After 13 years at the helm, founding director Prof. Malcolm Walter has passed the baton to new co-directors Profs Martin Van Kranendonk and Chris Tinney, who took the reins in March 2013. Whereas martin Van Kranendonk’s research interests closely align with those of Malcolm’s, focussing on early life on Earth, Chris Tinney brings a fresh set of Astrobiological interests relating to the discovery of exoplanets and habitable worlds outside of or solar system.
One of the first tasks the new co-directors faced was to address some issues that arose through a university review of the ACA. This led to a “Gathering of the Clan”, a meeting of all interested ACA members down at the Seasalt Café at Clovelly Beach, to devise a set of short term and long term goals for the ACA. The gathering was facilitated by Wendy Francis, who introduced us to the World café style of think-tank, and it fostered much discussion that led to a number of good ideas that are being used to devise the future activities of the ACA.
First and foremost amongst the suggestions raised was to foster better communication amongst ACA members and to revitalise the ACA seminar series. This has been done and now three ACA student members, Ian Morrison, Kim Bott, and Tara Djokic are busy getting members to offer their seminars for the coming year. The first seminar kicks off on March 19th, with Tara Djokic presenting an overview of her trip to a Hawaii astrobiology field school (please see the Activities page), followed by confirmed speakers through to end of April. Drinks and nibbles provided, so all are welcome.
The second item dealt with by the new administration was a redesign of the ACA logo and website, the results of which you see before you now, which went live on Feb 9, 2014. We hope you like the fresh, sharp look, designed by Glenn and Rennie of the Puff Creative group in Melbourne.
In between, the ACA hosted the second Astrobiology Australia Conference at the University of New South Wales, organised by ACA PhD candidates David Flannery and Ian Morrison. Over 80 participants met for two days in early July to discuss Astrobiology. Participation focussed on post graduate students from around Australia, but there was a good contingent of overseas academics, including from the United States and China. A goal is to hold the conference every other year, and to broaden our appeal to the Australasia region, with the next meeting to be held in 2015.
For 2014, a Field Mapping School is being offered in the 3.5 billion-year-old rocks of the Pilbara Craton of Western Australia that hold the most convincing evidence for early life. This course is designed for all those interested in astrobiology, including teachers, laboratory scientists, and others who do not normally have the chance to see the evidence for early life on Earth themselves, but who may want to learn about the complexity involved in geological undertakings in astrobiology.
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