Biology of Life Detection on Mars and Ocean Worlds

An amazing talk from NASA’s Dr Scott Perl on how Boulby Mine can give us clues to finding life on Mars.

Tuesday 4 October 7-8pm, Whitby Museum, Normanby Room.  Free but booking essential

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The search for evidence for extant and extinct life in hypersaline brine and hydrated salt mineral environments can be difficult due to needing to decipher biogenic/biological components from organic and mineral substrate. This problem persists in Martian settings (hydrated mineral veins, recurring slope lineae, etc.) and in Europa ice environments (cryobrines, ocean-ice interfaces, etc.) where the burden of proof for life is higher. Terrestrial extreme environments typically have the benefit of microbial ecology alongside geobiological assessments but for life detection on rocky planets and icy worlds this evidence typically can be limited and other geobiological means need to be employed. The purpose of this talk is to highlight hydrated mineral-microbial features that have been uncovered in geologically modern evaporite mineral and brine samples as well as ancient brines that showcase the loss of biogenic evidence.

Dr. Scott Perl is an astrobiologist and geobiologist and a research scientist at NASA JPL since 2012. Dr. Perl has worked in terrestrial extreme environments for several years with an emphasis on hypersaline brines, closed-basin lake systems, underground chemotrophic settings, and frozen brines that have planetary analog features. Dr. Perl’s specialties include vibrational (Raman) spectroscopy of cellular microbial life, in-situ and laboratory analyses of hydrated minerals, clay, and fluidic components. His work is centered around habitability and life detection measurements of Martian and Europa analog environments where microbial life have one thrived or currently reside. Dr. Perl is the Co-Principal Investigator of the JPL Origins and Habitability Lab and also was the Investigation Scientist for the CRISM instrument onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for nearly 7 years. Dr. Perl has also worked on the Mars Exploration Rover (Opportunity), Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity), and now the Mars 2020 (Perseverance) missions and involved with several life detection science concepts.