Archives

June 2010


First Kepler Science Conference Topic

All Kepler Mission science results, from exoplanet transits and the frequency of Earth-like worlds to asteroseismology. Participants: All interested scientists and journalists are welcome to attend the First Kepler Science Conference Location: NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California in the Building 3 Conference Center (outside the Center gates). Dates: December 5-6-7, 2011. For more information: http://kepler.nasa.gov/Science/keplerconference/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

The Centro de Astrobiologia (CAB) is seeking an individual interested in applying for a Pre- doctoral Research Grant (Formacion de Personal Investigador del Instituto Nacional de Tecnica Aeroespacial program) to work on the topic, "Effects of Life on Planetary Atmospheres".

The successful applicant will conduct research at the Centro de Astrobiologia, CSIC, located in Torrejon de Ardoz, Madrid and will work closely with researchers from International Centers like CalTech, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Oxford University, and the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

CAB is an interdisciplinary research centre associated with the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). Detailed information about the CAB and NAI can be found at www.cab.inta.es and http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/ respectively.

This work will involve the use and update of photochemical, geochemical, dynamical and radiative transfer models to study the effect of life on the atmosphere of our planet as well as its potential impact on other planetary atmospheres. The successful candidate will develop strategies for the characterization of life on spectra from planetary atmospheres. He/she will explore the evolution and limits of planetary habitability, identification of bio-signatures, and methods for the detection of life from within our Solar System and extrasolar planet spectra. As a result of this research the applicant is expected to complete a doctoral dissertation (PhD thesis).

The applicant for this PhD position should have a solid knowledge of physics and chemistry and an interest in planetary atmospheres as well as a good command of mathematics. Graduates in Theoretical, Applied Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Chemical Engineering with Physics or an equivalent diploma before August 2010 with excellent grades are expected to apply. Basic knowledge of Fortran 90 and IDL are a plus. The candidate must have good communication skills and be able report clearly in written and spoken English.

For information and applications please send detailed curriculum vitae to Dr. F. Javier Martin-Torres (e-mail: javiermt@cab.inta-csic.es or Javier@gps.caltech.edu ), including grades obtained in various undergraduate courses. Letters of support from at least two academic referees who can comment on your suitability for postgraduate research training would be of great value (but they are not mandatory).

You will be advised as soon as possible as to whether or not the CAB is willing to support an application by you for pursuing this research. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

The International Academy of Astronautics (IAA) will hold a symposium on "Searching for Life Signatures" at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre in the UK on October 6-8, 2010. The IAA symposium will immediately follow a Royal Society meeting "Towards a Scientific and Societal Agenda on Extra-terrestrial Life," also at the Kavli Centre on October 4-5. A Call for Papers for the IAA symposium, including information on the Royal Society meeting, can be found at http://iaaweb.org/content/view/413/572/ The deadline for abstract submission to the IAA symposium is June 15. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

October 4-5, 2010 The Kavli Royal Society International Centre, UK

Organised by Dr. Martin Dominik and Professor John Zarnecki

Should extra-terrestrial life exist, upcoming efforts will provide living generations with a realistic chance of its detection. Even more than the scientific agenda, a corresponding complementary societal agenda needs to be debated. With a mix of invited talks and panel debates, we particularly look into the detection of life, the communication with potential extra-terrestrial civilizations, the implications for the future of humanity, and the political processes that are required. For more information: http://royalsociety.org/extra-terrestrial-life/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

CURRENTLY ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THE AUTUMN 2010 PROGRAM APPLICATION DEADLINE: June 14, 2010

The goal of the Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internship program is to provide promising undergraduate and graduate students with the opportunity to work in the area of civil space research policy in the nation's capital, under the aegis of the National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council's (NAS/NRC's) Space Studies Board (SSB).

Established in 1958 to serve as the focus of the interests and responsibilities in space research for the NAS/NRC, the SSB provides an independent, authoritative forum for information and advice on all aspects of space science and applications, and it serves as the focal point within the NAS/NRC for activities on space research. It oversees advisory studies (including the on-going decadal surveys in astronomy and astrophysics, planetary science, life and microgravity sciences, and solar and space physics) and program assessments, facilitates international research coordination, and promotes communications on space science and science policy between the research community, the federal government, and the interested public. The SSB also serves as the U.S. National Committee for the International Council for Science Committee on Space Research (COSPAR).

The Lloyd V. Berkner Space Policy Internships, named after the first chair of the SSB, are offered twice annually. The SSB is now accepting applications from undergraduate and graduate students for its autumn 2010 program. The deadline for applications is June 14, 2010. Successful candidates will be contacted no later than July 2, 2010.

Visit http://sites.nationalacademies.org/SSB/ssb_052239 to learn more about the program and to get application information. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

This award recognizes one or more promising young scientists for outstanding contributions achieved during their Ph.D. or postdoctoral research. Nominees must be members of ISSOL at the time of the award. They should be engaged in experimental and/or theoretical studies in Astrobiology. The award consists of $5000 for support of professional expenses, a certificate, and public recognition at the ISSOL meeting. The awardee(s) will be providing an opportunity to present their work at the triennial meeting.

In order to be considered by the selection committee, nominations should be received by the deadline. As this award specifically recognizes scientific achievements during Ph.D. and postdoctoral research, eligibility is restricted to current Ph.D. students, those who have completed the requirements for a Ph.D. degree up to 12 months prior to the nomination as well as scientists who have completed not more than 3 years of postdoctoral research. Nominations should include a letter of nomination, a curriculum vitae, two supporting letters, and up to three reprints or preprints of the nominee's work.

DEADLINE for application for the inaugural award is December 15, 2010. http://issol.org/education-and-careers/stanley-l-miller-early-career-research-award/

Please send nominations in hard copy or electronic form to:

Janet Siefert Rice University Department of Statistics MS 138 Houston, Texas 77251-1892 Siefert@rice.edu [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Workshop Dates: October 11-13, 2010

NAI, together with the Agouron Institute and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, are again sponsoring a field workshop of the Early Earth Focus Group following upon the very successful BAR (Biosignatures in Ancient Rocks) workshop of 2007. The topic of this workshop is Anoxygenic Phototrophic Ecosystems (APE): Ancient and Modern. This workshop will bring together approximately 40 microbial ecologists, astro- and geobiologists; including ~10 senior scientists who have made significant contributions to our understanding of modern and ancient anaerobic ecosystems and of the chemistry of ancient oceans, ~15 early career researchers (assistant professors and postdocs) who have been actively conducting forefront research, and ~15 future leaders (current graduate students) in this field. The workshop is scheduled for Oct. 11-13 in Fayetteville, New York, at the scenic and biogeochemically stratified Green Lake. Travel awards are available. Please contact Linda Altamura (Penn State Astrobiology Research Center: lxg2@psu.edu) for further information.

For more information about the Early Earth Focus Group, visit: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/focus-groups/current/early-earth/intro/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

In April 2010 a group of early-career astrobiologists (graduate students and postdocs) spent two days engaged in intensive brainstorming at the second Early-Career Astrobiology Research Focus Group (RFG). The goal of the RFG was to foster interdisciplinary collaborative work in a simulated proposal submission process. Students arrived at two airports near Houston, Texas on Friday April 23rd and gathered in vans to drive to the remote Crockett Family Resort located in Crockett, TX. Participants broke off into pre-assigned focus groups to spend the next two days planning, researching and presenting a novel and relevant proposal idea. On Sunday April 25th, after a day and a half of grant writing, reviewing, oral presentations and group discussions, the participants voted on the best proposals.

The RFG was a great success, exceeding all expectations. The 15 participants covered the full range of specialties relevant to astrobiology and represented different countries across North and South America, and Australia. Of the 15 participants 8 responded to our feedback survey. 50% of respondents had an 'excellent' experience, 25% had a 'very good' experience and the remaining 25% had a 'good' experience at the 2010 RFG. The RFG was highly successful in its original goal of strengthening interdisciplinary and international links between early-career astrobiologists (roughly 40% plan on continuing collaboration on their RFG proposal, while 25% plan on collaborating on their proposals depending on funding). Also as a result of the dedication and commitment shown by the participants, several original ideas for future research were generated.

The RFG workshop was entirely conceived and organized by early-career astrobiologists. The organizing committee for the second RFG consisted of lead organizers Jacob Haqq-Misra, (The Pennsylvania State University) and Julia DeMarines (University of Colorado at Boulder) with additional organizers Kennda Lynch (Colorado School of Mines) and Sarah Walker (Dartmouth). Jacob and Julia ran the workshop while other organizers participated in the focus groups. The NAI provided funding for the workshop, and both the organizers and participants would like to thank NAI, especially Melissa Kirven-Brooks, for their ongoing support of the early-career astrobiology community and for making the event possible.

The "RFG experience" began 1 week before the event, when the organizers put the participants into focus groups of 3 or 4 people who had similar research interests but different backgrounds, in order to ensure interdisciplinary collaboration. The groups were asked to initiate brainstorming and provide a two-sentence idea by breakfast of the first full day of the workshop. Each group was then given 12 hours to write the full proposal. The organizers peer-reviewed the proposals (as opposed to last year where participants peer-reviewed each other's proposals) to give as much time to the groups to work on their presentations. All participants presented their proposals and subsequently voted to rank the proposals. Voting was individual and secret.

A list of the winning proposals and all the workshop participants can be found at the website: http://sites.google.com/site/abscicon2010rfg/ [Source: NAI Newsletter]

David Morrison has joined the SETI Institute staff as the Director of the Carl Sagan Center for the Study of Life in the Universe. Appropriately, Carl Sagan's first doctoral student, Dr. Morrison is now in a unique position to revisit his original roots and succeed legendary SETI pioneer and mentor Frank Drake, who is retiring and now joins the SETI Institute Board of Directors.

Dr. Morrison is a leading space scientist and science manager. In addition to his new job at the SETI Institute, he retains (part time) his previous position at NASA Ames Research Center, where he is Director of the NASA Lunar Science Institute and Senior Scientist for Astrobiology. Previously, Morrison served as Director of Space at NASA Ames, and before that as Professor and Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Hawaii. Dr. Morrison is internationally known for his research on small bodies in the solar system, and he has published more than 155 technical papers and a dozen books, including five university-level textbooks. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

Date/Time: Monday, June 21, 2010 11:00AM Pacific Speaker: Lee Kump (Pennsylvania State University) Title: "Evolution of the Oceans: Pale Pink Dot"

Although uniformitarian views dominated early thinking of ocean chemical evolution over geologic time, today we recognize that the composition of seawater has varied significantly over Earth's history. Some changes are ingrained in our thinking (for example, that the Archean ocean was anoxic and iron-rich) while others are rarely considered. For example, if sulfate was a trace constituent of the Archean ocean, then the chemistry of hydrothermal fluids would have been significantly different (more reduced, with high hydrogen partial pressures and iron concentrations but low concentrations of hydrogen sulfide); this may be of significance to those considering such environments as the locus for the origin of life and for early ecosystems. Refinement of radiometric ages of banded iron formations suggest that their deposition was episodic, not continuous, and this may require us to rethink the notion of a persistently Fe-replete Archean ocean. The rise of atmospheric oxygen in the earliest Proterozoic ironically created the potential for highly reducing marine conditions with free hydrogen sulfide in the upper water column supporting anoxygenic phototrophs. The persistence of these conditions through the Proterozoic is uncertain, but when they occurred, the "pale blue dot" may have been pink. Strategies for life detection on distant planets is based in part on our interpretation of Earth's oceanic and atmospheric evolution, and we have some way to go before we can confidently describe the evolutionary history and persistence of particular conditions on Earth.

For more information and participation instructions: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/seminars/detail/174 [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 as 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: http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/nai/seminars/detail/174 [Source: NAI Newsletter]