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2007 Annual Science Report

Astrobiology Roadmap Objective 6.2 Reports Reporting  |  JUL 2006 – JUN 2007

Project Reports

  • Genome-Genome Integration: Symbiosis, Genetic Assimilation, and Evolutionary Innovation

    Using insect-associated bacteria as model systems, we are exploring the genomic and functional basis of endosymbiotic associations in which prokaryotes replicate within multicellular hosts. This project has important implications for understanding genome-genome interactions among disparate life forms, the evolution of complex life, and the molecular forces that shape beneficial and parasitic associations in endosymbionts

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 4.2 5.1 5.2 6.2
  • Planetary Biology, Evolution, and Intelligence

    The results of a two and a half day workshop on the topic of the Habitability of Planets Orbiting M Stars was published recently. Thirty scientists from nineteen institutions in the US and UK participated. Thirteen of the participants were from six other NAI Teams

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Drilling a Borehole for Sampling of Gases, Water, and Microbes in Sub-Permafrost Groundwater at High Lake, Nunavut Territory, Canada


    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • Examination of the Microbial Diversity Found in Ice Cores (Brenchley)
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1
  • Project 5. Life in Extreme Environments

    The research objectives of Co-Investigator John Baross continue to focus on the microbial and biogeochemical characterization of Earth environments that share geophysical and geochemical characteristics with other planetary systems. The emphasis of Baross and his team is on magma-hosted and peridotite-hosted hydrothermal systems and subseafloor rock-hosted ecosystems affected by hydrothermal activity.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 5.1 5.3 6.2
  • Evolution of Abiotic Environments to Ecosystems

    Field work in 2006-2007 included trips to the high Arctic and to the Precambrian Canadian Shield. Study sites were selected on the basis of temperature and contrasting levels of hydrogen. Study sites included environments impacted by permafrost and environments at latitudes south of persistent permafrost. The level of free hydrogen gas is temperature-dependent and appears to be an important controlling factor on microbial processes.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 3.3 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Interplanetary Pioneers

    We conducted fieldwork to four sites in extreme environments. This consisted of field trips to the Bolivian Andes (Dec 2006, Feb 2007. At the altitudes where we sampled (~15,000 feet), the ozone column was substantially reduced, resulting in high levels of UV radiation flux.

  • Experimental Study of Radiolytic Oxidation of Pyrite as a Source of Sulfate and Hydrogen to Sustain Microbial Metabolism
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.3 5.3 6.1 6.2
  • Project 6. Molecular and Isotopic Biosignatures

    Differences in carbon isotope ratios of co-occurring dolomite, carbonate fluorapatite, and organic matter in Paleoproterozoic stromatolitic phosphorites from the Aravalli Supergroup, India, suggest elevated primary productivity during sedimentation. Postdoctoral Fellow Dominic Papineau’s research provides a basis for the examination of other Paleoproterozoic phosphorites and a contribution to the identification of biosignatures in phosphatic sediments.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 3.1 4.1 4.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Project 7. Astrobiotechnology

    Co-Investigator Andrew Steele and colleagues have continued to develop the Modular Assays for Solar System Exploration (MASSE) concept, which uses microfluidic technology to incubate a DNA or protein microarray. This year has been a milestone in the use of this technology in space with involvement in two missions, one to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the STS 116 shuttle launch, the other a Biopan low earth orbit exposure mission that will launch in September.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.2 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • Genomics of Sulfidic Cave Extremophiles (Supplement to NNA04CC06A)

    Fieldwork and sampling for geochemistry and microbial genomics was conducted in four sulfidic cave systems hosting extreme acidophile communities, the Frasassi Caves and Grotta Nuova del Rio Garaffo in Italy, and Cueva de Villa Luz and Cueva Luna Azufre in Mexico.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 5.1 5.3 6.2
  • Molecular Survey of Microbial Diversity in Hypersaline Ecosystems
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.4 4.1 4.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1
  • Retentostat Studies of Subsurface Sulfate Reducing Bacterium
    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Simulating Preservation of Amino Acids and Peptides in Evaporitic Sulfate Deposits on the Surface of Mars

    In anticipation of human exploration, analytical strategies are urgently needed to characterize organic molecules in chemical and clastic deposits inferred to be present on or near the surface of Mars.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 6.1 6.2 7.1
  • Search for Biomarker Gases on Mars

    Our team is engaged in a search for local sources of methane, water, and other biomarker gases on Mars, and for associated chemical species, using astronomical remote sensing techniques. We acquire simultaneous maps of atmospheric gases in the key infrared spectral region (wavelengths 3.0 – 3.8 μm) where aliphatic and aromatic organic gases have strong vibrational bands.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • Subseafloor Basement (Basalt) Biosphere Studies

    Low temperature hydrothermal ocean fluids (<100°C), circulate everywhere within the porous and permeable volcanic rocks of the upper ocean basement, providing temperatures and chemical gradients that form plausible habitats for a variety of microbial communities. However, few direct tests have been carried out in buried basement rocks or fluids.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.3 4.1 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2