June 28, 2005

Searching for Life Beneath the Earth - Renowned Scientist to Speak at WNCC

Dr. Duane P. Moser, a microbial ecologist with the Desert Research Institute in Las Vegas, will discuss the search for life in the deep terrestrial subsurface of Earth at Western Nevada Community College on Thursday, June 30, from 7-8 p.m. Moser's talk will be in Room 103 of the Reynolds Center for Technology at WNCC Carson City, 2201 West College Parkway. The event is free and open to the public.

Moser received his Ph.D. in Biological Sciences under noted astrobiologist Kenneth H. Nealson at the University of Wisconsin in 1997, studying the role of microbes in a variety of habitats including deep Great Lakes and marine sediments. Moser then joined the Geosciences Department at Princeton University and managed a large international project focused on searches for life more than two miles deep in gold and platinum mines of South Africa. In 2004, Moser joined the Desert Research Institute where he is developing several research projects, including microbial communities of geothermal fields, terminal and playa lakes; long-distance atmospheric transport of microbes; and deep contaminant transport in the subsurface at the Nevada Test Site. Moser is also working on an international collaboration analyzing a five-million-year-old lake core from Qinghai Lake in Tibet.

Of the many unusual locations Moser has worked, he says the deep African mines have made the most profound impression. Moser was immersed in the African culture for more than two years. During that time, he sampled dozens of mines and also explored the sometimes mystical landscapes and wildlife of Southern Africa.

Moser says, "This is the landscape from which our kind first emerged. It is as if humans bear a genetic memory of the place: so familiar, yet so foreign. The mines represent a place that is, as the Africans say, 'down where no lion has walked.'"

Moser will be in Carson City to teach a class at WNCC's second Summer Astrobiology Institute at the Jack C. Davis Observatory. The Institute, Life in the Universe: Astrobiology in Education, teaches K-12 teachers about the fascinating subject of astrobiology, an emerging multidisciplinary field that is focused on discovering "life" in our solar system and beyond at levels of interrelated complexity ranging from molecular to galactic.

After Moser's talk, the Western Nevada Astronomical Society will host a Star Party at the Davis Observatory, 2699 Van Patten. The Star Party, also free and open to the public, will allow guests to see planets, stars and deep space objects through the observatory's telescopes.

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