2012 Annual Science Report

Pennsylvania State University Reporting  |  SEP 2011 – AUG 2012

Executive Summary

Through an integration of education and research, the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center (PSARC) is dedicated to developing the conceptual, analytical, and technical tools to detect life, extant or extinct. This past year has been a great one for PSARC researchers. Each of our four major research projects had splendid results, novel directions, and new important papers.

Developing New Biosignatures

The Developing New Biosignatures project is aimed at creating innovative approaches for the analyses of cells and other organic material, finding ways in which metal abundances and isotope systems reflect life, and developing creative approaches for using environmental DNA to study present and past life. This past year saw significant progress on several areas of research for this project. In particular, The detection of diverse microscopic fossils preserved in gypsum is of significance for the potential discovery of fossils in Mars sulfates and should influence ... Continue reading.

Field Sites
44 Institutions
4 Project Reports
44 Publications
14 Field Sites

Project Reports

  • Developing New Biosignatures

    The Developing New Biosignatures project is aimed at creating innovative approaches for the analyses of cells and other organic material, finding ways in which metal abundances and isotope systems reflect life, and developing creative approaches for using environmental DNA to study present and past life.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 4.1 5.1 7.1
  • Biosignatures in Relevant Microbial Ecosystems

    PSARC is investigating microbial life in some of Earth’s most mission-relevant modern ecosystems. These environments include the extremely salty Dead Sea, the impact-fractured crust of the Chesapeake Bay impact structure, methane seeps on the ocean floor, deep ice in the Greenland ice sheet, and oxygen-free waters including deep subsurface groundwater. We target environments that, when studied, provide fundamental information that can serve as the basis for future solar system exploration. Combining our expertise in molecular biology, geochemistry, microbiology, and metagenomics, and in collaboration with some of the planet’s most extreme explorers, we are deciphering the microbiology, fossilization processes, and recoverable biosignatures from these mission-relevant environments.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 4.1 4.3 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 7.1 7.2
  • Biosignatures in Extraterrestrial Settings

    Exploring the prospects for biosignatures in extraterrestrial settings is a multi

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 3.1 4.1 4.3 6.2 7.1 7.2
  • Biosignatures in Ancient Rocks

    The Biosignatures in Ancient Rocks group investigates the co-evolution of life and environment on early Earth using a combination of geological field work, geochemical analysis, genomics, and numerical simulation.

    ROADMAP OBJECTIVES: 1.1 3.2 4.1 4.2 4.3 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 7.1 7.2