Time Machines and Spaceships: Building Search Patterns for Life Detection
The search for life and signs of life beyond our own planet confronts us with myriad challenges – technical, analytical, and epistemological. Current strategies for life detection rely mainly on identification of well-established and widely accepted features associated with contemporary life. But how do we search for signs of life that may use an unknowable, unfamiliar biochemistry? As we explore father out in the Solar System where a common heritage with Earth is less likely it becomes more necessary to design life detection approaches based on fundamental features and mechanistic models of biological systems. It also becomes more imperative to incorporate our knowledge of the abiotic chemical, physical, and geologic processes that provide environmental context for our observations. In this discussion we’ll explore guiding principles for designing a life detection framework that avoids the overuse of analogy and incorporates the limits of parsimony when assessing biosignatures. We will consider methods to deconvolve abiotic inputs, account for alteration processes and expand our search criteria to focus on energetic input.
Presenter: Dr. Heather Graham, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2023
Location: Earth Sciences (ES) 162 or Zoom
Networking Reception: 5:45 p.m. - 6:50 p.m. MT
Presentation: 7:00 p.m. - 8:15 p.m. MT (in-person or Zoom)
Registration will be available soon.
Dr. Heather Graham is an organic geochemist and research physical scientist in the Astrochemistry Laboratory at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Dr. Graham’s research focuses on the fundamental scientific development of tools and techniques that can be used for agnostic biosignature detection both in situ and as part of sample return. With a diverse background in paleobiology, ecology, analytical chemistry, and statistical modeling Dr. Graham combines expertise in the expression and preservation of chemical biosignatures with an understanding of the constraints of space flight instrumentation. Dr. Graham is a member of the OSIRIS-REx soluble organics analysis team, a co-lead for the Network for Life Detection and a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advance Research. They received a Ph.D in Geosciences and Biogeochemistry from the Pennsylvania State University and an A.B. in Chemistry from Occidental College.
Critical Raw Materials for the Energy Transition
The global objective of achieving net zero emissions is driving significant decarbonisation of energy and transport, with a shift towards renewable energy sources and electric vehicles. It is now widely recognised that this will drive significant increases in demand for a range of minerals and metals, including lithium, graphite, manganese, nickel and cobalt (used in batteries), the rare earth elements (used in magnets in motors) and the platinum group elements (for electrolysis to produce green hydrogen). There are concerns about the security of supply of some of these raw materials, and the increasing demand cannot be met solely by recycling; mining of primary resources will be essential.
This talk will describe the types of geological resources that are mined, focusing on our recent research into deposits of the rare earth elements and lithium. It is important to note that geology isn’t everything, and a range of other challenges can also impact the raw materials value chain; these may relate to mineral processing, social and environmental impacts, economics and politics. This talk will also give an overview of some of our recent and ongoing research on sustainable exploration, mining, and value chains for these raw materials that are critical for the energy transition.
Presenter: Kathryn Goodenough, Principal Geologist, British Geological Survey
Date: January 19, 2023
Joining us in person:
Time/Location: 5:45 – 6:50 (MT) in Earth Sciences (ES), Room 162
Time/Location: 7 – 8:15 p.m. (MT) in Earth Sciences (ES), Room 162
Joining us on-line:
Time: 7 – 8:15 p.m. (MT)
Dr Kathryn Goodenough is a Principal Geologist at the British Geological Survey, with a research focus on the geology of critical raw materials and on sustainable resource management. She also leads engagement in international geoscience for the BGS. She has a degree in Earth Sciences from Oxford University and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, and has worked at BGS for over 20 years. She is Chief Editor of the Open Access journal Earth Science, Systems and Society (ES-cubed) and UK representative on the Executive Committee of the International Continental Drilling Programme, and in 2020 she was recognised as one of the 100 Global Inspirational Women in Mining. She is also active on Twitter at @kmgoodenough.
Bethany Ladd is the co-founder and Head of Operations at Carbin Minerals and a Research Scientist at the University of British Columbia. She earned a Bachelor of Science from Brown University and a Master of Science in hydrogeology from the University of Calgary. While at the University of Calgary, she specialized in aqueous geochemistry with a focus on dissolved gases in groundwater. Following her degree, she built a career running applied, interdisciplinary research projects. This led her to the University of British Columbia, where she most recently co-founded Carbin Minerals, a UBC spinout and XPRIZE award-winning carbon dioxide removal company.