Gordon Osinski (Univ. of Western Ontario)
"The Role of Meteorite Impacts in the Origin and Evolution of Life"
Impact cratering is one of the most ubiquitous geological processes in the Solar System. Over the past decade, it has become clear that impact events have profoundly affected the origin and evolution of Earth and producing benefits in the form of economic mineral and hydrocarbon deposits. The destructive geological, environmental, and biological effects of meteorite impact events are well known. This is largely due to the discovery of the ~180 km diameter Chicxulub impact structure, Mexico, and its link to the mass extinction event that marks the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 Myr. ago. In recent years, it has also become apparent that, once formed, impact events also have certain beneficial effects, particularly for microbial life. The effects range from generating conditions conducive for the origin of life (e.g., clays, which form catalysts for organic reactions, and hot spring environments) to varied habitats for life that persist long after an impact event, including hydrothermal systems, endolithic habitats in shocked rocks and impact glasses, and impact crater lakes. This may have important implications for our understanding of the origin and evolution of early life on Earth, and possibly other planets such as Mars.
About the Speaker
Dr. Osinski's research interests are diverse and interdisciplinary in nature. His work synthesizes field, remote sensing, and laboratory observations with a range of geochemical data. His current research falls into three main areas: planetary geology, astrobiology, and economic geology. Meteorite impact craters provide a common cross-cutting theme. He approaches planetary geology with the fundamental view that interpretations of other planetary bodies must begin by using the Earth as a reference and fieldwork forms the basis for much of his research. In addition, he is also interested in developing technologies and techniques for human and robotic surface operations on the Moon and Mars. Examples of current research projects include:
- Impact-metamorphosed materials and the geology of meteorite impact structures on the Earth, Moon and Mars.
- Glacial and periglacial landforms in the Canadian Arctic, and analogous environments on Mars.
- Impact melt-bearing meteorites, of asteroidal and lunar origin.
- Origin and evolution of life on Earth and the search for life elsewhere in the Solar System.
- Ore emplacement within the North Range of the Sudbury impact structure, Ontario.
About this Series
Weekly talks given by leading thinkers in the areas of geology, geophysics, geobiology, geochemistry, atmospheric science, oceanography, climatology, and planetary science. Lectures take place on Wednesdays from 3:45pm in MIT Building 54 room 915, unless otherwise noted.