Video conference TOMORROW! Vote for the timing of Spring 2016 RPL Video Conferences.


Newsletter - Vol. 8 - December 2015

Mark your Calendar!


RPL Co-I Boyd will present New Insights into the Evolution of Biological Nitrogen Fixation -
VPL Astrobiology Colloquium Series - Click Here to Watch


RPL monthly video conference -

December 9th – 1:15 – 2:30pm MST - RPL Graduate Student Roundtable

Featuring: Laura Beuter, MSU; Melody Lindsay, MSU; Julia McGonigle, Utah; Estefania Ortiz, Texas A&M; Katie Rempfert, CU; Jeemin Rhim, MIT; Kirt Robinson, ASU

December 21st - deadline to submit an Oman Drilling Project Application to Participate


Reminder for all Co-Is: Send Alexis your first responses to the RPL co-I report details for Annual Report by Saturday, December 12th.

Request for all Co-Is and Collaborators: Please consider, and consult with your lab group, the 3 options for timing of the Spring 2016 RPL video conferences and send me your preference.

1) Tuesday 10-11:30 am MST

2) Wednesday 10-11:30 am MST

3) Wednesday 1 - 2:30 pm MST

RPL News From the Field

Atlantis Massif Expedition 357 is wrapping up and heading back to Southampton, UK. The final science update is now available, below is a brief summary of the science:

         During Expedition 357, a total of 57.13 m of core was recovered after 108.939m (including a short open hole section) of total penetration, and with an overall recovery of 52.84% at 17 holes at 9 different sites. Two holes were drilled to nearly 16.5 mbsf, with an average core recovery of 71-75%. Such high recovery in shallow mantle sequences is nearly unprecedented in the history of ocean drilling. The cored sections were highly heterogeneous, ranging from moderately to highly altered and deformed serpentinized peridotites, with varying compositions and occurrences of talc-amphibole schist zones. Less abundant lithologies included lithified basalt breccias, rodingites, and metagabbros with cataclastic to (ultra)mylonitic deformation fabrics. Thus, the cores recovered by seabed rock drilling along the east-west transect across the southern ridge of the Atlantis Massif record an intricate history of deformation, alteration and fluid flow. 
       In addition to recovering lower crustal and upper mantle sequences of the detachment fault zone of the Atlantis Massif, advancements in seafloor drill rig technology were achieved during Expedition 357. For the first time, two borehole plug systems were successfully installed. These borehole packers will enable future sampling of formation fluid from the boreholes to understand geochemical and microbiological processes in this actively serpentinizing system.

RPL Graduate Student James Leong is currently at sea on IODP Expedition 360 to the SW Indian Ridge. The goal of this mission is to drill into the upper mantle and examine the crust/mantle boundary. Of course, serpentinzation is a big deal with all of this!

Co-I Tominaga and Collaborator Kubo will join Co-I Cardace for fieldwork at CROMO January 25-28, 2016.


RPL Science

RPL post-doc Lauren Seyler is currently in LA visiting Jan Amend’s lab and the Life Underground NAI team, and Mike Russell and Laurie Barge from the JPL Icy Worlds NAI team. Her visit was funded by an NAI travel grant.

Co-Is McCollom, Hoehler, and Schrenk were funded through DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Lab (EMSL) to study Dissolved Organic Matter in Serpentinization-Influenced Groundwater: Fingerprints of Deep and Shallow Sources. They will investigate DOM composition in the groundwaters at CROMO in order to decipher the source and processes associated with DOM at CROMO.

Co-Is Billy Brazelton and Lisa Mayhew travel to Bremen, Germany at the end of January 2016 to join the rest of the On- and Off-shore Science Party members (including RPL Team members Matt Schrenk and Katrina Twing) of Atlantis Massif Expedition 357. Core description, archiving, and sampling will occur during the approximately 3 week long on-shore science mission.

Co-I Hoehler will present a talk about RPL at the Gordon Research Conference on the Origin of Life in January 2016. Please send him a couple of summary slides on early results, whatever you are willing to share in a GRC setting.


Important information from NAI Central

The Astrobiology Program at NASA has launched a new website!
RPL at AGU 2015

The Oman Drilling Project will hold a Pre-AGU meeting, hosted by Peter Kelemen, Juerg Matter and Jude Coggon, on Sunday, 13th December, at 2pm at the Marriott, Union Square, San Francisco.

RPL Co-Is Spear and Cardace will attend and present at AGU:

V11A-3047: Biological Processes Related to Serpentinization: Expected vs Observed Patterns (invited)
Dawn Cardace, et al.
Monday morning

P11C-2105 Community Characterization of Microbial Populations Found at a Cold Water Sulfidic Spring in the Canadian High Arctic
Chris Trivedi, Graham Lau, Alexis Templeton, Steve Grasby, John Spear, et al.
Monday, 14 December, Moscone South Poster Hall, 8:00AM - 12:20PM

B11I-0557 Heterotrophic potential of Atribacteria from deep marine Antarctic sediment
Steph Carr, John Spear, et al.
Monday, 14 December, Moscone South Poster Hall, 8:00AM - 12:20PM

There are also a number of presentations from the 2015 International GeoBiology Course:

B21C-0450 Manganese Influences Carbonate Precipitation in a Laminated Microbial Mat
Tuesday, 15 December, Moscone South Poster Hall, 8:00AM - 12:20PM
PP12A-06 Paleoenvironmental reconstruction of ~40ka stromatolites from the ancient Lake Lahontan, Nevada, US
Monday, 14 December, Moscone West, Room 2012, 11:35 - 11:50AM; a talk by Lenhart van Maldegem (Max Plank) and a student on the 2015 International Geobiology Course
P31A-2024 Preservation Potential of Life in Little Hot Creek, California: Implications for the use of Hot Spring Systems as Astrobiological Target
Wednesday, 16 December, Moscone South Poster Hall, 8:00AM - 13:40PM
B21C-0445 Vertical Microbial Community Variability of Carbonate-based Cones may Provide Insight into Formation in the Rock Record
Tuesday, 15 December, Moscone South Poster Hall, 8:00AM - 12:20PM
Highlighted Publication

RPL Co-Is Shock and Boyd recently authored the manuscript Principles of Geobiochemistry which was published in Elements this month. They highlight 5 principles to guide hypothesis generation and future research in the field of geobiochemistry - the study of the affect of geology on biochemistry. The 5 principles are: 1) Life emerges as a planetary response to the flow of energy through a water-rock-organic system; 2) biochemical processes have geochemical origins; 3) enzymatic processes recapitulate mineral catalysis; 4) biological innovations occur near to where first needed; and 5) "things that burst into flame are not good to eat". While the authors acknowledge that these 5 themes do not encompass the entirety of the field of geobiochemistry, they "...hope that they will illustrate the breadth of new possibilities in this field as it advances to meet the myriad challenges and societally demanding questions confronting 21st century geoscientists."
Citation: Shock, E.L. and E.S. Boyd.  Principles of Geobiochemistry.  2015. Elements. 11. 395-401. doi: 10.2113/gselements.11.6.395.
Also recently published by RPL Co-Is:
Templeton, A.S. and Benzerara, K. Emerging Frontiers in Geomicrobiology. 2015 Elements. 11. 423-429. DOI: 10.2113/gselements.11.6.423

Scientific Opportunities

A Geobiology Gordon Research Conference  Reconstructing Processes from Genes to the Geologic Record will be held January 31 - February 5, 2016 in Galveston, TX. The conference is being organized by David Fike and Tonja Bosak. Applications are due January 3rd!

The NSF Science and Technology Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) invites proposals for 1-year research projects (in the anticipated range of $50,000-$80,000) and 1-2 year graduate student and postdoctoral fellowships that will significantly advance C-DEBI's central research agenda: to investigate the subseafloor biosphere deep in sediments and the volcanic crust, and to conduct multi-disciplinary studies to develop an integrated understanding of subseafloor microbial life at the molecular, cellular, and ecosystem scales. Phase 2 of C-DEBI comprises a transition from dominantly exploration-based investigations to projects that balance discovery with hypothesis testing, data integration and synthesis, and ecosystem modeling.

C-DEBI also invites proposals to support education and outreach projects, with a budget of up to $50,000 and a project duration of 1 year. The C-DEBI Education & Outreach Grants Program will fund the development of educational opportunities and materials that are pertinent to deep biosphere research in the subseafloor environment in support of our education and outreach goal to create distinctive, targeted education programs and promote increased public awareness about life below the seafloor.

Submit your research for publication in a Special Topic issue of Frontiers in Microbiology which will focus on the theme  “Studies on life at the energetic edge – from laboratory experiments to field-based investigations”. The topic aims to bring together contributions from the diverse fields of biochemistry, geochemistry, geology, genetics, microbiology, ecology and biotechnology. Your advantage by publishing under this Special Topic is higher visibility of your work and open access to the paper with a 25% discount on the publishing fee. Frontiers in Microbiology is becoming one of the strong journals in our field with a current impact factor of 4.0.
Topic Editors are Mark A. Lever, Jan P. Amend, Tori M. Hoehler and Bo Barker Jørgensen
Please note the following deadlines:
Abstract submission: 18 December 2015
Manuscript submission: 10 June 2016
News from the broader Astrobiology Community

SAGANet has  launched If there is ever anything you want to broadcast to the 1,434 astrobiology enthusiasts (seminars, student opportunity..) who are part of SAGANet, send it to this email address, to be put on the monthly SAGANet newsletter!

RPL Communications Update

We have a new team logo! Please incorporate this new logo into all of your RPL related presentations. Email Lisa Mayhew for copies of the logo in different file formats.

'Current Events' box on our website is being updated regularly and includes timely information about Atlantis Massif Exp. 357 and the Oman Drilling Project - check back often and please share the link