GEOS 308
Life on Mars? Spring 2023
Division III

Class Details

On February 18th, 2021, the Perseverance Rover landed in the Jezero Crater on Mars, with the objective to “seek signs of ancient life and collect samples of rock and regolith (broken rock and soil) for possible return to Earth.” In this course, we will investigate what “signs” would point to ancient or modern life, both on the Martian surface and in the chemistry of any samples (eventually) returned to Earth. Topics to be covered include the visual and chemical evidence for life on Earth and its application to Martian environments; if and how compounds indicative of life could be preserved in Martian rocks; insights from Earth analogues for Mars environments; the potential for modern subsurface life on Mars; and whether life on Earth could have originated on Mars. In lab, we will grow our own microbial mats, and characterize the visual and chemical characteristics that make them “alive.” As a final project, students will prepare a mock manuscript for publication in the journal Astrobiology. This course is in the Sediments and Life Group for the Geoscience major.
The Class: Format: lecture/laboratory; 3 hours per week of class, 3 hours per week of lab
Limit: 15
Expected: 12
Class#: 3345
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Weekly lab assignments, two reports on primary literature, final paper in the style of a manuscript for publication
Prerequisites: any 100-level GEOS course
Enrollment Preferences: junior and senior GEOS majors, or permission of instructor
Distributions: Division III
Attributes: GEOS Group B Electives - Sediments + Life

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