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2002 Annual Science Report

University of Rhode Island Reporting  |  JUL 2001 – JUN 2002

Executive Summary

Life is abundant in Earth’s atmosphere, on its surface, and in its seas — that is, in the biosphere. But scientists are revising and expanding their ideas about the ubiquitousness of Earth’s living organisms. Their research has shown that life goes on in what may constitute another biosphere, one in which organisms (collectively called extremophiles) are able to live and thrive in a superhot, superpressure, eternally dark underworld that exists far below deep-ocean bottoms. This subterranean community is known to exist to depths of at least a half mile below the seafloor, and there are estimates that it might account for as much as one-tenth to one-third of Earth’s living biomass.

The study of subsurface life is the principal focus of the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s University of Rhode Island (URI) team. Sediments deep beneath the seafloor constitute the team’s primary field area. The team’s objectives ... Continue reading.

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