My interests lie in environmental microbiology and astrobiology. I’ve taken a few of [REDACTED]'s microbiology courses, including his summer field course, [REDACTED]. Many of my class projects in his classes and during my summer research, I worked with samples collected from sites from Inyo County, California, including at Deep Springs Lake and the hot springs at Little Hot Creek. I’m interested in these areas because of the growing body of literature coming out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and other researchers publishing in the field of astrobiology. These researchers are looking at hot springs here on Earth—in Inyo County’s hot springs and in Yellowstone National Park—as in situ models for what life on Mars may have looked like millions of years ago. One study published in May this year—while we were on the field course—examined evidence of microbial respiration preserved in mineralized microbial mats. The authors of the study suggested that we may find similar-looking fossils on Mars. Of course, it’s hard for astrobiologists to get close enough to find fossils like these on another celestial body. Until we have the resources to send manned missions to other bodies like Mars, Saturn’s moon Enceladus, or Jupiter’s moon Europa, etc., we can observe them from afar and identify geophysical features—namely, liquid water—that indicate a hospitable environment.
I’ve built up experience in environmental microbiology through [REDACTED]’s classes, as well as a soil microbiology course I’m currently taking. I’ve also taken other environmental science courses, such as [REDACTED]'s biogeochemistry course. I think that geomorphology is probably a key subject for me to build up my knowledge in. Being able to identify the geological features that astrobiologists look for, like surface or subsurface water or evidence of such, historic glaciers, vulcanism, tidal heating, etc., understanding why astrobiologists may look for these things, would be very useful to me in the future.