September 2009

The deadline for proposing Session Topics to AbSciCon 2010 has been extended until September 30. The organizing committee is soliciting community input for session topics. Suggestions will be reviewed by the organizing committee, and the approved list of session topics will appear in the second announcement along with the call for abstracts. The announcement of Session Topics, along with instruction for submitting abstracts, will be online by October 14. The Abstract deadline remains December 1. For more information: Source: NAI Newsletter

This amendment delays the proposal due date for Appendix C.7, Outer Planets Research (OPR) Program. The program element in ROSES-2009, Appendix C.7, Outer Planets Research (OPR), solicits proposals for diverse scientific investigations that contribute to the understanding of the outer Solar System, including the giant planets, their satellites, and smaller solid bodies including comets, asteroids, and Kuiper Belt objects. The program includes both data analysis from NASA missions and fundamental research.

November 25-27, 2009 in Frascati, Italy - The NASA Mars Program Office has announced that travel funding will be made available for as many as 5 students who are U.S. citizens or legal residents, with Mars-related interests, to attend the Workshop on Methane on Mars: Current Observations, Interpretation and Future Plans, November 25-27, 2009 in Frascati, Italy. An application must be submitted by September 28, 2009, to be considered for this funding. NASA Headquarters will make the selections and students will be notified no later than October 15, 2009. Reimbursable costs include registration fees, transportation (airfare, mileage to/from airport, parking, rental car) and lodging/per diem. In most cases, actual expenses will exceed the funding provided.

Danny Glavin (speaker) and Jason Dworkin, "Southpaw Solar System: L-Amino Acid Excesses in Meteorites and the Implications for the Origin of Homochirality on Earth"

Abstract: Meteorites provide a record of the chemical processes that occurred in the early solar system before life began on Earth. The delivery of organic matter, including amino acids, by carbonaceous meteorites could have been an important source of the early Earth's prebiotic organic inventory. The earlier discovery of slight to significant excesses for several indigenous left handed

The Kepler Science Office has recently posted two positions and requests your help in recruiting good candidates. Currently, the positions are posted on the SETI Institute's website at:

The first is for a data analyst to help with image artifact mitigation and other data processing/analysis. The second is for a data archiver to help with the post-processing, archiving, and operation of KSAS, the Kepler Science Analysis System. All interested candidates are encouraged to apply. Source: NAI Newsletter

The Astrobiology Science Conference 2010 will be held at the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) April 26-29, 2010. Please submit the Indication of Intent form [ ] by October 1, 2009, in order to be added to the mailing list to receive reminders and other pertinent information related to the conference.

View the Announcement Now!! Source: NAI Newsletter

A postdoctoral position in microbial ecology with secondary emphases in evolutionary ecology, information theory and/or modeling is available at the Marine Biological Lab, Woods Hole. This NSF-funded project seeks to determine the principles governing how energy and matter flow through biological systems using laboratory microcosms as experiment systems. In addition, the project will advance a mathematical framework for modeling biogeochemistry orchestrated by microbial communities using a distributed metabolic network representation constrained by thermodynamics. We are seeking an individual with expertise in molecular microbial ecology with an interest in theoretical ecology or systems biology. Approximately 10% of the successful applicant's time will be devoted to program outreach that involves development of educational web resources as well as dissemination of project results. Funding support is available for 2.5 years.

NASA scientists have discovered glycine, a fundamental building block of life, in samples of comet Wild 2 returned by NASA's Stardust spacecraft.

"Glycine is an amino acid used by living organisms to make proteins, and this is the first time an amino acid has been found in a comet," said Dr. Jamie Elsila of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Our discovery supports the theory that some of life's ingredients formed in space and were delivered to Earth long ago by meteorite and comet impacts."

Elsila is the lead author of a paper on this research accepted for publication in the journal Meteoritics and Planetary Science. The research will be presented during the meeting of the American Chemical Society at the Marriott Metro Center in Washington, DC, August 16.

Humans might not be walking on Earth today if not for the ancient fusing of two microscopic, single-celled organisms called prokaryotes, NASA-funded research has found.

By comparing proteins present in more than 3000 different prokaryotes - a type of single-celled organism without a nucleus - molecular biologist James A. Lake from the University of California at Los Angeles' Center for Astrobiology showed that two major classes of relatively simple microbes fused together more than 2.5 billion years ago. Lake's research reveals a new pathway for the evolution of life on Earth. These insights are published in the Aug. 20 online edition of the journal Nature.

This endosymbiosis, or merging of two cells, enabled the evolution of a highly stable and successful organism with the capacity to use energy from sunlight via photosynthesis. Further evolution led to photosynthetic organisms producing oxygen as a byproduct. The resulting oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere profoundly affected the evolution of life, leading to more complex organisms that consumed oxygen, which were the ancestors of modern oxygen-breathing creatures including humans.

The NAI has selected three new postdoctoral fellows, Siobhan Wilson, Sanchaya Gupta, and Nancy Akerman as they join NAI teams through the NASA Postdoctoral Program. Nancy Akerman will work with Julie Huber at the Marine Biological Laboratory (Carnegie Insitution of Washington Team), to examine "Habitability in Extreme Environments: Microbial Function and Activity in Deep and Shallow Marine Hydrothermal Systems". Sanchaya (Neal) Gupta will work with both the MIT and CIW teams on the research topic, "Polymeric Biosignatures in Organismic Fossils and Environmental Controls on their Preservation", working with Roger Summons and George Cody. Siobhan (Sasha) Wilson will be working with David Bish at Indiana University, on a project entitled, "Hydrated Sulfate Minerals: a Habitat for Martian Microorganisms?" The next application deadline for the NASA Postdoctoral Program is November 1, 2009. See for more information. Source: NAI Newsletter

The Astrophysics Division of NASA's Science Mission Directorate is soliciting nominations for the Executive Committee of a newly established Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG). The inaugural ExoPAG Chair will be Jim Kasting, a long-time member of the astrobiology community and the NAI. The ExoPAG will be responsible for soliciting and coordinating community input into the development and execution of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program. Interested members of the astrobiology community are encouraged to nominate colleagues or themselves to serve on the ExoPAG Executive Committee. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Sept. 4, 2009. For more information: Source: NAI Newsletter

This year, the AGU meeting in San Francisco, CA will have a session on the habitable zone organized by colleagues from the NAI. The conveners would like the session to be interdisciplinary in nature, and invite astrobiologists from all disciplines to present concepts related to habitability and the definition of the habitable zone.

For more information see

The deadline to submit an abstract is 03 September 2009.

May 21 - 23, 2010 Denver, Colorado and Dinosaur Ridge, Cretaceous Dakota Sandstone, Denver

The conference presents an important and novel review on microbial mats and the sedimentary structures they form in siliciclastic settings through Earth times, from the early Archean to the present. The meeting brings together the expertise and knowledge of an international panel of leading researchers to provide a state-of-the art overview of the field. The participants give a timely review of the current and most topical areas of research, essential for all scientists interested in this rapidly growing field. For more information: Source: NAI Newsletter

COSPAR, the Committee on Space Research of the International Council for Science, is seeking candidates to be nominated for COSPAR awards and medals, which recognize the outstanding achievements of space scientists throughout the world. The awards will be presented at the 38th COSPAR Scientific Assembly, to be held in Bremen, Germany, 18-25 July, 2010.

It is important to honor the contributions of your colleagues. Please take a moment to consider nominees for the following awards and medals:

Session Abstract: During most of the geologic past, life and the surface environments on Earth were profoundly different than they are today. In particular, it is generally accepted that the atmosphere was devoid of O2, or nearly so, until the "Great Oxidation Event" approximately 2.4 billion years ago. However, considerable uncertainty remains about the abundances of O2 and other oxidants during the first half of Earth history, as well as processes that constrained these abundances to seemingly trace levels. Emerging data should allow tighter constraints on Archean free oxygen concentrations, the variability of redox conditions at high temporal resolution, and the evolutionary and biogeochemical consequences of oxygenation. At the same time there is a need to refine existing proxies, assess their limitations, and develop new ones. This session will explore these issues. We encourage abstracts from a variety of areas ranging from analytical and theoretical geochemistry to genomics. For more information see Source: NAI Newsletter

Release Date: August 14, 2009 Proposal Deadline: November 18, 2009

NASA and The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) are pleased to announce the Multi-Cycle Treasury Programs Call for Proposals for Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Observations. Participation in this program is open to all categories of organizations, both domestic and foreign, including educational institutions, profit and nonprofit organizations, NASA Centers, and other Government agencies.

The Academy presents a number of awards, spanning a wide range of scientific disciplines, to recognize outstanding achievements in science.

Nominations for awards to be presented in the year 2010 will be accepted through September 15, 2009.