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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - The rock bottom of the food web

20th January 2014, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Cosin's Hall, Palace Green, Professor Brad Tebo (Oregon Health and Science University, USA)

This seminar will address questions concerning the energetic basis of life in the absence of light. The Earth's crust, especially the oceanic crust, is largely composed of materials derived from volcanic activity. These materials (e.g., basaltic rocks) can be very reactive and contain an abundance of reduced metals such as iron and manganese that, through oxidation (giving up an electron), can potentially provide inorganic chemical energy to microorganisms for their growth. 

It's been recently recognized that there is an extensive microbial biosphere in the Earth's dark subsurface, but the energy sources fueling the microbial communities are unknown. Do rocks provide energy or other nutrients for microbial metabolism and growth? If so, how do microbes harness that energy or capture those nutrients? Do organisms leave signatures in the rocks indicative of their activities? What are the implications of these microbe-mineral/rock interactions for the evolution of life on the planet or the possibility of extraterrestrial life? 

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact for more information about this event.