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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 mobilization. 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 in any of molecular biology, microbiology, geobiology, geochemistry, mineralogy, microbial ecology is essential.
The topics will cover the following aspects
- Introduction to geobiology field research with a field excursion to the Ries impact structure where students will learn about geology and biology field techniques, impact cratering, the biological significance of impact cratering. Students will collect samples that will be used in future laboratory practicals as well as collect in situ sequencing and geochemical data
- Geobiology. In this module students will be introduced to 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: this module will be focused on practical library preparation and the analysis of sequence results. Students will learn about different segueing methods and will be able to compare data sets for laboratory based 16S amplicon sequencing and complete 16S field-based segueing techniques.
- The role of Geochemistry and mineralogy in geobiology. In this module students will be given and introduction to geochemistry and mineralogy and the different techniques and datasets used assess potential microbial communities and metabolic potential. Students will prepare samples for electron microscopy and compare data sets collected with field-based methods and laboratory standards.