The vast majority of the near-surface environment of the planets of the inner Solar System (including large portions of the Earth) are desolate, barren, rocky environments - understanding how and where life exists offers insight into the origin and development of Life on Earth and potentially elsewhere.
We are interested in, and currently have projects to study, microbial processes in rocky environments. These include volcanic environments, the deep subsurface, asteroid and comet impact craters, polar deserts and others. We are interested in these environments for many reasons including:
1) Extreme environments provide insights into the environment of early Earth when volcanic activity and impact events, for instance, were more common than today.
2) The study of microbe-mineral interactions helps assessments of the habitability of extraterrestrial environments and are key controls on a number of important earth system processes.
Space microbiology investigates the response of microorganisms to the harsh conditions of space - an environment they experience routinely during spaceflight and potentially on material ejected from planetary surfaces during large impacts.
Microbe-mineral interaction has considerable potential for commercial applications. we are investigating a number of areas as an extension of the research above.