Professor Kathleen Campbell from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, took the ACA on a tour of hot springs, explaining how these complex systems may have been the setting for the emergence of life here on Earth – and possibly on Mars, as well.

Watch Professor Campbell’s seminar on the ACA YouTube channel, here.

Presentation: ‘The Extreme Environments of Hot and Cold Springs on Earth and the Search for Extra-terrestrial Life in the Solar System’

Abstract: The quest to find life beyond Earth has accelerated in recent years since the lull following NASA’s Mars Viking missions of the 1970’s. Both the ‘Goldilocks Zone’ of the inner planets and Icy Worlds of the outer Solar System are receiving scrutiny by planetary scientists. Astrobiologists are also studying extremophile microbes adapted to harsh conditions on Earth, with extreme environments serving as guides for identifying habitable worlds and recognising past or present ET life. This talk will explore findings from Professor Kathleen Campbell’s research on hot and cold springs and their application to understanding the settings for early life on Earth and the search for potential biosignatures elsewhere.

Presenter biography: Professor Kathy Campbell is a geologist, paleoecologist and astrobiologist investigating extreme environments, particularly hot and cold springs as analogue settings for early life on Earth and possible life elsewhere in the Solar System. Her university studies were undertaken in the western U.S., followed by a National Research Council/NASA post-doctoral appointment at NASA Ames Research Center in California, before she joined The University of Auckland in 1997. She is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand Te Apārangi, and is founding Director of Te Ao Mārama – Centre for Fundamental Inquiry, a transdisciplinary research centre at the University of Auckland exploring the origin and evolution of the Universe and its life. Professor Campbell was an invited senior research fellow at the Le Studium Institute for Advanced Studies in France (2014), and a distinguished lecturer in international astrobiology schools in Spain (2016) and Thailand (2019). In NASA's Mars 2020 landing site selection process, her team's proposal made it into the final three, with the aim to collect samples of potential Martian biosignatures from a >3-billion-year-old hot spring deposit at Columbia Hills in Gusev Crater, and their eventual return to Earth in a future mission. She is a UNSW Faculty of Science Visiting Fellow, in Sydney to engage with academics and post-graduate students in the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.