Conferences and Meetings: November 2010

Date/Time: Wednesday, December 1, 2010 11:00AM Pacific
Presenter: David Gilichinsky (Russian Academy of Sciences)

Abstract: The terrestrial cryosphere is the only widespread and rich depository of viable ancient organisms on Earth. The age of the isolates corresponds to the longevity of the frozen state of the embedding strata, with the oldest known dating back to the late Pliocene. If life ever existed on frozen extraterrestrial bodies such as Mars, traces might have been preserved and could be found at depth within Martian ice or permafrost. Permafrost on Earth and Mars vary in age, from a few million years on Earth to a few billion years on Mars. Such a difference in time scale would have a significant impact on the possibility of preserving life on Mars, which is why the longevity of life forms preserved within terrestrial permafrost can only be considered an approximate model for Mars.

I will focus on one of the terrestrial environments which are close to Mars in age - active volcanoes in permafrost areas. Here the age of volcanic deposits frozen after eruption is much younger than the age of surrounding permafrost. The same processes (past eruptions of Martian volcanoes) periodically burned through the frozen strata and formed the thermal and water oases. Simultaneously, products of eruptions (lava, rock debris, scoria, ash) rose from the depths to the surface and froze. The age of these frozen volcanic deposits is thus much younger than the age of the surrounding permafrost. Images taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on board the ESA Mars Express mission discovered young volcanoes 2-15 Myr old on Mars. In other words, the age of the youngest Martian volcanoes date back to the age of volcanoes on Earth.

Culture- and culture-independent methods show the presence of viable thermophilic and hyperthermophilic bacteria and their genes within pyroclastic frozen material on Earth. These bacteria and archeae have not been found in permafrost outside the areas of active volcanism. The presence of thermophilic communities in frozen ash and scoria raise questions about the origin of these microorganisms and their life style in such environments. The only way for thermophiles to get into frozen pyroclastic material is through deposition during eruption. In other words, catastrophic geological events may transport thermophiles from the depths to the surface and these thermophiles may survive at subzero temperatures.

Such terrestrial microbial communities might serve as a model for Mars, particularly for young Martian volcanoes that date back to ages close to those for terrestrial volcanoes. To explore these hypotheses we are characterizing different volcanic microbial communities on Earth within volcanic permafrost. One such area of active volcanism is the Klyuchevskaya Volcano Group (55*'N, 160*E) on the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Russian Far-East, where mountainous permafrost predominates from the elevations ~1000 m asl and up. I will describe our studies of microorganisms isolated from this area.

For more information and participation instructions: [Source: NAI Newsletter]

7-14 February 2011
Marrakech, Morocco
Abstract Submission Deadline: 7 January 2011
Sponsored by the European Space Agency (ESA) Topical Team, Geomicrobiology for Space Settlement and Exploration.

Organizers: Charles Cockell (Open University, UK), Oliver Angerer (ESA), Gian Gabriele Ori (IRSPS, Italy and Ibn Battuta Centre, Morocco), Kamal Taj-Eddine (Universite Cady Ayyad and Ibn Battuta Centre, Morocco)

Geobiology in Space Exploration will be a meeting with talks and discussions that aim to cover the full range of the contributions of geobiology to space exploration and settlement. It will have two core purposes: 1) To contribute to building the community of people working in geobiology and applying the discipline to themes in space sciences and exploration; and 2) To develop a strategic document on the range of geobiology applications and possible space missions for ESA. The meeting will begin midday on Monday the 7th and will finish on Wednesday the 9th and will be held at the Universite Cadi Ayyad (Morocco). The meeting will then be followed by a voluntary field trip for interested participants.

26-28 January 2011
Utrecht, The Netherlands
Abstract Submission Deadline: 1 December 2010

This symposium will cover topics related to large-scale oceanic anoxic events, including causes and effects, biotic response, chemistry, and biogeochemical cycling, age and climate models, and present-day and future Earth in the scope of the Cretaceous experience. Organizers: Poppe de Boer (; Caroline Slomp (; Henk Brinkhuis ( Contact Ms. Marjolein Mullen ( for additional instructions. [Source: NAI]

5 December 2010
Rehovot, Israel

The Israel Society for Astrobiology and the Study of the Origin of Life (ILASOL) holds an annual meeting that will take place, this year, during the Hannuka holiday at the Botnar Auditorium in the Weizmann Institute of Science. For information and abstract submission, please contact [Source: NAI]

6-8 December 2010
Brussels, Belgium
Abstract Submission Deadline: 15 November 2010

The European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) Program supports cooperation among scientists and researchers across Europe. It sponsors "actions" to bring researchers together to build cooperative networks and improve scientific collaboration and awareness. Action CM-0805, "The Chemical Cosmos", provides for the study of chemical processes relevant to the physical conditions encountered in the interstellar medium, and on the surface and in the atmospheres of planetary bodies. The Action aims to provide new insights into the dynamics of the chemical reactions leading to molecular synthesis under such conditions and reveal how these are influenced by the ambient temperature and pressure. Special attention is given to the study of the novel surface chemistry prevalent on interstellar medium dust grains and planetary surfaces. The Action also aims to combine such laboratory data with complementary chemical models to allow a fuller interpretation of observational data. More information on the COST program can be found on
Additional details concerning Action CM-0805 can be found at: . A preliminary Workshop Program can be found at:
For further information, contact Dr Christian Muller, B.USOC, Brussels,, or Dr. Frank Daerden, BIRA, Brussels, [Source: NAI]

A three-day workshop using NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) remote communications tools, on "Molecular Paleontology and Resurrection: Rewinding the Tape of Life," will be held on 8, 9 & 10 November 2010. Real-time participation requires only an internet connection and is available to interested scientists from around the world. Participants will discuss "top down" origin of life research, which will ultimately allow us to rewind the evolutionary record of biochemical processes and assemblies.

Organized by John Peters and Loren Williams, PIs of the NAI's Montana State University and Georgia Tech teams, a primary goal of the workshop is to foster new interdisciplinary collaborations across the community.

Session topics will include

* Phylogenetic Studies on Key Enzymes Involved in Information Pathways and Metabolism
* The Evolutionary History of Protein Synthesis
* Minerals to Enzymes, Bridging the Gap Between Metal-Based Abiotic and Biological Chemistry
* Phylogenetic Reconstruction/Resurrection, A Glimpse into Extinct Biochemistry
* What Can Modern Biological Energy Transformation Systems Tell Us About Conditions on the Early Earth?
* Linking the Evolutionary Record to the Geological Record

The workshop is open to the worldwide science community and is accessible via internet browser. To receive information on how to connect to the workshop, register on the NAI website: . [Source: NAI]

Dates: 5-8 June 2011

Location: Montana State University, Bozeman Montana

Eligibility: Graduate students, post-doctoral students, early-career astrobiologists (2-5 years past PhD).

The 2011 Astrobiology Graduate Student Conference (AbGradCon) will be held at Montana State University, from 5-8 June, 2011. The schedule will include two full days of talks and poster sessions, one day of public outreach and educational activities, and a full-day field trip to Yellowstone National Park. The conference application will be available online in January 2011.

For more information: [Source: NAI]