Astrobiology (general): June 2012

Join us in congratulating Brendan Mullan from Pennsylvania State University on winning the 2012 FameLab Astrobiology competition! The Finals were held on Monday, April 16th during the Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta, GA. The judges selected one winner from among the 11 finalists, whose presentations can all be seen here. Brendan joins the winners of FameLab competitions from all over the world this June in the UK, and will represent the United States in the FameLab International Final event!

FameLab was set up in 2005 by Cheltenham Festivals in partnership with the UK's National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) to find and nurture UK scientists and engineers with a flair for communicating with public audiences. Since 2007, thanks to a partnership with the British Council, FameLab competitions were held across Europe, Asia, and Africa. In 2012, FameLab has been held in 20 countries worldwide. Their partnership with NASA has brought FameLab to North America for the first time!

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The NAI is pleased to announce selections for the 2012 Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology.

1. Timothy Gallagher, travel to Michigan, Minnesota and Ontario, to study "Life on Land during the Mesoproterozoic: Evidence from the Midcontinent Rift System"

2. Cara Harwood, travel to Nevada, to examine "Thrombolites as Records of Microbial-metazoan Ecosystems in Cambrian Carbonates of the Southern Great Basin, United States"

3. Jena Johnson, travel to South Africa to investigate "Manganese and the Evolution of Oxygenic Photosynthesis"

4. Cassandra Marnocha, travel to Sweden to study the "Geomicrobiology of Rock Coatings from Karkevagge, Swedish Lapland"

5. Roy Price, travel to New Caledonia, "Expanding Frontiers for Origin of Life Research: Serpentinite-hosted Shallow Hydrothermal Vents"

6. Elizabeth Sibert, travel to Italy to examine "Ichthyoliths Across the Kpg [Cretaceous-paleogene] Boundary: Response of Pelagic Consumers to a Mass Extinction"

7. Erik Sperling, travel to Canada, to study "Oxygen, Ecology, and the Cambrian Radiation of Animals: Insights into the Origin of Complex Life from the Mackenzie Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada"

8. Elizabeth Wilbanks, travel to Massachusetts to investigate "A Sulfurous Symbiosis: the Dynamic Metatranscriptome of Pinkberries in the Sippewissett Salt Marsh"

The American Philosophical Society and the NASA Astrobiology Institute have partnered to promote the continued exploration of the world around us through a new program of research grants in support of astrobiological field studies undertaken by graduate students, postdocs, and early-career scientists and scholars who are affiliated with U.S. institutions.

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NASA and the Library of Congress have announced the selection of David H. Grinspoon to be the first Baruch S. Blumberg NASA-Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology.

The chair, selected through an international competition, is named for the late Nobel Laureate and founding director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute, Baruch "Barry" Blumberg. Applications are solicited by the Library of Congress and reviewed by a panel jointly established by the Library and NASA. The prestigious position was created in November 2011.

Grinspoon will be in residence for a year beginning November 2012 at the library's scholarly research organization, the Kluge Center, in Washington, D.C.. He is the curator of astrobiology in the Department of Space Sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Grinspoon is a well-known researcher in planetary science and the author of the award-winning book "Lonely Planets: The Natural Philosophy of Alien Life."

"Grinspoon's background as an astrobiology researcher, writer and communicator of science makes him an ideal choice," said Carl Pilcher, director of the Astrobiology Institute at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. "This is certainly the start of what will become a great tradition of astrobiology chairs at the library."