Astrobiology is a new interdisciplinary science with cosmic import.
It incorporates such disciplines as biology, microbiology, ecology,
molecular biology, biochemistry, geology, paleontology, space and
gravitational biology, planetology, and astronomy. Its mission to find
extraterrestrial life even captured the government’s attention when
Jack Farmer (Department of Geological Sciences at Arizona State
University) testified about NASA’s efforts to explore for
extraterrestrial life before the Committee on Science in the U.S. House
of Representatives on July 12, 2001.

Farmer will present a new synthesis of ideas on how the burgeoning field
of geobiology is playing a key role in our search for life in the Solar
System on Thursday, November 8, at the Geological Society of America’s
annual meeting. His synthesis will include part of his testimony
recorded in the Congressional Record.

A number of dynamic factors have led to the rise of astrobiology as a
science. Scientists have realized that most of Earth’s biodiversity
is microbial and that large complex microbial ecosystems found in
hydrothermal environments can exist entirely on chemical energy. One
intriguing hypothesis (with obvious importance for astrobiology) is
that life got started in hydrothermal environments. Could hydrothermal
environments have been cradles for life on other planets? Discoveries
of new forms of life on Earth that thrive in extreme environments
broadened the possibilities that similar forms of life might also exist
under similar extreme conditions beyond the Earth. Research on other
planets and their moons are revealing the presence of environments
that compare well with discoveries on Earth, and so there is even more
reason to think that they could also sustain life.

“As a member of the NASA Astrobiology Institute and Director of ASU’s
Astrobiology Program, I have continually come into contact with
wonderfully visionary scientists who are helping expand the horizons
of astrobiology,” Farmer said. “This has been my main source of
inspiration. I guess at the bottom line, it’s just an exciting time
to be in science.”


During the GSA Annual Meeting, November 4-8, contact Ann Cairns or
Christa Stratton at the GSA Newsroom in the Hynes Convention Center,
Boston, Massachusetts, for assistance and to arrange for interviews:
(617) 954-3214.

The abstract for this presentation is available at:

Contact information:

Jack D. Farmer

Geological Sciences

Arizona State University


Phone: 480-965-6748

Fax: 480-965-8102

Ann Cairns

Director of Communications

Geological Society of America

Phone: 303-357-1056

Fax: 303-357-1074