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Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

Seminars

Life Underground

Dr. Jan Amend, Life Underground NASA Astrobiology Institute Director and Professor at USC

5:00-6:00 pm, Monday, June 4, 2018

LASP Space Sciences Building, 3665 Discovery DR-Boulder, CO, Room W120

Reception to follow

 

Abstract:  If microbial life exists or ever existed on Mars or any other extraterrestrial body in our solar system, evidence
thereof would most likely be found in the subsurface. A recent census of biomass on Earth concluded that ~90%
of the microorganisms reside in the continental and marine deep subsurface. However, we know surprisingly little
about the ‘intraterrestrial’ identities, distribution, metabolisms, growth rates, evolution, relatedness to surface
organisms, or even if the majority of them are dead or alive.
Dr. Jan Amend will present recent findings on underground ecosystems on Earth, including the continental deep
subsurface accessed through shafts and tunnels in the former Homestake Gold Mine in South Dakota and the
marine sediments and basement rocks of the Pacific Ocean. Note, for example, that in marine sediments and in
the rocks below, the porespaces between mineral grains—where the microbial cells reside—represent the 2nd and
4th largest reservoirs of water in the Earth’s hydrologic cycle. The rates and pathways of fluid, mass, heat, solute,
and cellular transport through these systems; the geochemical reactions driven by the resident microbes; and the
connectivity of the subsurface environments to the overlying oceans, soils, and atmosphere are only beginning to
be understood…but these discoveries will inform our search for extraterrestrial life.