Origin & Evolution of Life: May 2011

A two-day workshop using NAI remote communications tools will be held on May 12th and 13th, 2011. Real-time participation requires only an internet connection and is available to interested scientists from around the world. More details, including connection and registration information, is available at the meeting website given below.


Over the past 4 billion years, the Earth and its biosphere have undergone a series of linked transitions in redox state, biochemical plasticity, and biological diversity. In order to study this evolution, diverse scientific disciplines (including inorganic and organic geochemistry, microbiology, and genomics) must overcome traditional disciplinary barriers and integrate their tools and perspectives. In recent years, numerous technological advances have resulted in rapid advances in each of these fields. One of the most striking has been the development of cheaper and more efficient sequencing technologies, along with attendant advances in genetics and the computational techniques to leverage the resulting data. To facilitate interactions between paleobiologists and scientists using the latest techniques in molecular biology and genomics, a symposium will be held at the J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego, California. The primary objective is the exchange of knowledge and the development of a dialog that might yield cutting-edge ideas for future work.

Confirmed Speakers

* Tim Lyons, University of California, Riverside
* Gordon Love, University of California, Riverside
* James Lake, University of California, Los Angeles
* Gustavo Caetano-Anolles, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
* Lawrence David, Harvard University
* Trinity Hamilton, Montana State University
* Ziming Zhao, Georgia Tech
* Clyde Hutchison, J. Craig Venter Institute
* Kate Freeman, Pennsylvania State University
* Dave Doughty, California Institute of Technology
* Jason Raymond, Arizona State University
* Andrew Allen, J. Craig Venter Institute
* Jack Bailey, University of Minnesota
* Frank Stewart, Georgia Tech

The workshop will consist of talks and discussion. Each presentation will allow ample time for questions and answers afterwards. We encourage researchers to attend in real time to engage in what we expect will be a lively exchange of ideas during the workshop.

Workshop Organizing Committee

* Chris Dupont, J. Craig Venter Institute
* Ariel Anbar, Arizona State University
* John Peters, Montana State University

For more information and participation instructions, visit:

Date/Time: Monday, May 23, 2011 11:00AM Pacific
Presenter: Mark Allen (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Caltech)


The ESA/NASA ExoMars/Trace Gas Orbiter (EMTGO) mission, with a planned launch in 2016, is based on a concept that can be traced back to the NAI. EMTGO is also the first truly international mission in which NASA is a participant; the contributions from ESA and NASA are closely intertwined.

The primary objective of EMTGO is to characterize the chemical composition of the Martian atmosphere, particularly trace species that may be signatures of extant biological and/or geological processes, and its variability in space and time. It is hoped that these measurements, along with a good understanding of the contemporaneous atmospheric state, may allow localization of the surface source(s) of the "exotic" trace gases.

The international science payload selected for this mission has the capability to inventory the atmospheric composition with more sensitivity than has flown on previous deep space planetary missions. One measure of this capability is the ability to detect three cows on Mars belching methane.

Several of the NAI principal investigators and co-investigators are members of the payload science teams.

For more information and participation instructions: