The Centre for Excellence in Geobiology in Bergen links not only geology and biology but also modern and early earth systems. Research on Astrobiological topics will centre in the coming years on:
Early Earth and Biosignatures
This team works to understand the nature and habitat of early life on Earth. We aim to reconstruct the environmental and tectonic controls on the emerging Archean biosphere and to develop new textural and geochemical indicators of past life. Research will focus on drill core and surface samples from the Barberton Greenstone Belt of South Africa and the Archaean-Proterozoic transition of the Pechenga Greenstone Belt Northern Russia. This team is developing tools and approaches including raman spectroscopy and nanoSIMS to seek life on other planets.
Deep-sea hydrothermal systems and geodynamics
This team focuses on the Arctic Mid-Ocean Ridge system exploring new areas for novel vent fields; and investigating the interaction of tectonic, magmatic and hydrothermal processes. Of particular relevance to Astrobiology are efforts to develop new technologies for the mapping, monitoring and sampling of deep marine and sub-seafloor systems. For example, submarine rovers seafloor observatories and sensor. They are also working to monitor and model fluid flow in the subseafloor relating to natural volcanic and magmatic processes and anthropogenic CO2 storage.
Rock-water-microbe interactions and the Deep biosphere
This team investigates the alteration of oceanic crust by circulating fluids and the resulting chemical exchange that supports a deep biosphere. They combine geochemical, microbiological and mineralogical studies to characterise the chemolithoautotrophic micro-organisms that inhabit the subseafloor and to identify the energy sources that sustain these ecosystems. They are also undertaking laboratory and in-situ experiments to investigate hydrogen generation and serpentisation reactions. In addition, they work to understand biomineralisation processes and resulting biosignatures in both low and high temperature deposits.
Life in Extreme Environments and Roots of life
This team is working to increase our knowledge of deeply branching lineages within the tree of life especially from the phylum Archaea and thermophilic micro-organisms from hot springs and hydrothermal vents. They are studying the microbial diversity of newly discovered chemosynthetic vent systems and deep sea sediments from the Arctic ridges also terrestrial analogues to martian subsurface habitats. An important part of this work involves the development of "omic" technologies to study the activity of microbial communities in situ.