Affiliation: University of California, Davis
How did life on this planet originate? How did the early biosphere evolve? Has life originated and evolved anywhere else in the universe? These are some of the most fascinating scientific questions of our time. As a geobiologist I endeavor to discover and interpret signatures of these events in the rock records of Earth, and as an astrobiologist I search for evidence of life on other planetary bodies. For more than three billion years the Earth's biosphere was exclusively microbial, so understanding signatures left in the rock record by microbial communities is absolutely crucial to interpreting Earth's early fossil record. Since so much of Earth's biosphere has been dominated by microbial life, it is reasonable that we should learn how to look for signs of microbes off-planet as well. For these reasons, I study how modern microbial mats form complex shapes, or morphologies, and the potential these morphologies have for becoming fossils. Lake Pavilion contains a diverse group of microbial mats that exhibit different morphologies and varying potentials for preservation. I am working to characterize and document these morphologies, as well as to understand how much control the microbes have over these final shapes. If there are morphologies controlled almost exclusively by biological processes, these morphologies will be excellent biosignatures (or signs of life) that we can look for in the rock record. The more we know about how the morphologies are created and how they are affected by their environment, the more information we can glean from the rocks.
When I'm not SCUBA diving and playing in slime, I can be found singing show tunes, jamming on the guitar, grooving at the dance studio, playing make-believe, or standing in line for cheap theatre tickets. I also adore a good book, good meal, good workout, and a game with pals.