May 2010

Session Proposals for the 2010 American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco are now being accepted. The deadline for all session proposals is 27 May 2010. Members of the Earth and space sciences community may submit a session proposal to any of the existing disciplines. Session proposals must focus on scientific results and/or their applications. Further details are available at

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

The Planets, Life, and the Universe Astrobiology Lecture Series is supported by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Space Studies Initiative and the Department of Biology of The Johns Hopkins University.

Upcoming Lectures:

Jun 18, 2010, 12:00p - 2:30p Wes Traub (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech) "Astrobiological Factors in Exoplanet Exploration Strategies"

Sep 3, 2010 12:00p - 2:30p Stephen Freeland (Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii) "Will Alien Life Resemble Us (and How Could We Possibly Know)? Astrobiology, Evolution and the Amino Acids"

More information and webcast information is available at

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Dear Members of the Exoplanet Research Community, We are pleased to announce that the second meeting of NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program Analysis Group (ExoPAG-2) will be held Thursday and Friday, June 24-25, 2010 in Pasadena, CA. The tentative venue for the meeting is the Hilton Pasadena Hotel. Although the meeting agenda is still being formulated, it will likely include discussions in the areas the five science analysis groups (SAGs) established after the inaugural ExoPAG meeting. For reference, those 5 SAGs span the topical areas of:

1. Debris Disks and Exozodiacal Dust 2. Potential for Exoplanet Science Measurements from Solar System Probes 3. Planetary Architecture and Dynamical Stability 4. Planetary Measurements Needed for Exoplanet Characterization 5. State of External Occulter Concepts and Technology

More information about the scope of the current SAGs, as well as the ExoPAG in general, can be found on the ExoPAG website: Information about meeting logistics will also be posted on the ExoPAG web site as planning proceeds.

Of course, we welcome any suggestions from stakeholders in NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program for additional topics of ExoPAG discussion and analysis. Please send any suggestions you might have to: .

We hope to see you in Pasadena!

Jim Kasting - ExoPAG Chair Douglas Hudgins - NASA Exoplanet Exploration Program Scientist

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) program solicits proposals for investigations focused on exploring the Earth's extreme environments in order to develop a sound technical and scientific basis to conduct astrobiological research on other solar system bodies.

This amendment delays the proposal due date for Appendix C.20, Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets (ASTEP) Program. Programmatic schedule conflicts at NASA Headquarters have postponed the ASTEP peer review and hence the date when SMD must have proposals. A corresponding deferral of the ASTEP due date will provide the community additional time to prepare proposals. The proposal due date for ASTEP has been changed to Friday, July 16, 2010. Table 2 and Table 3 of the Summary of Solicitation for this NRA have been updated to reflect this change.

This amendment to the NASA Research Announcement "Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2010" (NNH10ZDA001N) is posted on the NASA research opportunity homepage at (select "Solicitations" then "Open Solicitations" then "NNH10ZDA001N"). You can now track amendments, clarifications and corrections to ROSES and subscribe to an RSS feed at:

Questions concerning ASTEP may be addressed to Mary Voytek, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC 20546-0001; Telephone: (202) 358-1577; Email:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Dear colleagues, We are leading a group of early-career astrobiologists to update the first edition of the Astrobiology primer (Mix et al., Astrobiology, 2006). The astrobiology primer was created to provide a brief, but comprehensive, overview of the subject for those new to the field. It is aimed at graduate students, but we hope others will also find it useful. We would welcome your views on the proposed content. Please complete the survey linked to below. We are accepting completed survey through Tuesday, May 18th. The survey can be found at: An outline of the primer can be downloaded here.

Thank you in advance for your time and your voice. Sincerely, Shawn Domagal-Goldman and Katherine Wright, Co-Lead Editors, Astrobiology Primer, Version 2.0

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

A review panel has been chartered by the Planetary Science Division at NASA headquarters, subsequently named the "Planetary Science Technology Review" (PSTR) panel. The primary purpose of the PSTR panel and its advisors is to assist the Planetary Science Division in developing a coordinated and integrated technology development plan that will better utilize technology resources. To accomplish this, the panel is implementing a review of the current technology developing activities and identifying weaknesses and problems. The panel is also chartered to recommend process and policy changes to address the weaknesses. A critical element of this activity is to communicate to the science and technology communities the existence and status of the PSTR activities and to solicit input throughout the task.

Along these lines the PSTR panel is soliciting community input on the challenges faced by technology development efforts and, more importantly, the panel is seeking sound and innovative solutions to the challenges and problems that exist today. More information on the panel's charter, status, calendar of events, and other items can be found on the PSTR website at Inputs and questions can be provided by using the "Contact Us" button, blogs, or by direct contact with a panel member or advisor.

Thank you in advance for your input - Tibor Kremic, Panel Chair

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Beyond the Edge of the Sea is an exhibition of the work of scientific illustrator Karen Jacobsen. She has accompanied Dr. Cindy Lee Van Dover of Duke University in the deep-sea submersible Alvin numerous times to locations across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, exploring hydrothermal vent ecosystems. This unique collaboration has yielded a vast collection of extraordinary drawings and paintings. The traveling exhibition highlights five newly commissioned pieces, and features over 70 works selected from Jacobsen's sketchbooks.

The exhibition is on display currently at Penn State University where several events have been organized to highlight it, including a scientific colloquium, presentations at local middle school classrooms, an educator workshop (in collaboration with NSF's Ridge 2000 program), and several public lectures. The exhibition will also highlight two public events, Penn State's Exploration Day and Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, at which two related films will accompany the exhibit, "Aliens of the Deep" and "Volcanoes of the Deep Sea."

If you're interested in the exhibition coming to a venue near you, please contact Daniella Scalice,, 650.604.4024.

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

The Life in the Universe curriculum is a unique set of resources, for elementary and middle school teachers, designed to bring the excitement of searching for life beyond Earth into the classroom. The SETI Institute, with funding from NSF and NASA, developed these award winning classroom materials with a team of educators, curriculum developers, and scientists. The Life in the Universe curriculum explores many facets of how scientists are trying to answer the questions: Where did life come from? What is its future? Are we alone?

In the Life in the Universe curriculum, students explore conditions that support life on Earth, and the possible existence of life elsewhere. The curriculum draws upon the experience of SETI scientists, whose research encompasses the full spectrum of Astrobiology: astronomy, life sciences, Earth sciences, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, and many other disciplines. The hands-on science activities were tested nationally in a variety of schools representing a broad range of students. Organized around story lines, these activities pose challenges that require students to investigate what is known about life on Earth.

For more information:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

June 13-18, 2010
Salve Regina University
Newport, RI

Chairs: Rachel N. Austin & Ariel D. Anbar


This interdisciplinary meeting will gather together scientists--structural biologists, chemists, geneticists, chemical and biological oceanographers, geochemists, and other specialists--who study the flows of essential and toxic elements through the environment and living systems, on timescales ranging from femptoseconds to eons. Of particular interest are the molecular mechanisms that govern element acquisition and use in organisms, and the tools and techniques used to study these phenomena. The aim of this community is to use these molecular-scale insights to understand the interconnected biotic and abiotic processes that shape the macroscopic environment and its development and change over a range of time scales.

For more information:

The NAI Research Scholarship Program offers research-related travel support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Applicants are encouraged to use these resources to circulate among two or more NAI Teams, or participating institutions of the NAI, however any travel that is critical for the applicant's research will be considered. Recent Award: Erin Yargicolu, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been selected to collaborate with researchers at NASA Ames Research Center and to participate in a field investigation of microbial ecosystems associated with deeply sourced faults in the North Anatolian Fault Zone. We congratulate Erin and wish her a successful trip. For more information:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Applications are being accepted from astrobiology graduate students and postdocs for a winter school on the theme of "Water and the Evolution of Life in the Cosmos," in Hawaii, from Monday January 3rd to Monday January 17th 2011. This school will provide approximately 40 post-graduate participants with a broad but high-level introduction into astrobiology, emphasizing the origin and role of water in the emergence of life on our planet, and in the search for life elsewhere. It will be truly multidisciplinary, bringing together students and researchers from the diverse scientific backgrounds that contribute to our current understanding. Hawaii offers ideal resources for this training opportunity, from world-leading astronomical observing facilities through state of the art cosmochemistry simulation equipment to unique geologic environments in which extremophile life exists. Further information is available at

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

The Ediacaran Period (635-542 million years ago) was a time of fundamental environmental and evolutionary change, culminating in the first appearance of macroscopic animals. A new study from NAI's Arizona State University Team outlines a detailed record of Ediacaran ocean chemistry for the Doushantuo Formation in the Nanhua Basin, South China. Their results suggest a stratified ocean was maintained dynamically throughout the Ediacaran Period. Their model reconciles seemingly conflicting geochemical conditions proposed previously for Ediacaran deep oceans, and helps explain the patchy fossil record of early metazoans. Their paper appears in the April 2nd issue of Science.

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

NAI scientists from the University of Wisconsin Team and their colleagues have shown that the true age of this famous meteorite is 4.091 billion years, about 400 million years younger than earlier age estimates. Their study shows that it formed during a time when Mars was wet and had a magnetic field, conditions that are favorable for the emergence and development of life. This finding precludes ALH84001 from being a remnant of primordial Martian crust, as well as confirming that volcanic activity was ongoing in Mars over much of its history. Their paper appears in the April 16, 2010 issue of Science.

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Studies of modern sedimentary analogs to ancient rock precursors are critical to gain insight into the biogeochemical processes responsible for generating unique chemical or isotopic compositions in ancient rocks. A recent study published by the University of Wisconsin NAI Team in Geobiology provides an example of such a modern analog study in the context of Archean and Paleoproterozoic Banded Iron Formations (BIFs). Sediments downstream of the Iron Mountain acid mine drainage site in northern California were examined for their chemical and Fe isotope composition, as well as the presence and activity of iron-reducing microorganisms. The results link dissimilatory microbial iron reduction (DIR) to the generation of large quantities of aqueous (mobile) ferrous iron, and provide the first demonstration of Fe isotope fractionation in an environment where DIR has been shown by microbiological methods to be active in sediment metabolism. These findings provide insight into pathways whereby DIR could have led to the formation of isotopically-light Fe-bearing minerals in BIFs.

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

The evolution of complex life forms may have gotten a jump start billions of years ago, when geologic events operating over millions of years caused large quantities of phosphorus to wash into the oceans. According to this model, proposed in a new paper by Dominic Papineau of NAI's Carnegie Institution of Washington team, the higher levels of phosphorus would have caused vast algal blooms, pumping extra oxygen into the environment which allowed larger, more complex types of organisms to thrive.

"Phosphate rocks formed only sporadically during geologic history," says Papineau, a researcher at Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory, "and it is striking that their occurrences coincided with major global biogeochemical changes as well as significant leaps in biological evolution."

In his study, published in the journal Astrobiology, Papineau focused on the phosphate deposits that formed during an interval of geologic time known as the Proterozoic, from 2.5 billion years ago to about 540 million years ago. "This time period is very critical in the history of the Earth, because there are several independent lines of evidence that show that oxygen really increased during its beginning and end," says Papineau. The previous atmosphere was possibly methane-rich, which would have given the sky an orangish color. "So this is the time that the sky literally began to become blue."

For more information:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

The NAI maintains a small fund to help support travel and accommodation costs associated with collaborations between NAI members and international colleagues in the field of astrobiology. This funding supports travel by NAI members affiliated with US. institutions to non-U.S. laboratories or field sites.

Recent Award:

The NAI has selected Drs. Dawn Cardace, from the Ames Research Center, and D'Arcy Meyer-Dombard, of the University of Illinois at Chicago, to travel to investigate "Deeply Sourced Springs of the Northern Anatolian Fault Zone: An Opportunity to Constrain Astrobiological Interpretations of Martian Surface Seep Structures and Mineralogy."

For more information:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Jonathan Lunine, a member of NAIs JPL-Titan team and professor in the University of Arizonas Department of Planetary Sciences has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors a U.S. scientist or engineer can achieve. Congratulations, Jonathan!

For more information:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

Date/Time: Monday, June 7, 2010 11:00AM Pacific
Speaker: Katrina Edwards (University of Southern California)
Title: "Intraterrestrial Life on Earth"

In 1986, scientists sailing in the Pacific Ocean made an astonishing discovery. In sediments collected from 850m below the seafloor, they identified that microbes were living and thriving in an environment not previously known to contain life. This discovery has spawned a new field of research on the "deep biosphere" with researchers exploring how life persists and evolves at hostile temperatures and pressures. With estimates that the sub-seafloor may contain as much two-thirds of the Earth's microbial population, research today focuses on understanding the importance, or lack thereof, of this community to the Earth's systems. This presentation will focus on the current state of knowledge with respect to the deep biosphere and the major questions being addressed in this field, such as what are the nature and extent of life on Earth? What are the physico-chemical limits of life on Earth? How metabolically active is the deep biosphere, and what are the most important redox processes? What are the dispersal mechanisms for life in the deep biosphere? How does life evolve in deeply buried geological deposits that can occur more than a km beneath the ocean floor? What is the influence of the deep biosphere on global-scale biogeochemical processes?

For more information and participation instructions:

[Source: NAI Newsletter]

The NAI once again hosted the Student Poster Competition at the Astrobiology Science Conference (AbSciCon) 2010, held in League City Texas on April 26-29, 2010. Louis Lerman and Steve Benner from the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution (FfAME) provided a generous contribution in support of the competition, as they did for AbSciCon2008.

Thirty posters were submitted to the competition, and four cash prizes wereawarded.

The first place prize went to Jorge Nunez, a graduate student at Arizona State University, for his poster entitled The Multispectral Microscopic Imager (MMI) and the Mars Microbeam Raman Spectrometer (MMRS): An Integrated Payload for the In-Situ Exploration of Past and Present Habitable Environments on Mars. Jorges co-authors were J. D. Farmer (advisor), R. G. Sellar, S. Douglas, K. S. Manatt, M. D. Fries, A. L. Lane, Alian Wang, and D. L.Blaney.

Second place in the competition was awarded to Jennifer Glass, a graduate student at Arizona State University for her poster Signatures of Low-Mo Ancient Ocean May be Preserved in Cyanobacterial Genomes. Jennifers co-authors were Felisa L. Wolfe-Simon, A. T. Poret-Peterson and A. D. Anbar(advisor).

The third place winner was Eva Stueeken, a graduate student at the University of Washington, for her poster Selenium Biogeochemistry as a Planetary Deep-Time Redox Proxy. Evas co-authors were Julien Foriel, B. K.Nelson, and Roger Buick(advisor).

Fourth place in the competition was awarded to undergraduate student Dyana Lucas of the Native American Research Laboratory (NARL) at The University of Montana, for her poster Evidence for Local Adaptation in Extremophilic Crenarchaeal Systems: A SSV-Sulfolobus Study. Dyanas co-authors were Manny Ceballos, and Michael Ceballos(advisor).

Congratulations to these four outstanding students for theirachievement! [Source: NAI Newsletter]