Astrobiology (general): November 2008

The pilot-test of an NAI-supported curriculum entitled Astrobiology: An Integrated Science Approach will help kick-off the State of Maine's new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Initiative. This initiative is the subject of a press conference to be given by Maine's Governor, The Honorable John E. Baldacci, on November 17th.

The curriculum was developed with significant input from the NAI Ames Team led by Dave Des Marais, who will speak at the press conference. Much of the team's research in astrobiology is captured in the curriculum.

A new collaboration between NAI and the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) enabled the production of a special astrobiology-themed event at this year's NABT 2008 Professional Development Conference, held in Memphis, TN, October 15-18th. ASM's K-12 Committee Chair graciously invited NAI to join them in making astrobiology the theme of the day-long event that ASM hosts at NABT each year. E/PO Leads from NAI's MBL and IPTAI teams, in collaboration with exobiology researcher Brad Bebout from NASA Ames, joined several astrobiologists from ASM's ranks in sharing lectures and classroom materials about microbial life in extreme environments. NABT supported the event by advertising it in their newsletter and highlighting it in the conference program.

The next Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference (AbGradCon) will be held July 17 - 20 2009 at the University of Washington in Seattle. The primary objective of AbGradCon is to improve the future of astrobiology research by bringing together in a unique setting the early-career astrobiologists (graduate students and post-doctoral fellows within 2 years of finishing their Ph.D.) who will lead such research in the years to come. The conference is unique in that it is a student-led meeting, from the organization to the presentations. AbGradCon strives to remove the "pressures" of typical scientific meetings by providing a relaxed atmosphere in which presentations and round-table discussions are fostered along with numerous social activities. AbGradCon will also be hosted in the virtual world of Second Life at the NASA CoLab Sun Amphitheater.

For more information:

Source: NAI Newsletter

Date/Time: Monday, November 24, 2008 11:00 AM Pacific

Presenter: Roger Summons (Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, MIT)

Abstract: A great mass extinction took place 252 million years ago when approximately 90% of the existing marine taxa were lost. Both the magnitude of the extinction and the slowness of the subsequent faunal radiation are enigmatic. The event is also known for the number and diversity of theories about its cause(s) including catastrophic volcanism, sudden climate change, overturn of stagnant oceans and bolide impact. Studies of molecular fossils confirm that the oceans were stagnant (euxinic) for some considerable period of time before and after the main biological turnover. Accordingly this event appears to be the culmination of particular paleo-oceanographic circumstances that happened on a geological timescale.

For more information and participation instructions:

Source: NAI Newsletter