carrizo, Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez, Cristián Arenas-Fajardo, Maite Fernández-Sampedro, Carolina Gil-Lozano, Laura Sánchez-García, Carmen Ascaso, Jacek Wierzchos, and Elizabeth B. Rampe. 2020. Inhabited subsurface wet smectites in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert as an analog for the search for life on Mars. Scientific Reports 10 (19183).

Azua-Bustos A., Carlos González-Silva, Miguel Ángel Fernández-Martínez, Cristián Arenas-Fajardo, Ricardo Fonseca, F. Javier Martín-Torres, Maite Fernández-Sampedro, Alberto G. Fairén, María-Paz Zorzano. 2019. Aeolian transport of viable microbial life on a Mars analog environment. Implications for Mars. Scientific Reports 9: 1-11. 4 cites.

Azua-Bustos A., Fairén AG, González-Silva C, Ascaso C, Carrizo D, Fernández-Martínez MA, Fernández-Sampedro M, García-Descalzo L, García-Villadangos M,. Martin-Redondo MP, Sánchez-García L, Wierzchos J and Parro V. 2018. Unprecedented rains decimate surface microbial communities in the hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert. 2018. Scientific Reports 8; 1-10.

Azua-Bustos A., Carlos González-Silva and Gino Corsini. 2017. The hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert, an extremely dry and carbon deprived habitat of potential interest for the field of carbon science. Frontiers in Microbiology 8:993.

Azua-Bustos A., L. Caro-Lara, y R. Vicuña. 2015. Discovery and microbial content of the driest site of the hyperarid Atacama Desert, Chile. Environmental Microbiology Reports, 7(3): 388–394.

Azua-Bustos A., González-Silva C. 2014. Biotechnological applications derived from microorganisms of the Atacama Desert. BioMed Research International, in its special edition BIODESERT: Exploring and Exploiting the Microbial Resource of Hot and Cold Deserts". Volume 2014, Article ID 909312, 7 pages.

Azua-Bustos A., Arenas, C., and Vicuña, R. 2014. Gloeocapsopsis AAB1, an extremely desiccation tolerant cyanobacterium isolated from the Atacama Desert. Extremophiles. 18(1):61-74.

Azua-Bustos A and Vega-Martínez, C. 2013. The potential for detecting life as we don't know it by fractal complexity analysis. International Journal of Astrobiology. 12: 314–320.

Azua-Bustos A., González-Silva C., and Arenas-Fajardo, C., Vicuña R. 2012. Extreme environments as potential drivers of convergent evolution by exaptation: the Atacama Desert Coastal Range case. Frontiers in Microbiology 3: 426.

Azua-Bustos A., Urrejuela C., and Vicuña R. 2012. Life at the dry edge: microorganisms of the Atacama Desert. FEBS Letters 586:2939–2945. By invitation.

Azua-Bustos A., González-Silva C, Mancilla R.A., Salas, L., Gómez-Silva B, McKay CP and Vicuña R. 2011. Hypolithic cyanobacteria supported mainly by fog in the Coastal Range of the Atacama Desert. Microbial Ecology. 61:568-581.

Azua-Bustos, A., González-Silva, C., Salas L, Vicuña, R. 2010. A novel subaerial Dunaliella sp. Growing on cave spiderwebs in the Atacama Desert. Extremophiles 14(5): 443-452.

Azua-Bustos A., González-Silva, C., Mancilla R.A., Salas L, Palma R.E., Wynne J.J., McKay, C.P. and Vicuña, R. 2009. Ancient Photosynthetic Eukaryote Biofilms in an Atacama Desert Coastal Cave. Microbial Ecology 58:485–496.

As Coauthor:

Judson Wynne, Timothy Titus, Ali-akbar Agha-Mohammadi, Armando Azua-Bustos, et al. 2022. Fundamental Science and Engineering Questions in Planetary Cave Exploration.  Accepted, Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. 

Patrick Jung, Armando Azua-bustos, Carlos González-silva, Tatiana Mikhailyuk, Daniel Zabicki, Andreas Holzinger, Michael Lakatos and Burkhard Büdel. 2021. Emendation Of The Coccoid Cyanobacterial Genus Gloeocapsopsis And Description Of The New Species G. Diffluens Sp. Nov. And G. Dulcis Sp. Nov. Isolated From The Coastal Range Of The Atacama Desert (Chile). Frontiers in Microbiology 12:671742.

Timothy N. Titus, J. Judson Wynne, Michael J. Malaska, Pablo de León, Cansu Demirel-Floyd, Heather Jones, Francesco Sauro, Kyle Uckert, Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, E. Calvin Alexander, James W. Ashley, Armando Azua-Bustos, Penelope J. Boston, Debra L. Buczkowski, Leroy Chia, Glen E. Cushing, John DeDecker, Alberto G. Fairé, Amos Frumkin, Jo De Waele, Gary L. Harris, Laura A. Kerber, Richard J. Léveillé, Kavya Manyapu, Matteo Massironi, Ana Z. Miller, John E. Mylroie, Bogdan P. Onac, Scott Parazynski, Charity M. Phillips-Lander, Cynthia B. Phillips, Thomas H. Prettyman, Haley M. Sapers, Norbert Schorghofe, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Jennifer E. Scully, Robert V. Wagner, William L. Whittaker, Kaj E. William, and Uland Y. Wong. 2021. A Roadmap for Planetary Caves Science and Exploration. Nature Astronomy 5: 524-525.

Jacek Wierzchos, Octavio Artieda, Carmen Ascaso, Fernando Nieto García, Petr Vitek, Armando Azua-Bustos, Alberto G. Fairén. 2020. Crystalline water in gypsum is unavailable for cyanobacteria in laboratory experiments and in natural desert endolithic habitats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). 117: 27786-27787.

Laura García-Descalzo, Carolina Gil-Lozano, Victoria Muñoz-Iglesias, Olga Prieto Ballesteros, Armando Azua-Bustos and Alberto G. Fairén. 2020. Can Halophilic and Psychrophilic Microorganisms Modify the Freezing/Melting Curve of Cold Salty Solutions? Implications for Mars Habitability. Astrobiology 20: 1-9.

Lucia Muggia, Polona Zalar, Armando Azua-Bustos, Carlos González-Silva, Martin Grube, Nina Gunde-Cimerman. 2020. The beauty and the yeast: Can the microalgae Dunaliella form a borderline lichen with Hortaea werneckii? Symbiosis 82: 123–131.

Lauren Seyler, Elizabeth B. Kujawinski, Armando Azua-Bustos, Michael D. Lee, Jeffrey Marlow, Scott M. Perl, H. James Cleaves II. 2020. Metabolomics as an Emerging Tool in the Search for Astrobiologically-Relevant Biomarkers. Astrobiology 20:1-11.

Ricardo Fonseca, María Paz Zorzano-Mier, Armando Azua-Bustos and Carlos González Silva. 2019. A Surface Temperature and Moisture Inter-comparison Study of the Weather Research and Forecasting Model, In-situ Measurements, and Satellite Observations over the Atacama Desert. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 1-19.

Polona Zalar, Jerneja Zupančič, Cene Gostinčar, Janja Zajc, G. Sybren de Hoog, Filomena De Leo, Armando Azua-Bustos and Nina Gunde-Cimerman. 2019. The extremely halotolerant black yeast Hortaea werneckii - a model for intraspecific hybridization in clonal fungi. IMA Fungus, 10:10.

Alberto G. Fairén, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Lyle Whyte, Victor Parro, Alexander Pavlov, Javier Gómez-Elvira, Armando Azua-Bustos, Wolfgang Fink and Victor Baker. 2019. Planetary Protection and the astrobiological exploration of Mars: Proactive steps in moving forward.  Advances in Space Research, 63:1491-1497.

Fernando Puente-Sánchez, Carlos González-Silva, Victor Parro, Javier Tamames and Armando Azua-Bustos. Draft Genome Sequence of the Extremely Desiccation-Tolerant Cyanobacterium Gloeocapsopsis sp. Strain AAB1. 2018. Genome Announcements. 6: 216-218.

Livia Martinelli, Polona Zalar, Nina Gunde‑Cimerman, Armando Azua‑Bustos, Katja Sterflinger, Guadalupe Piñar. 2017. Aspergillus atacamensis and A. salisburgensis: two new halophilic species from hypersaline/arid habitats with a phialosimplex‑like morphology. Extremophiles 21:755–773.

Ivan Gláucio Paulino Lima, Kosuke Fujishima, Jesica Urbina Navarrete, Douglas Galante, Fabio Rodrigues, Armando Azua-Bustos, Lynn Justine Rothschild. 2016. Extremely high UV-C radiation resistant  microorganisms  from  desert  environments  with  different  manganese  concentrations. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology 163: 327–336.

Domagal-Goldman S.D., Wright  K.E., fourteen other authors,  Azua-Bustos A., et  al. 2016. The Astrobiology Primer v2.0. Astrobiology 16:561-653.

Paulino-Lima I, Azua-Bustos A, Vicuña R, González-Silva C, Salas L, Lia Teixeira, Rosado A, Leitão  AC and Lage C. 2013. Isolation of UV-C tolerant bacteria from the hyperarid Atacama Desert, Chile. Microbial Ecology, 65:325–335.

Lage, C., Dalmaso, G., Teixeira, L., Bendia, A., Paulino-Lima, I., Galante, D., Janot-Pacheco, E., Abrevaya, X., Azua-Bustos, A., Pellizari V. and Rosado, A. 2012. Probing the limits of extremophilic life in extraterrestrial environment‐simulated experiments. Int J Astrob 11:251-256.

Technical Reports

Timothy N. Titus, J. Judson Wynne, Penelope J. Boston, Pablo de León, Cansu Demirel-Floyd, Heather Jones, Francesco Sauro, Kyle Uckert, Ali-akbar Agha-mohammadi, E. Calvin Alexander, James W. Ashley, Armando Azua-Bustos, Leroy Chiao, Glen E. Cushing, John DeDecker, Alberto G. Fairén, Amos Frumkin, Jo de Waele, Gary L. Harris, Laura A. Kerber, Richard J. Léveillé, Michael J. Malaska, Kavya Manyapu, Matteo Massironi, Ana Z. Miller, John E. Mylroie, Bogdan P. Onac, Scott Parazynski, Charity Phillips-Lander, Thomas Prettyman, Haley Sapers, Norbert Schorghofer, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, Red Whittaker, Kaj E. Williams, Uland Wong. 2020. Science and technology requirements to explore caves in our Solar System. A white paper submitted for the 2020 NASA Planetary Science Decadal Survey.


Jacob Haqq-Misra, Zach Adam, Dimitra Atri, Armando Azua-Bustos, Seth D. Baum, Sanjoy M. Som. 2016. Tales From Spaceship Earth (Blue Marble Space Short Story Collection) (Volume 1). Habitable Press, USA.

Azua Bustos, A. 2013. Are we alone among aaaall these stars?. An astrobiology book for kids. Amazon editors. Up to date, this is the only published book on astrobiology for kids.

Book Chapters

Azua-Bustos A., Vicuña R and Pierrehumbert R. (2012). Early  Mars – Cradle or Cauldron?. In Frontiers in Astrobiology. C. Impey, J. Lunine and J. Funes, editors. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. By invitation. 1 citation.

Azua-Bustos A, Vicuña R. 2010. Chilean Cave Cyanidium. Capítulo 2 del libro Red Algae in the Genomic Age, un volumen de la serie "Cellular Origins, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology" (COLE), Springer. Joseph Seckbach and David Chapman, editores. PP 425-437. By invitation.

Media Placements

International Documentaries

2017 Year Million, a National Geographic Channel six chapter's documentary, in which chapter 6 focuses in my research.

2016 Atacama: la route de l'eau. A french documentary aired the 9th of November at Faut pas rêver, a program of the TV channel France 3 in which one of these chapters focused in my research.

2014 Hijos de las estrellas (Son of the Stars), a series of chapters focused in astronomy and astrobiology related subjects, in which one of these chapters focused in my research.

2014 Entre Terre et Ciel. A french documentary. A series of chapters focused in astronomy and astrobiology related subjects, in which one of these chapters focused in my research.

International Press

More than 100. Highlights:

2019 Martian Winds Could Spread Microbe Hitchhikers. Scientific American. 

2019 Bacteria fly into the Atacama Desert every afternoon on the wind. New Scientist. 

2019 On Mars, microbes could hitch a ride on wind-borne dust. PBS Nova. 

2019 Microorganisms in the Atacama Desert are clues to life on Mars. 

2018 Rains Bring a Microbial Massacre to Chilean Desert. Scientific American. 

2018 In one of the driest places on earth, the first rain in centuries brought death not life. Newsweek. 

2018 Las primeras lluvias en 500 años en Atacama arrasan con sus microbios: ¿es así en Marte? CNN Chile. 

2018 The Atacama Desert. Eureka Alert. AAAS. 

2018 Ask the Dust. What the driest place on Earth can tell us about climate change. The national magazine of the Sierra Club. 

2017 How One Scientist Defined His Purpose To Reframe Life On Earth. Forbes Magazine (USA). 

2017 Desierto de Atacama podría albergar microorganismos “marcianos”. National Geographic in Spanish. 

2015 This Desert May Be The Driest Place On Earth, But That Doesn't Mean Life Can't Exist There. The Huffington Post. (USA). 

2010 Extreme microbe drinks dew on spiderwebs to live. NBC News (USA). 

Professional Organizations and Associations

- TED Fellow 2017. Have given one TED talk and three TEDx talks. 

- Member of the ExoMars Rover Science Operations Working Group.

- Member of the the Search for Life in Venus Clouds Mission.

 - Board Editor of the Journal Universe (MDPI, Basel, Switzerland).  

- Member of the International Scientific Committee of the Spanish Network of Planetology and Astrobiology.

- Review Editor in Extreme Microbiology, Frontiers in Microbiology (Frontiers Media, Lausanne, Switzerland).