This course will bring together early career researchers in the fields of geology, planetary science, micro- and molecular biology for an introduction to the interdisciplinary field of Geobiology. Participants will be introduced to a collaborative environment and the course will facilitate interaction between researchers in multiple fields who would otherwise have a limited opportunity to exchange ideas. One of the core objectives will be knowledge translation and mobilisation.
The principal themes include methods in field geobiology, integrating geochemical and biological data, interpretation across scales, nucleic acid extraction from rock samples, differences in resolution between field and laboratory data sets, and the importance of geobiology to astrobiology and origin of life studies. Participants will have the opportunity to conduct field research at the Ries impact structure to put into practice lessons learned regarding geobiology field work. This field excursion is the first geobiological field trip to an impact structure and will be led by internationally renowned experts in impact cratering. Participants will come away with the ability to plan and conduct molecular biology research in rock-hosted microbial systems.
This course is directed towards early career researchers, graduate students or postdoctoral researchers interested in geobiology. A background any of the following fields is essential - molecular biology, microbiology, geobiology, geochemistry, mineralogy or microbial ecology.
- Introduction to geobiology field research with a field excursion to the Ries impact structure. Sample collection for laboratory practicals as well as collection of in situ sequencing and geochemical data.
- Geobiology. Rock-associated microbial communities, the role of geobiology in the origin and evolution of life, geobiological biosignatures and the interplay between geochemistry and microbial metabolism. Practicals will include extraction of nucleic acid from rock samples collected during the field excursion.
- Using sequence data in geobiology/ practical library preparation and analysis of sequencing results. Different sequencing methods, comparison of data sets for laboratory based 16S amplicon sequencing and complete 16S field-based sequencing techniques.
- The role of Geochemistry and mineralogy in geobiology. Introduction to geochemistry and mineralogy, different techniques and datasets used to assess potential microbial communities and metabolic potential. Preparation of samples for electron microscopy and comparison of data sets collected with field-based methods and laboratory standards.
Successful participants of this practical course will be able to:
- Design a fieldwork plan for successful execution of sample collection for both molecular biology and geochemical downstream analyses
- Implement a DNA extraction strategy appropriate for geological samples
- Recognise the importance of choosing an appropriate sequencing strategy based on geochemical/geobiological considerations
- Recognise the importance of scalar integration and the requirements for multi-analytical techniques in geobiology
- Discuss the biological significance of meteorite impact events
- Describe the relationship between microorganisms and their abiotic substrates and differentiate between active and passive attachment.
- Prepare geobiological samples for electron microscopy
- Formulate hypothesis regarding the microbial community structure in a given geological environment