EANA Lecture: Prospection for Fossil Life on Mars
October 7, 2021

EANA Lecture: Prospection for Fossil Life on Mars

Nora Noffke, Old Dominion University, Virginia, USA

December 01, 2021 – 4 pm (CET)

For registration, please follow this link: https://forms.gle/qo8aWSjPo859zAoK7

Abstract: Clastic sedimentary rocks have long been overlooked with respect to the occurrence of fossil icrobenthos. However, sandstones display a great array of sedimentary structures originally caused by microbial mats interacting with hydraulic and climatological parameters of their paleoenvironment. Modern microbial mats organize their complex internal microfacies by binding, they baffle and trap suspended particles to avoid burial, and they biostabilize their substrate in order to withstand erosion or desiccation. Such interaction results in characteristic microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS), a group of microbialites of much different morphologies than stromatolites. Because Archean rocks on Earth and Noachian deposits on Mars have approximately the same ages, Archean fossils and biogenic structures constitute valuable biosignatures. The large volume of clastic deposits on Mars calls for the investigation of such lithologies on Earth. Archean sandstones include a wealth of MISS. This presentation discusses the significance of genesis, taphonomy and detectability of terrestrial MISS for the prospection of these biogenic structures in Noachian clastica on Mars.

Nora Noffke is a sedimentologist interested in the interaction of microbenthos with clastic deposits resulting in microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS). MISS allow insight into prokaryote evolution since the early Archean time. Such structures also serve the life exploration of comparable lithologies on Mars.

Noffke received her training in geology-paleontology at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. As a student of Dolf Seilacher, she specialized in ichnology of clastic deposits, conducting her Diploma research in the Arenigian of the Montagne Noire, France. For her PhD, she joined the working group of Wolfgang Krumbein and Gisela Gerdes, University of Oldenburg. Here, Noffke was exposed to research on modern microbial mats at the North Sea coast, the Red Sea, and the Mediterrean. Returning to the Montagne Noire, she detected fossil MISS. After a year of lecturing at the University of Frankfurt/M., Noffke migrated to the USA, where she studied with Andy Knoll at Harvard University, exploring Neoproterozoic rock successions with respect to MISS. In 2001, Noffke joined the faculty at Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia, USA.

The webinar is supported by Europlanet 2024 RI

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