2007 Annual Science Report

Carnegie Institution of Washington Reporting  |  JUL 2006 – JUN 2007

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
56 Institutions
7 Project Reports
0 Publications
0 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • Project 7. Astrobiotechnology

    Co-Investigator Andrew Steele and colleagues have continued to develop the Modular Assays for Solar System Exploration (MASSE) concept, which uses microfluidic technology to incubate a DNA or protein microarray. This year has been a milestone in the use of this technology in space with involvement in two missions, one to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the STS 116 shuttle launch, the other a Biopan low earth orbit exposure mission that will launch in September.

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

    Differences in carbon isotope ratios of co-occurring dolomite, carbonate fluorapatite, and organic matter in Paleoproterozoic stromatolitic phosphorites from the Aravalli Supergroup, India, suggest elevated primary productivity during sedimentation. Postdoctoral Fellow Dominic Papineau’s research provides a basis for the examination of other Paleoproterozoic phosphorites and a contribution to the identification of biosignatures in phosphatic sediments.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 2.1 3.1 4.1 4.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Project 1. From Molecular Clouds to Habitable Planetary Systems

    Building on results described in last year’s report, Co-investigator John Chambers’s work this year has focused on models for the growth of planets in the presence of planetary migration. Inward migration of planetary orbits is widely believed to be an important process, but it is neglected in most studies of planet formation due to doubts about whether planets would survive.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 3.1 7.2
  • Project 3. Prebiotic Chemical and Isotopic Evolution on Earth


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


    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 3.2 3.4 4.1 7.1
  • Project 5. Life in Extreme Environments

    The research objectives of Co-Investigator John Baross continue to focus on the microbial and biogeochemical characterization of Earth environments that share geophysical and geochemical characteristics with other planetary systems. The emphasis of Baross and his team is on magma-hosted and peridotite-hosted hydrothermal systems and subseafloor rock-hosted ecosystems affected by hydrothermal activity.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 3.1 5.1 5.3 6.2
  • Project 2. Extraterrestrial Materials: Origin and Evolution of Organic Matter and Water in the Solar System


    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 2.1 3.1