Center for Life in Extreme Environments
The Center for Life in Extreme Environments (CLEE) seeks to foster transformative interdisciplinary research that advances our understanding of the boundaries, extremes, and limitations of life.

At Earth's extremes, life gets a little weird.

Fish that thrive beneath Antarctica’s polar ice. Acid-loving microbes inhabiting thermal vents at the ocean floor and hot springs on land. The amazing killifish, emerging from suspended animation in mud when the rains arrive in the hot, arid desert Southwest.  Mosses that live happily at over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

These are just a few of the extreme adaptations studied by the over 80 researchers comprised of faculty, staff and students all working in the Center for Life in Extreme Environments, to explore the origins, and physical and chemical boundaries of life.

Goal: build actionable pathways forward to

  1. Conduct high quality, innovative, multidisciplinary research that: 1) continues to be at the forefront or international research, 2) attracts new researchers who expand the breadth of current focus into areas such as atmospheric extremes, hyper-saline and/or low oxygen environments and cold deep oceans and 3) provides insight into future climate conditions and human survival in planetary extremes.
  2. Train the next generation of scientists by creating interdisciplinary coursework and research experiences that will provide undergraduate and graduate students with the skills, expertise, and knowledge to succeed in a competitive research environment.
  3. Forge interdisciplinary collaborations among researchers working on various aspects of environmental extremes, including arts, humanities, biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and engineering. Great discoveries are made at the interfaces of disciplines. 
  4. Translate revolutionary research to broader scientific and non-scientific community by creating collaborative opportunities to engage with the public, industry partners, and scientists around the world.


Year CLEE Facility Opened: 2011

Academic Personnel: ~80

Facility Size: 11,000 sq. feet

Grant dollars raised since 1998: $32 million

Granting agencies who support CLEE research:        NASA, Keck, NSF, NIH, USFS, USGS, John Templeton Foundation, 3M Corporation and private donors.


Integrating field and laboratory research

CLEE faculty and students study organisms from some fo the most extreme habitats on Earth, including:

  • Yellowstone and Lassen National Park         hot-springs and lakes  
  • Deep-sea hydrothermal vents
  • Marine oxyen minimum zones
  • Antarctica
  • Deserts of the southwestern United States
  • Coastal deserts of South America