Stromatolites and the Origins of Life

Stromatolites represent a model for studying the origins and evolution life on our planet. They are geobiological structures composed of complex and diverse microbial communities. The study of microorganisms associated with these formations may also be applied to the existence of extraterrestrial life, particularly with the discovery of unique bio-signatures.

This project is part of research undertaken at the UNSW Australian Centre for Astrobiology and at NASA in the United States. Novel microorganisms are being investigated for their mechanisms of osmotolerance, cell-cell signalling, EPS production, and other unique physiologies that allow adaptation to extreme habitats and permit the formation and persistence of these evolutionarily significant systems. They are also being studied as biotechnological resources with the potential to discover novel therapeutic compounds. Modern microbial and molecular biology techniques (including metagenomics) will be used in the project.

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