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Astrobiology (general): March 2007


One of the most satisfying aspects of astrobiology is the quality of the students and young researchers it attracts. I am particularly gratified by the quality of a recent applicant pool to the NAI Postdoctoral Fellowship Program (a part of the NASA Postdoctoral Program administered by the Oak Ridge Associated Universities) and the individuals we were able to select. I'd like to tell you a little about them.

New Documentary "The Virus Hunters"

Recently produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, "The Virus Hunters" is a fascinating look at these creatures, from their role in disease to the possibility of being the oldest form of life on Earth. NAI Virus Focus Group Co-Chairs Ken Stedman and Baruch Blumberg, and their team, are featured during one of their field trips to Lassen Volcanic National Park. http://www.cbc.ca/doczone/virushunters.html [Source: NAI newsletter]

The American Society for Microbiology recently announced its 2007 General Meeting Award Laureates, and two NAI scientists have received honors. Mitch Sogin, PI of NAI's Marine Biological Laboratory Team, is presented with the USFCC/J. Roger Porter Award for his research in environmental microbial diversity. Norm Pace, from NAI's University of Colorado, Boulder Team, is presented with the Abbott/ASM Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions and research in the field of microbial ecology. Norm was nominated by none other than Carl Woese, and Mitch was nominated by his fellow awardee Norm Pace! Congratulations Mitch and Norm! [Source: NAI newsletter]

The following new papers have been published recently by NAI members. These and other recent NAI funded research are presented on the NAI member portal and collected in the NAI Research Highlights Archive - http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/research/. In this archive, you can link to the papers and any press materials that may have been generated about them.

Applications are due May 15, 2007, for NASA's 19th Annual Planetary Science Summer School, which will hold two sessions this summer, July 23-27 and August 6-10, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

A New Model for the Early Ocean

NAI's Marine Biological Laboratory and Carnegie Institution of Washington Teams are contributing authors on a new paper in Earth and Planetary Science Letters presenting a new model for the evolution of Proterozoic deep seawater composition based on rare earth elements. Their data suggest transitional, suboxic conditions in the deep ocean (vs. sulfidic), which likely limited nutrient concentrations in seawater and, consequently, may have constrained biological evolution. [Source: NAI Newsletter]

From Hawai'i to Massachusetts, workshops offering hands-on, in-the-field, in-the-lab experiences for teachers are being held this summer by NAI teams and others. The workshops feature cutting edge astrobiology research delivered by scientists and education professionals, as well as inquiry- and standards-based activities ready for the classroom. Many offer stipends and/or education credits. Click here for offerings from NAI's Teams at MBL, Penn State, University of Hawai'i, and the SETI Institute, as well as the Lunar and Planetary Institute. http://nai.nasa.gov/teachers/index.cfm#7 [source: NAI Newsletter]