Astrogeology: July 2010

Abstract Submission Deadline: August 10, 2010

2010 Geological Society of America National Meeting: T110, Mountain Formation and Landscape Evolution in the Solar System: Implications for the Origin of Life.

Organizers: Joseph Kula, Suzanne L. Baldwin

Session Summary: Terrestrial mountain formation in the solar system is related to thermal decay, tectonics, and impact events. The processes and timescales of landscape evolution will be explored with implications for the origin and search for life.

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A NASA Astrobiology Institute-funded study led by Chris Dupont of the J. Craig Venter Institute indicates that environmental availability of trace elements over Earth's history influenced the selection of elements used by life as biological evolution progressed. Their results show that environmental concentrations of trace metals influenced which types of metal-binding proteins evolved, and the relative timing of their evolution.

The study implies that the geochemistry of the Archean ocean (>2.5 billion years ago) influenced both the evolution of metal-binding protein architectures and the selection of elements by the ancestors of modern Archaea and Bacteria (simple single cell organisms). Specifically, low Zn, Mo, and Cu concentrations in the Archean ocean likely prevented the widespread emergence and diversification of Eukaryotic life (including plants, animals, and fungi) until the oceans became oxic, relatively late in Earth's history. The study also revealed that although modern Archaea and Bacteria still predominantly use ancient metal-binding protein structures, most Eukaryotes use both early- and late- evolving structures. The paper appears in the May 24 Early Edition of PNAS.

Source: NAI Newsletter

The NAI is pleased to announce the 2010 Selections for the Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology.

1. Knicole Colon, U Florida, travel to Spain for her project, "From Hot-Jupiters to Super Earths: Characterizing Transiting Extrasolar Planets with GTC/OSIRIS".

2. Andrew Czaja, U Wisconsin, travel to Australia for a "Field Trip to Explore Archean and Proterozoic Geology of Western Australia".

3. Jason Huberty, U Wisconsin, travel to Australia, for the "Fifth International Archean Synposium Field Trip to the Pilbara Craton, including the Fortescue and Hamersley Basins".

4. Michele Knowlton, Arizona State U, travel to Yellowstone National Park to examine nitrogen fixation occurring within microbial mats.

5. Nancy McKeown, U California, Santa Cruz, travel to Arizona, for a "Spectral Study Of the Painted Desert, AZ, to "Characterize Clay Alterations Environments and Provide Implications for Astrobiology at Mawrth Valis, Mars, a Likely Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site".

6. Elizabeth Percak-Dennet, U Wisconsin, travel to Australia, "Linking Laboratory and Field Studies of the Mineralogical and Iron Isotope Composition of Banded Iron Formations in Western Australia".

7. Matthew Urschel, Montana State U, travel to Alberta, Canada to examine "Iron Reduction in the Subglacial Sediments of Robertson Glacier, Canada".

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Source: NAI Newsletter