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2003 Annual Science Report

University of Rhode Island Reporting  |  JUL 2002 – JUN 2003

Executive Summary

The University of Rhode Island (URI) team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) works to gain a fundamental understanding of Earth’s subsurface life. The team’s research is principally, but not exclusively, focused on study of life in deeply buried marine sediments. Earth’s deep biosphere is a critical component of Earth’s biogeochemical cycles and serves as a model for possible life on other planets. Consequently, the team’s objectives are to understand the subsurface microbial ecosystems of marine sediments, their role in Earth’s biogeochemical cycles, and their relevance to the search for life on other planets.

Environments of special interest for our team include: 1) old, deeply buried sediments where life exists despite extremely low concentrations of electron donors and key nutrients, and 2) hot, deeply buried anoxic sediments where life may exist independently of the photosynthesis-based ecosystem at Earth’s surface. The ecosystems of these subsurface habitats ...

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