NSF CAREER Grant Funded!

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We have received confirmation that the proposal “An Evolutionary Framework for the Molecular Fossil Record” has been funded through a National Science Foundation CAREER Award! This generous grant allows us to expand our research on the interpretation of chemical “biomarkers” preserved in ancient rocks. The study of these biomarkers is critical for natural resource exploration, identifying sources of pollution, reconstructing the history of life on Earth, and even when looking for signs of life on Mars. While scientists are very good at identifying the biosignatures contained in rocks, there is a lot of disagreement when it comes to determining what sort of organism made each compound. Our project uses the latest tools in genetics to identify what groups of living organisms have the genes necessary to make various biosignatures, and when in the past each group gained that ability. As part of our outreach, we will be developing courses to train young geologists to use genetic tools for their own research, and will be developing a mentoring program for promising Native American scholars, a group that has been historically harmed by geoscientists through land and resource theft.