Robert Blankenship, first director of ASU's Center for Early Events in Photosynthesis, will explore another important aspect of early biosphere evolution by looking at the origin and evolution of the first photosynthetic systems. Oxygen-producing photosynthesis marked critical step in the evolution of the Earth's atmosphere, climate and life, and this work has critical implications for the search for life in other places.
A collaborative effort by Farmer and ASU geologists Tom Sharp and Paul Knauth will study the processes by which microorganisms become fossilized, and how more biological information can be extracted from the ancient rock record on Earth. This work will focus on a number of important modern environments including thermal springs and alkaline, saline lakes where environmental extremes are thought to be analogous to the ancient Earth. The fossil record of early life will also be studied to understand the nature of the early oceans and the conditions of salinity and temperature where life developed.
Extending the study of evolution in extreme environments to embrace more complex ecosystems, an interdisciplinary team led by biologist Thomas Dowling will continue current research efforts in studying simple associations of microbes, plants and animals to understand the evolution of ecosystems under different conditions of energy and nutrient availability.
An interdisciplinary group including planetary geologists Philip Christensen,
Ronald Greeley and exobiologist Farmer will continue the experiments beyond
Earth, exploring the surfaces of two of the most intriguing places in our Solar
System, Mars and Europa. Christensen is the principal investigator for the Mars
Global Surveyor's thermal emission spectrometer experiment, a remote sensing
instrument that will identify and map the mineralogy of the Martian surface to
help identify the best places to search for pa
Contact: James Hathaway
Arizona State University