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Welcome to the NAI Newsletter! The Newsletter is a compendium of announcements, events, updates, and news items related to the NAI and its research. The publication schedule is once a month. If you have news items or suggestions you can send them to the editor, Julie Fletcher, at: email@example.com.
- NAI News
- Recently Published Research from the NAI
- Astrobiology EPO, Undergrads, Grads, Postdocs
- Courses & Conferences
-- Announcements --
AbSciCon 2006 Symposia Selections
The goal of this meeting is to hold scientific sessions that are truly interdisciplinary. We have just selected 19 symposia that will include the breadth of science represented by scientists attending this meeting. The symposia will be 1/2 day or full day and could be either oral or poster, or even a combination of the two. The title and convener(s) for each symposium are listed below.
I. Bridging Living and Non-living Matter: Oral with Posters
Conveners: Andrew Pohorille and Michael Wilson
II. Astrobiology on the Moon" Oral with Posters
Conveners: Lynn Rothschild, Bernard Foing and Norman Sleep
III. Triggers of Mass-extinctions in the Earths history. Terrestrial vs. Extraterrestrial. Applications for planetary habitability: Oral with Posters
Convener: Alexander Pavlov
IV. Interdisciplinary Research in Cold Mars-Analogue Environments: Oral and Posters
Conveners: Jennifer Eigenbrode, Marc Fries and Libby Hausrath
V. How do extremophiles impact our perception of the habitability of Earth and extraterrestrial environments? Oral and Poster
Conveners: Matthew Schrenk and Julie Huber
VI. Astrobiological Achievements of the NASA Astrobiology Institute: Oral with Posters
Conveners: Executive Council of the NASA Astrobiology Institute via Bruce Runnegar
VII. Sulfur on Earth and Mars: Microbiology, Mineralogy, Isotope Geochemistry, Photochemistry, Role in Mars Exploration, Environmental Impact. Oral with Poster
Conveners: Lee Kump and Bruce Runnegar
VIII. Extraterrestrial pre-biotic chemistry: Synthesis in the Solar System and beyond: Oral with Poster
Convener: Conel Alexander
IX. Exploring Planets Around Other Stars
Conveners: L. Jeremy Richardson, Margaret Turnbull and Hannah Jang-Condell
X. Engaging Public Perceptions of Evolution: Challenges and Opportunities for Scientists and Science Educators: Oral
Conveners: Connie Bertka and Julie Edmonds
XI. Follow the Energy: Oral with Poster
Conveners: Tori Hoehler and Jan Amend
XII. Where Have All the Cowgirls Gone? Success Strategies for Women (and Men!) in Astrobiology
Conveners: Julie Huber and Margaret Turnbull
XIII. Assessing the need for a lander on Europa: Oral with Poster
Convener: Kevin Hand
XIV. The environmental impact of life: redox changes from the microscale to composition of the atmosphere and ocean: Oral with Posters
Conveners: Andrey Bekker and Olivier Rouxel
XV. Habitability on Mars: Surface vs. Subsurface: Oral with Poster
Convener: Kathryn Fishbaugh
XVII. Elements of Life (Metallomics): Oral with Poster
Conveners: Ariel Anbar, Jim Elser and David Emerson
XVIII. Titan as a Prebiotic Chemical System
Conveners: Patricia Beauchamp, Jonathan Lunine and Mark Smith
XIX. Radio Astronomy: New Instruments And Their Importance For Astrobiology: Needs Opinions
Convener: Jill Tarter
For more information on these Symposia http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/coursesconferences/index.cfm
Abstract submission deadline: January 10, 2006
Early Bird Registration Deadline: February 26, 2006
Bookmark the AbScicon website at http://abscicon2006.arc.nasa.gov/ for your primary source of the latest AbSciCon2006 meeting information.
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University of Washingtons Astrobiology Virtual Seminar: The Future of Extrasolar Planet Searches
The NASA Astrobiology Institute will be broadcasting the University of Washingtons Astrobiology Colloquium featuring Eric Agol http://www.astro.washington.edu/agol on Tuesday, December 6th at 2:30pm PST (12:30 HT, 3:30 pm MST, 4:30 CST and 5:30 EST). The talk may be viewed at your local videoconferencing facility or online (see participation instructions below)
Abstract: I will review the present state of our knowledge of the properties of planets orbiting other stars, I will discuss how these planets have been found, and outline the future prospects for finding yet more planets and even smaller planets. I will specifically focus on some novel techniques that are still currently being developed, but may yield detections of planets in the near future. I will describe how this year a graduate student and I have demonstrated for the first time the capability of detecting earth-mass planets about a sun-like star with a technique we developed last year.
Participation Instructions: There are three ways to participate; 1) using Polycom and WebEx, 2) using a telephone and WebEx or 3) using Realmedia Player and WebEx;
1) Using Polycom: RSVP to Diane Hawks at firstname.lastname@example.org at least three hours before the seminar and she will connect to your site. If you need Polycom help during the live event, call the videoconferencing help-desk at (650) 604-6412
2) Using telephone: Dial the NASA conference phone number (877) 891-6023, passcode 381880.
3) Using Realmedia Player: You may watch the webcast at:
http://vanseg-1.arc.nasa.gov/2005/AB051206-01.ram There is a 30 second delay for the webcast, so viewers will need to advance the slides manually in WebEx.
The slides from the seminar may be viewed real-time using WebEx at:
Meeting number: 929 260 195
Questions? Contact Estelle Dodson email@example.com
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Spitzer Space Telescope Cycle 3 Call for Proposals
Proposal Deadline: February 16, 2006
On behalf of NASA and the Spitzer Space Telescope Project, the Spitzer Science Center (SSC) at Caltech is pleased to announce the release of the Cycle-3 Call for Proposals (CP) for Spitzer Space Telescope Observations and funding for Archival and Theoretical Research programs. Investigators worldwide from all types of institutions are eligible to submit proposals in response to this CP.
There are several new features in the Cycle-3 CP and investigators are urged to consult section 3 of the document early in their proposal planning process for a summary of major changes from Cycle-2. Cycle-3 is 13 months long and will run from June 2006 through June 2007.
Proposals must be submitted electronically using Spot, the SSC proposal planning and submission software, and received no later than Thursday, February 16, 2006, 01:00pm PST. The S13 version of Spot is scheduled for release in mid-November 2005 and proposers must use this version of the software to submit their proposals. ** Proposal PDF files MUST be prepared with the Cycle-3 templates available at the Proposal Kit website. **
All programmatic and technical information for Cycle-3 is available electronically from the Proposal Kit section of the Spitzer Science Center website. The URL is http://ssc.spitzer.caltech.edu/propkit/currentcp.html
Any questions should be addressed to the Spitzer Helpdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kepler Uses Radio Waves?
NASAs Kepler Mission is the topic of two upcoming StarDate radio programs! Kepler, due to launch in 2008, will be NASAs first mission with the capability of detecting Earth-sized planets. "Transits" and "Kepler" will be the topics of StarDate radio broadcasts on Thursday, December 1st, and Friday, December 2nd. Find the station and time for your location by going to http://stardate.org/radio/ and then use the "Find an Affiliate" selection button. The Kepler Mission E/PO program is co-managed at the SETI Institute and the Lawrence Hall of Science.
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Recently Published Research from the NAI
The following new papers have been published recently by NAI members. These and other recent NAI funded research are presented on the NAI member portal and collected in the NAI Research Highlights Archive http://nai.arc.nasa.gov/research/. In this archive, you can link to the papers and any press materials that may have been generated about them.
If you have an upcoming or recent publication, please tell us about it as soon as possible. We will work with your institution to produce press releases, publicize the paper on the NAI website, and pre-populate your team's annual report with your publication. Please send any information to Krisstina Wilmoth email@example.com
The Evolution of Reptiles and Astrobiology
Researchers from NAI's Pennsylvania State University Lead Team have conducted the most comprehensive analysis ever performed of the genetic relationships among all the major groups of snakes, lizards and other scaly reptiles. Their paper in C. R. Biologies explains the radical reorganization of this family tree, and the importance to astrobiology.
Astrobiology in a Bookstore Near You
a phantasmagoric wonderland of hydrocarbon fluid, ice, sludge, and rock, all arrayed in frozen glory. . . . Steaming geysers of methane venting from the warmer interior instantly freeze and then fall as black organic snow."
Read more about Titans craters and other speculations in the new book from NAIs University of Washington Lead Team PI Peter Ward "Life as We Do Not Know It: The NASA Search for (and Synthesis of) Alien Life."
SETI Institute M Star Workshop in the News
In its November, 2005 issue, Scientific American reported on the M Star Workshop hosted by NAIs SETI Institute Lead Team this past summer. At the workshop, astrobiologists discussed and debated the possibility for life on planets in an M star system. M stars shine longer before exhausting their fuel, and do not brighten with age. They provide a more stable long-term environment for life-bearing planets, and could be the right environment for the evolution of intelligent life.
Further Studies on the Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen
Lee Kump of NAI's Pennsylvania State University Lead Team is co-author on a new paper in GSA Today examining the rise of atmospheric oxygen at the Archean-Proterozoic transition, 2.5-2.0 billion years ago. The team of international researchers studied sedimentary and volcanic rocks from the Fennoscandian Shield, which provides a fairly complete record of the hallmark events of that transition.
New Insights from MER
The latest issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters features eight publications focused on Sedimentary Geology at Meridiani Planum, Mars, edited by Andy Knoll and Steve Squires. Many NAI-affiliated scientists - past and present - have contributed, including Jack Farmer, Phil Christensen, Ron Greeley, Andy Knoll, Dave Des Marais, and NAIs international partners at the Centro de Astrobiologia.
Astrobiology EPO, Undergrads, Grads, Postdocs
Outreach from on High
Nathalie Cabrol, of the NAI SETI Institute Lead Team, and her team have just returned from their expedition to the high altitude lakes of Bolivia and Chile. These lakes provide a unique Mars analogue study environment. Their outreach website High Lakes features Field Journals, a Kids Corner, Photos, and links to their previous three expeditions to this area. Check it out at: http://www.eventscope.org/highlakes/index.html
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Here today, Gone to Mars!
The NASA Quest Program, based at NASA Ames Research Center, is hosting an educational webcast for grades 5-8 as the culminating activity in their Here Today, Gone to Mars! Quest Challenge. The guest speakers, Chris McKay, Jen Heldmann, and Bill Clancey will be discussing the astrobiology research in Lassen Volcanic National Park, an important Mars analogue field site. Tune in to the webcast on December 13th, at 11:00am PST, at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/challenges/marsanalog/index.html
Caltech Postdoctoral Scholar Positions at JPL
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Postdoctoral Scholars Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is seeking enthusiastic and excellent researchers to apply for positions in its Astrobiology Research Group. The appointees will be guided by Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, Senior Scientist in the Science Division, as the JPL advisor to ensure that the research work will result in publications in the open literature. The positions are in the following areas:
Operation of Planetary Simulations Relevant to Mars. The successful applicant will be involved in the overall definition of science investigations and the analysis of data relevant to Mars space missions. He/she will use existing laboratory analysis facilities, and be responsible for the design and fabrication of special simulation equipment. The simulation studies will address the stability and evolution of organic matter on the martian surface and implications for extinct and extant life on Mars. The applicant will also participate in the scientific support of space instrument development for the detection of organic matter and bio-signatures on Mars. This involves working and publishing with Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund and other members of the Astrobiology group. Applicants should have a PhD in space science, preferably in planetary geology or have an equivalent qualification in engineering. He/she should have some experience in laboratory simulations, chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques. He/she must have the experimental mechanical and electronic skills that are required to design and partly fabricate simulation chambers and conduct related tests. A good track record, as measured by experimental developments and publications, is required.
Analysis of Carbonaceous Material from Meteoritic Matter, Impact Sediments, and Extraterrestrial Dust. The successful applicant will be involved in the analysis of carbonaceous material from meteoritic matter, impact sediments, and extraterrestrial dust and contribute to the design of space instrumentation for the measurements of organics from solar system material (in-situ or returned samples). The applicant will also participate in the scientific support of data analysis and related field tests. This involves working and publishing with Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund and other scientists within JPL. Applicants should have a PhD degree in the area of geology, chemistry, preferably with expertise in the analysis of extraterrestrial matter. The applicant should have experience in extraction methods and subsequent analysis of carbonaceous material using spectroscopy, chromatography and stable isotope techniques. A good publication record is required.
Experimentally Tracing the Key Steps in the Origin of Life. The successful applicant will investigate how building blocks self-assemble and transform themselves into a minimal living system. He/she will particularly address the questions how prebiotic building blocks can form containers, metabolic networks, and informational polymers and how these three components can be cooperatively be organized to form a protocell that satisfies the minimal requirements for a living system. This involves working and publishing with Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund and the consortia of artificial life in the US and Europe. Applicants should have a PhD degree in the area of chemistry, preferably with expertise in prebiotic chemistry. The applicant should have experience in experimental organic chemistry and be open to new ideas and techniques used in the artifical life community. A good publications record is required.
Appointments for all areas are contingent upon evidence of completion of Ph. D. Annual starting salary for a recent Ph. D. is $52,000 and can vary somewhat according to the applicants qualifications. Postdoctoral scholars are awarded initially for a one-year period. Appointments may be renewed in one-year increments for a maximum of two additional years. Applications should include a curriculum vitae, a statement of research experience, and two letters of recommendation. The deadline for the application is December 15, 2005. The starting date for the positions can be as early March 2006. Please send all information and questions to:
Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund, c/o Rowena Dineros, Jet Propulsion Laboratory MS 183-335, 4800 Oak Grove Drive, Pasadena, CA 91109-8099, FAX: (818) 393-6546, Tel: 818-354-2920, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The California Institute of Technology and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory are Equal Opportunity/ Affirmative Action Employers. Women, minorities, veterans, and disabled persons are encouraged to apply.
The 3rd Astrobiology Graduate Conference (AbGradCon) will be held on the University Park Capmus of the Pennsylvania State University from May 31st - June 3rd, 2006. The purpose of AbGradCon is to enhance communication amongst up and coming scientists in the field of astrobiology. Incoming graduate students will observe talks at a relatively introductory level, while exposing them to the diversity of topics relevant to Astrobiology. Advanced graduate students will gain experience in presenting their research to a multidisciplinary audience while building bridges towards future collaborations. This conference will also feature a forum for graduate students to discuss education, resources, and career opportunities in astrobiology. AbGradCon is a student-run conference whose target audience is advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and recently graduated postdocs interested in astrobiology research. Partial funding will be available for students whose abstracts are selected for presentation. More information and a conference URL will be available in the future - please stay tuned to the NAI Newsletter for details.
If you have questions about the conference, please contact the organizing committee:
Shawn D. Goldman (email@example.com)
Vyllinniskii Cameron (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tony Riccardi (email@example.com)
Fabia Battistuzzi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Molecular Geomicrobiology Short Course
The Molecular Geomicrobiology Short Course sessions will be held at the University of California, Berkeley December 2-4, 2005. NASA NAI STUDENT SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE For information, please go to http://cips.berkeley.edu/biomars/events.html or email: email@example.com
This short course will review progress that has resulted recently from integrative molecular approaches applied to problems in environmental microbiology, geomicrobiology, and astrobiology; - and discuss areas of high potential for future research.
Senior undergraduate and graduate students are strongly encouraged to attend. The NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI) is providing funds for 20 students to participate in the short course and will cover their registration and accommodation costs (for non- Bay area students). Apply for these scholarships by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
LAPLACE 2006 Astrobiology Graduate Winter School
The Life and Planets Astrobiology Center (LAPLACE) 2006 Astrobiology Graduate Winter School Habitable Planets around Sun-Like Stars: Common or Rare will be held at the University of Arizona January 4-9, 2006. http://www.laplace.arizona.edu/
The School will provide graduate students from all disciplines related to astrobiology an opportunity to research and develop their own ideas about the likelihood of habitable planets surrounding sun-like stars. The school will emphasize hands-on learning techniques including day and night-time observing on research telescopes at Kitt Peak Observatory, tours of the University of Arizonas Mirror Lab and Tree Ring Lab and activities in the Arizona Radio Observatories Astrochemistry Lab. Students will also have chances to explore some of the unique aspects of the Tucson area including its unique geology and clear dark skies.
Europa Focus Group Workshop
There has been great response to the announcement of the Europa Focus Group workshop, to be held 27-28 February 2006 near NASA Ames Research Center. A nominal registration fee will be collected on site at the meeting. If you plan to participate, please note the following:
1. Registration (due no later than 13 January 2006); in order to register, send the following information to Ron Greeley (email@example.com): your name (to appear on badge), affiliation, e-mail address, snail-mail address, phone and title of proposed presentation.
2. Abstract (send in an unformatted MS word document, maximum characters (with spaces) is 7,000): TITLE (all caps), Authors (presenter in all caps), Affiliation(s), skip a line, body of abstract, skip a line, references cited, Illustrations in black and white can be included, but the total length of the abstract cannot exceed two pages, all inclusive.
3. Student support Upper division undergraduates and graduate students may apply for travel support to the workshop. Send name, university, indicate grad or undergrad status, and half page statement of why you should attend to firstname.lastname@example.org; in addition, arrange for one professor to send a letter of recommendation directly to email@example.com. APPPLICATION FOR STUDENT SUPPORT IS DUE 13 JANUARY 2006
"Discover the Microbes Within!" Workshop
The NAI MBL team is gearing up to host the "Discover the Microbes Within!" workshop for the second time in March 2006. "Discover the Microbes Within!" is a 3-day workshop designed for high school and undergraduate educators. Participants will learn about the diverse ways that bacteria evolve and symbiotically interact with insects, in an environment that fosters close interactions with research scientists and other teachers. Basic topics and lesson plans cover insect collection, insect biodiversity, the mutualistic and parasitic bacteria (Wolbachia) that live within them, DNA extraction, and simple molecular biology and evolutionary analysis skills. For more information, please visit our website at http://jbpc.mbl.edu/microbial-workshop-2005.html
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Astrobiology: Lessons from Planet Earth
Darlene Lim (NASA-Ames), Kurt Konhauser (University of Alberta) and Richard Leveille (Canadian Space Agency), would like to draw your attention to a special session entitled "Astrobiology: lessons from Planet Earth http://www.er.uqam.ca/nobel/gacmac/SSdesc.htm#30 (SS-30) to be held at the GAC-MAC 2006 Annual Meeting in Montreal, May 14-17, 2006.
This session will build upon recent astrobiology-related activities in Canada, including Canadian Space Exploration Workshops, the establishment of a CSA Astrobiology Working Group, as well as the Origins Institute's Astrobiology Conference and Workshop, and the Earth System Processes 2 meeting held earlier this year. The session theme is also in line with the theme of the meeting (i.e., "Planet Earth in Montreal"), which acknowledges the "International Year of Planet Earth".
This session welcomes geobiological contributions from the broad field of astrobiology, including (but not limited to) contributions that deal with life in extreme environments (e.g. cold, dry, deep subsurface, etc), Mars/Europa analog environments, biosignatures, and in situ life-detection strategies.
Abstract submission is now open and the deadline for submitting an abstract is January 23rd, 2006. More details can be found at http://www.gacmac2006.ca
Teaching Introductory College-Level Astronomy and Astrobiology
Ed Prather and Tim Slater (University of Arizona) will be holding the Two-Day
Pre-conference Teaching Workshop June 3-4, 2006, at the Joint Meeting of the AAS and CASCA, Calgary, Alberta Canada.
Astrobiology and Astronomy provide a unique and interdisciplinary environment for teaching the excitement of scientific inquiry to college students. At the same time, high quality teaching presents an ardent challenge because students who most often elect to take interdisciplinary science courses are frequently apprehensive of science and mathematics courses in general. This two-day, interactive teaching excellence workshop will focus on the conceptual and pedagogical dilemmas faculty encounter when teaching and develop practical solutions for the troubling issues in curriculum, instruction, and assessment. After reviewing the latest cognitive research on how students learn topics in astronomy and astrobiology, participants will define and set measurable student learning goals and objectives for students in their interdisciplinary astronomy and astrobiology courses and learn to construct effective course syllabi. To improve instruction, participants will learn how to create productive learning environments by using interactive lectures, peer instruction, engaging demonstrations, collaborative groups, and tutorials. Participants will also learn how to write more effective multiple-choice tests and implement authentic assessment strategies including portfolio assessment, performance tasks, and concept maps. Graduate students are welcome to attend. Preregistration is requested, but not required online at: http://astronomy101.jpl.nasa.gov
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Comments, questions, typos, or omissions? Please contact Julie Fletcher