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2019 May 15

Professor Nicholas Tosca (University of Oxford) "The Tonian carbonate factory and the long-term evolution of the Precambrian CaCO3 cycle"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract

 

The Neoproterozoic Era marks a critical turning point along Earth’s evolutionary trajectory.  Sedimentary rocks from this time period record the breakup of a supercontinent, the advent of eukaryotic biomineralisation, the origin of complex multicellularity, and the most significant and enigmatic perturbations to climate and the carbon cycle in Earth’s history. Nevertheless, a lack of constraints on ocean-atmosphere carbon chemistry has left inorganic carbon burial as a critical yet poorly understood factor in regulating Earth’s surface carbon...

Read more about Professor Nicholas Tosca (University of Oxford) "The Tonian carbonate factory and the long-term evolution of the Precambrian CaCO3 cycle"
2019 Apr 17

Professor David Latham (Harvard) "The Search for Habitable Worlds"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract

The study of planets orbiting other stars has become a mainstream branch of astronomy.  Much of the focus is now on the discovery and characterization of exoplanets enough like the Earth that we can imagine life as we know it could be comfortable there:  Goldilocks planets with solid surfaces at the right temperature for water to be liquid, enveloped by secondary atmospheres with molecules suitable for the invention of life.  Characterizing the structure and composition of such planets depends on knowledge of the bulk density, and interpretation of...

Read more about Professor David Latham (Harvard) "The Search for Habitable Worlds"
2019 Mar 13

Professor Dave Lageson (Montana State University) - "Variability in stromatolite morphology, Paleoproterozoic Nash Formation, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming: A case study in biogenicity"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract

 

The Paleoproterozoic Nash Formation in the Medicine Bow Mountains, SE Wyoming hosts some of the most spectacularly preserved Precambrian stromatolites in the world.  The Nash Formation is composed of tan, silicified, stromatolitic metadolomite with interbedded black phyllite and quartzite, occurring near the top of a sedimentary protolith assemblage that was deposited along the passive, southern margin of the Wyoming Province, ca. 2000 Ma.  Although sporadic research has been conducted on Nash Fork stromatolites since 1926 (E....

Read more about Professor Dave Lageson (Montana State University) - "Variability in stromatolite morphology, Paleoproterozoic Nash Formation, Medicine Bow Mountains, Wyoming: A case study in biogenicity"
2018 Apr 18

Professor Eric Boyd (Montana State University) - "Overcoming Thermodynamic and Biosynthetic Limitations at the Origin of Life"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street
Abstract: 

Hydrogen (H2) serves as a key point of interface between the geosphere and the biosphere and has likely done so since early in the history of Earth. Indeed, many of the most well accepted origin of life scenarios involve autotrophic microbial metabolisms that are fueled by redox reactions involving H2, including the processes of acetogenesis and methanogenesis. Acetogens and methanogens use the iron sulfur (Fe-S) protein ferredoxin (Fd) to facilitate key electron transfers between H2 and carbon reduction. However, the redox potential of H...

Read more about Professor Eric Boyd (Montana State University) - "Overcoming Thermodynamic and Biosynthetic Limitations at the Origin of Life"
2018 May 16

Origins of Life Initiative / Microbial Sciences Initiative Joint Seminar - Professor Antonio Lazcano (National Autonomous University of Mexico) - " The genome of the Last Common Ancestor: il catalogo è questo"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street
Abstract: 

Two decades ago Fox and Woese demonstrated that the evolutionary comparison of 16/18S rRNA led to a trifucated unrooted tree that demonstrated that all living forms groups all living forms in one of three major phylogenetic lineages derived from a common ancestor. Bioinformatic analysis of completely sequenced cellular genomes from these three major kingdoms have been used to define the set of the most most conserved protein-encoding sequences to characterize the gene...

Read more about Origins of Life Initiative / Microbial Sciences Initiative Joint Seminar - Professor Antonio Lazcano (National Autonomous University of Mexico) - " The genome of the Last Common Ancestor: il catalogo è questo"
2018 Apr 04

Special Seminar - Professor Paul Falkowski (Rutgers) - "The origin and emergence of global coupled biogeochemical cycles"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract: 

Although biologists do not agree on what “life” is, given a few provisions, we understand the smallest unit is a cell bounded by a membrane across which is an electrochemical potential far from thermodynamic equilibrium. In the early part of the 20th century, Vladimir Vernadsky recognized that all cells exchange gases with the environment. These universal properties of life on Earth gave rise to a global scale electrical circuit, powered almost exclusively by light. The atmosphere and oceans are, in effect, planetary “wires” that connect the circuit from the...

Read more about Special Seminar - Professor Paul Falkowski (Rutgers) - "The origin and emergence of global coupled biogeochemical cycles"
2018 Feb 21

Professor Jeremy England (MIT) - " Mechanisms of Life-like Fine-tuning in Driven Matter"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract

When we say a collection of matter has a form that is well-suited to a particular function, we are claiming implicitly that the particular arrangement of matter in question is much better at accomplishing some task than a random rearrangement would be.  In the biological context, we see many examples of form that supports function, and we very often seek to explain the exquisite non-randomness of structure as the result of successive rounds of self-replication, mutation, and selection.  One may also ask, however, what physical mechanisms may still give rise...

Read more about Professor Jeremy England (MIT) - " Mechanisms of Life-like Fine-tuning in Driven Matter"
2017 Dec 13

Professor Stephen Squyres (Cornell) - "The Ancient Habitability of Mars: Science Results from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

The rovers Spirit and Opportunity touched down on Mars in January 2004 and have been conducting extensive observations with the Athena science payload. Together the two rovers have traversed more than 50 km. 

Spirit, located on the floor of Gusev crater, investigated basaltic plains, as well as older materials in the Columbia Hills. The rocks of the Columbia Hills are granular and have undergone significant alteration by water. They appear to be largely a mixture of altered impact ejecta and explosive volcanic materials. Spirit...

Read more about Professor Stephen Squyres (Cornell) - "The Ancient Habitability of Mars: Science Results from the Mars Exploration Rover Mission"
2017 Oct 18

Professor Sijbren Otto (Stratingh Institute) - "Can We Synthesize Life In The Lab? How Chemistry May Become Biology"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

 

How the immense complexity of living organisms has arisen is one of the most intriguing questions in contemporary science. We have started to explore experimentally how organization and function can emerge from complex molecular networks in aqueous solution [1]. We focus on networks of molecules that can interconvert, to give mixtures that can change their composition in response to external or internal stimuli. Molecular recognition between...

Read more about Professor Sijbren Otto (Stratingh Institute) - "Can We Synthesize Life In The Lab? How Chemistry May Become Biology"
2017 Nov 15

Dr. Robert Hazen (Carnegie) - "Big-Data Astrobiology: Exploring the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street
Abstract: 
 

"Large and growing deep-time data resources in mineralogy, geochemistry, paleobiology, petrology, tectonics, and proteomics facilitate statistical exploration and visual representation of large-scale patterns in planetary evolution. Of special note are recent applications of network analysis: visually striking...

Read more about Dr. Robert Hazen (Carnegie) - "Big-Data Astrobiology: Exploring the co-evolution of the geosphere and biosphere"
2017 May 17

Professor Greg Fournier (MIT) - "Between RNA World and LUCA: Physiological, Ecological, and Phylogenetic Inference "

4:00pm to 6:30pm

Location: 

Haller Hall, Geological Museum, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract: 

Origin of Life studies primarily consist of two sets of inferences:  bottom-up, which infer plausible scenarios of abiogenesis given our understanding of planetary, geological, and chemical processes, and top-down, which reconstruct the evolutionary history of life for clues to its earliest states.  A discontinuity exists between these narratives, however, as deterministic physiochemical processes must give way to historic evolutionary processes before the common ancestry of any of the genetic lineages upon which top-down approaches rely.  This...

Read more about Professor Greg Fournier (MIT) - "Between RNA World and LUCA: Physiological, Ecological, and Phylogenetic Inference "
2017 Apr 19

Professor Jeffrey Linsky (University of Colorado Boulder), "Activity of exoplanet host stars: phenomena, physical processes, and effects on exoplanet atmospheres"

4:00pm to 5:30pm

Location: 

Geological Museum, Haller Hall, 24 Oxford Street

Abstract:

I will describe various aspects of stellar activity that control the environment of exoplanets, produce photochemical reactions in their atmospheres, and drive mass loss. The fundamental drivers of stellar active phenomena are strong magnetic fields for which field strengths can be measured by Zeeman broadening of absorption lines in stellar spectra, and the large scale magnetic geometry and properties that can be measured with Zeeman Doppler imaging techniques. Magnetic heating processes produce warm chromospheres and hot coronae. ...

Read more about Professor Jeffrey Linsky (University of Colorado Boulder), "Activity of exoplanet host stars: phenomena, physical processes, and effects on exoplanet atmospheres"

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