The Astrobiology Science Conference 2015 (AbSciCon2015) was held at the Hilton in Chicago on June 15-19. The Summons Lab was well represented, with postdocs and postgraduate students presenting oral and poster presentations of their work. The conference brings together scientists who work on the interdisciplinary field of astrobiology. The focus of AbSciCon2015 was on habitability in our solar system and beyond, and the origin and evolution of life on early Earth. Summons Lab research presented at the meeting was funded by a variety of sources such as NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Simons Collaboration on Origins of Life, the Agouron Institute, the Irish Research Council and the Marie Curie Actions Programme. There was an abundance of fascinating panel discussions, plenary sessions, and oral and poster sessions over the course of the week. Here are some of the highlights from the Summons Lab.
Tuesday morning kicked off with a fascinating panel discussion on biosignatures of life, which included Roger as an expert panel member (image below courtesy of @dstryco).
On Tuesday, many members, and collaborators, of the Summons Lab presented their work in the session about how studying modern microbes can inform our understanding of ancient Earth ecosystems. Emily presented her exciting recent work on biological diversity of microbial structures in Antarctic ice-covered lakes, and did a great job. Bosak Lab member and Summons Lab collaborator, Sharon Newman, presented her work on cyanobacterial fossilization by clay minerals. Sharon gave a great presentation and received much interest during questions, which extended into the break.
David did a very impressive job, both chairing a session, and delivering an excellent talk investigating the sponge sterol biomarker hypothesis using comparative genomics and organic geochemical approaches. Shane presented his recent work on the microbial contribution to ooid formation from a Pigeon Cay in the Bahamas and its broader implications for the meaning of these enigmatic grains in the Geological Record. Former Summons Lab member, Paula Welander, and recent addition to Geobiology at MIT, Gregory Fournier, also gave excellent presentations in this session.
On Thursday, Genming presented his impressive recent work using bulk carbon isotopes and stratigraphy to reconstruct autotrophic microbial responses after the Paleoproterozoic Great Oxidation Event. Ross also did a great job and got a lot of interest and positive feedback when he presented his work reconstructing terrestrial plant and marine algal responses to Eocene warming using biomarker and stable isotope records from his field site in NW India. Mary Beth, a visiting student from Georgia Tech and NASA Ames, also presented her work on the preservation of lipid biomarkers in the Atacama Desert in Chile. On Friday, former Summons Lab postdoc Christian Hallmann gave a talk on the use of stable nitrogen isotopes of Ediacaran porphyrins to gain an insight into Neoproterozoic nitrogen cycling.
It was a great week for the Summons Lab in Chicago, and looking forward to the next AbSciCon conference!