Postdoctoral opportunity in Geobiology : The search for life on Mars
-Position Closed / Candidate Appointed –
Numerous orbital and in situ missions to Mars, including the ongoing MSL mission with the Curiosity rover, have demonstrated that the planet was habitable in the past. By what kinds of microorganisms? Summons et al. (2011) and Westall et al. (2013) suggest that the most likely life forms on Mars in the past (and perhaps today in the subsurface) were anaerobic chemotrophs living in what, today, would be considered extreme environments but were completely normal for early Mars. MSL and the forthcoming missions (ExoMars 2018, Mars 2020) seek traces of these fossil (and possibly extant) martian life forms. The question is, what are their likely signatures, how will we recognize them, what should we be looking for on Mars.
The FP7-funded MASE project (Mars Analogue Sites on Earth) seeks to determine the survivability of anaerobic microorganisms isolated from extreme terrestrial environments and subjected to various Mars-related environmental stresses. However, since it is unlikely that life could survive at the surface of the planet under its present oxidizing and radiation conditions, the ultimate goal is to determine what biosignatures could be preserved in rocks dating from the time on Mars when life may have flourished at the surface (Early-Mid Noachian). The environmentally-abused anaerobes will be artificially fossilized and processed to imitate potential microfossils in Noachian-age martian rocks and the ensuing biosignatures will be analysed in order to determine what might be preserved.
We seek a biogeoscientist for a 3 year postdoctoral position starting in mid 2014 to participate in this exciting and hugely timely project to detect biosignatures on Mars. The candidate should ideally have some experience in biogeology, for instance in microbe-mineral interactions, and the analytical techniques needed to analyse the microorganisms (electron microscopy, GC-MS, HPLC, Raman/IR spectroscopy etc.).
Interested candidates are requested to send their CVs by email to: Dr. Frances Westall
Head Exobiology Group, CNRS-Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire, Rue Charles Sadron, 45071 Orléans cedex 2, France