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  • The Australian Collection of Antarctic Microorganisms (ACAM) was established in 1986 at the University of Tasmania as a collection for microorganisms from the Antarctic continent as well as from subantarctic islands and the Southern Ocean. ACAM is one of the few collections in the world dedicated to the collection of Antarctic bacteria and since its inception has grown to nearly 400 strains. Many of these strains have been isolated from lakes and marine waters in the Vestfold Hills region of Antarctica near Davis Station. Salinity, redox potential, light and temperature all vary dramatically between these water bodies and, on many occasions, have been shown to vary with water depth within them. Microorganisms living in these ecosystems cope with a variety of physical extremes which characterise the Antarctic environment. The potential for biotechnological use of Antarctic microorganisms has become more evident from basic studies on the taxonomy and molecular biology of antarctic microbes. Recently, bacteria have been isolated that (i) contain polyunsaturated w-3 fatty acids, (ii) degrade hydrocarbons (including polycyclic aromatics) and (iii) produce bioactive natural products. ACAM is a continually expanding collection. The search for Antarctic microorganisms that may be commercially exploited has only just begun. Future research should identify novel strains that offer further potential for biotechnology and, at the same time, provide a better understanding of the Antarctic ecosystem. ACAM is now available through the Australian Antarctic Data Centre's Biodiversity database, or via the ACAM website. This work was completed as part of ASAC project 65 (ASAC_65).