UCSC and NASA Ames to Discuss Collaboration in Astrobiology

March 20, 1997

Author: Robert Irion

Tim Stephens
UCSC Public Information Office

SANTA CRUZ, CA: “Astrobiology,” an intriguing new interdisciplinary research field spanning the origins and evolution of life on Earth and elsewhere, will be the focus of a “gathering of minds” at UC Santa Cruz on Saturday, March 22. The daylong workshop will begin at 8:30 a.m. in room B206, Earth and Marine Sciences Building. The meeting is not open to the public.

Scientists from UCSC and the NASA Ames Research Center will convene to discuss astrobiology projects on which the two institutions might collaborate. UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood and NASA Ames science administrator David Morrison will address the assembly.

The meeting illustrates NASA’s desire to get university researchers across the country involved in its new a “Origins” program--a major and long-term research direction to study life in its many possible manifestations. Further, the National Science Foundation has announced funding for projects in its a “Life in Extreme Environments” program, ranging from the surfaces of other worlds to the deepest ocean vents on Earth.

“There is real research to be done in this interdisciplinary area,” said meeting organizer David Deamer, research professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UCSC. “Collaborations exist between astronomers, biologists, and chemists here and at NASA Ames. We’d like to strengthen those ties and extend them into other areas as well.” Those areas, he noted, could include evolutionary biology, molecular biology, earth sciences, marine sciences, and physics.

Examples of research in astrobiology, Deamer said, include the quest for extrasolar planets, a project in which UCO/Lick Observatory astronomers are participating; the search for past or present life on Mars; the origins of the first genetic systems and the first cells on Earth; the role of comet or meteorite impacts in the history of life on Earth; the genesis and survival of life in harsh conditions; and how life responds to diverse forces, such as climate changes and prolonged exposure to gravity.

Editor’s note:

You may reach Deamer at deamer@hydrogen.ucsc.edu or 831-459-5158. Reporters are welcome to attend the meeting.

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