2005 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  JUL 2004 – JUN 2005

Executive Summary

The NAI team led by the Carnegie Institution of Washington is studying the evolution of organic compounds from prebiotic molecular synthesis and organization to cellular evolution and diversification. Our program attempts to integrate the sweeping narrative of life’s history through a combination of bottom-up and top-down studies. On the one hand, we study processes related to chemical and physical evolution in plausible prebiotic environments — the interstellar medium, circumstellar disks, extrasolar planetary systems, the primitive Earth, and other Solar System objects. Complementary to these bottom-up investigations of life’s origin, we carry out field and experimental top-down efforts to document the nature of microbial life at extreme conditions and the characterization of organic matter in ancient fossils. Both types of efforts inform our development of biotechnological approaches to life detection on other worlds.

Our team’s research activities focuses on life’s chemical and physical evolution, from the ... Continue reading.

Field Sites
30 Institutions
7 Project Reports
0 Publications
0 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • Project 1. From Molecular Clouds to Habitable Planetary Systems

    Chambers developed a new semi-analytic model for the oligarchic growth stage of planet formation.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 3.1 7.2
  • Project 7. Astrobiotechnology

    With continued support from NASA astrobiology instrument development funding (through the Astrobiology Science and Technology Instrument Development, or ASTID, Program), as well as NAI funding, Steele and colleagues continued to develop biotechnology instrumentation for solar system exploration

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 2.2 3.1 3.2 4.2 5.3 6.2 7.1
  • Project 6. Molecular and Isotopic Biosignatures

    Steele and Postdoctoral Fellow Marc Fries used the new WiTec Raman imaging system to begin the examination of in situ carbon formation in a variety of samples, including Precambrian rocks and samples from a Mars analog site in Svalbard

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 4.1 4.2 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Project 4. Prebiotic Molecular Selection and Organization

    Studies in molecular self-organization focused on two types of amphiphilic molecules, which are molecules that possess both hydrophobic and hydrophilic regions. These molecules tend to self-organize spontaneously in an aqueous environment.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 3.2 3.4 4.1 7.1
  • Project 3. Prebiotic Chemical and Isotopic Evolution on Earth

    The first focus of this project has been on the Archean sulfur cycle and understanding the significance of mass-independent sulfur isotope signals.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 4.1 7.1
  • Project 2. Extraterrestrial Materials: Origin and Evolution of Organic Matter and Water in the Solar System

    The abundant organic compounds in primitive meteorites and interplanetary dust particles (IDPs) are thought to originate largely in the interstellar medium. However, this material may have been modified in the protoplanetary disk and has been modified to varying extents in the asteroidal parent bodies.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 3.1
  • Project 5. Life in Extreme Environments

    The astrobiology research objectives of Baross and his group are focused on understanding the microbial ecology and physiology of Earth environments that share geophysical and geochemical characteristics with other planets and satellites