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Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe. As such it is an inherently interdisciplinary field, incorporating all of the basic natural sciences: biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and the earth sciences, as well as aspects of philosophy, sociology, and engineering. Questions we will seek answers to in this class include: How, why, when, and where did life evolve on Earth, and what does that tell us about how it might evolve elsewhere? What are the chances that there is life on other planets and moons in our solar system, and why? Are there habitable planets elsewhere in the universe, and will we ever truly know if any of them contain life? We will approach these questions using a combination of lectures, activities, labs, homework assignments, and virtual visits from some of the country’s leading Astrobiology researchers. Examples of lab and homework activities include exploring our definition of life by making observations about living and non-living systems, examining evidence for ancient habitable environments in rocks, reconstructing the geological history of Mars using satellite imagery, and modeling exoplanet atmospheres using computer simulations. Assessment will be based on participation, quizzes, labs and homework assignments, and a final group project where students will write a mock NASA mission proposal. This course is in the Sediments and Life group for the Geosciences major.
Format: lecture/laboratory; All lecture components will be via asynchronous online content. Labs will have in person and remote options; in person lab group will meet every other week and have virtual group project work on alternate weeks.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Assessment will be based on participation, quizzes, labs and homework assignments, and a final group project where students will write a mock NASA mission proposal.
first year and second year students, Geosciences majors
This course counts towards the GEOS Group B Electives - Sediments and Life
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
GEOS Group B Electives - Sediments + Life