UMD: Georgetown’s Johnson on “Life on Mars” (+ distant moons)

2017 Geology Colloquium Series at the University of Maryland, College Park
Friday, November 3rd 2017 at 3:00 pm
in PLS 1130
Sarah Johnson
Georgetown University
Searching for Life on Mars and Distant Moons
Advances in molecular biology have the potential to alter the way we look for life in solar system, from direct detections to a deeper understanding of how biology affects patterns of mineralization. This talk will discuss our ongoing research into biosignature detection, including work in planetary analog environments like Australian acid salt lakes and the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. It will explore how handheld sequencers are starting to change the way we do remote field work, and how one day they may transform biological observation of the most inaccessible places on Earth, just as remotely telemetered image data revolutionized our understanding of the planet at the dawn of the Space Age. The talk will conclude with possibilities for nanopore-based life detection, including a concept that harnesses the power of sequencing to fingerprint patterns of surface chemical complexity as signatures of life, regardless of whether that life is based on nucleic acids.

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