Research into the earliest life of the earth MIT News

In the second class, Kelsey Moore became acquainted with geological time. Her teachers instructed the class to fire a gigantic strip of a long corridor in the school. Most of the felt was solid black, but at the very end the students caught a glimpse of red.

That little red strip represented the time on earth in which people lived, the teachers said. The lesson aroused Moore's curiosity. What happened on earth before there were people? How could she discover that?

Slightly more than a decade later, Moore enrolled in her first geoscience course at Smith College and discovered that she now had the tools to answer those same questions.

Moore went into geobiology, the study of how interaction between the physical earth and the biosphere takes place. During the first semester of her second year of her studies, she took a class that she said was "completely unfortunate".

"I knew I wanted to know more about Earth's history, but then I took this invertebrate paleontology class and realized how much we could learn about life and how life evolved," Moore says. A few lectures in the semester, she gathered the courage to ask her professor, Sara Pruss in Smith's Department of Geosciences, to request a research position in the lab.

Now a fourth-year student at MIT, Moore works in the geobiology lab of associate professor Tanja Bosak in the MIT department for terrestrial, atmospheric and planetary sciences. In addition to conducting her own research, Moore, who is also a qualified resident lecturer in the Simmons Hall dormitory, makes a priority to guide the undergraduate researchers of the lab and to teach them the techniques they need to know.

Time travel

"We have a natural curiosity about how we got here and how the earth has become as it is." There is so much unknown about the early biosphere on earth when you go back to 2 billion, 3 billion, 4 billion years, "says Moore.

Moore studies early life on earth by concentrating on old microbes from the Proterozoic era, the period of the earth. history stretching from 2.5 billion to 542 million years ago – between the time that oxygen began to appear in the atmosphere until the advent and spread of a complex life. Early in her graduation research Moore and Bosak worked together with Greg Fournier, the Cecil and Ida Green assistant professor of geobiology, on research into the development of cyanobacteria. Their research is supported by the Simons collaboration on the origin of life.

The question when cyanobacteria reached the ability to perform oxygen-rich photosynthesis, which produces oxygen and how many plants on Earth today get their energy, is still under discussion. In order to keep track of cyanobacterial evolution, MIT researchers draw on genetics and micropaleontology. Moore is working on molecular clock models that follow genetic mutations over time to measure evolutionary divergence in organisms.

Moored, covered with a white lab coat, laboratory goggles and bright purple gloves, sifted through multiple cyanobacteria under a microscope to find modern analogues for old cyanobacterial fossils. The process can be time-consuming.

"I do a lot microscopy," Moore says laughing. Once she has identified an analog Moore culture, then that is a certain type of cyanobacteria, a process that can sometimes take months. After the strain has been enriched and grown, Moore extracts DNA from the cyanobacteria. "We arrange modern organisms to get their genomes, reconstruct them and build phylogenetic trees," says Moore.

Moore hopes to make a chronogram – a kind of phylogenetic method by combining information from ancient fossils and modern analogs using molecular clocks. tree with a time component that eventually goes back to when cyanobacteria develop the ability to split water and produce oxygen.

Moore also studies the process of fossilization, on earth and possibly other planets. She works with researchers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to prepare them for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission. "

" We try to analyze fossils on Earth to get an idea of ​​how we go to watch monsters is being brought back from Mars, and then also to understand how we can learn from other planets and potentially other lives, " Moore.

After MIT Moore hopes to continue research, pursue postgraduate scholarships and eventually teach

"I really like research. So why stop? I continue, "says Moore, saying she wants to teach in an institution that emphasizes providing research opportunities to students

" Undercuts can be overlooked, but they are truly intelligent people and his budding scientists, "says Moore." So being able to promote that and see it grow and trust that they are capable of doing research, I think, is my calling. "

Geology up close

To study ancient organisms and find fossils, Moore has traveled the world, to Shark Bay in Australia, Death Valley in the United States, and Bermuda.

"To understand the rocks, you have to really get your nose on the rocks. Go and see them and be there. You have to stand in the tidal pools and see what happens – watch the air bubbles of the cyanobacteria and see them making oxygen, "says Moore." That kind of thing is very important to understand and completely surround your brain. how important these interactions are. "

And in the field Moore says that researchers" have to roll with the punches. "

" You have not set up a beautiful, beautiful, untouched lab with all the tools and equipment you need . You just can not approve everything, "Moore says." You have to do what you can with the tools you have. " Mentoring

As a Graduate Resident Tutor, Moore helps create supportive living environments for the students of Simmons Hall.

Every week she organizes a study trip in her apartment in Simmons for her cohort students – complete with freshly baked treats. "[Baking] is really relaxing for me", says Moore. "It & # 39; s . "

" I think that part of the reason why I like to cook is that it is my creative outlet, "she says." I know that many people describe baking as the same chemistry. But I think you have the chance to be more creative and have more fun with it. The creative side of it is something that I love, that I crave outside of the research. "

Part of Moore's determination to explore, to roam the field, and mentors draw on her" greatest scientific inspiration "- her mother, Michele Moore, professor of physics at Spokane Falls Community College in Spokane , Washington.

"She was a home mother all my childhood. And when I was in high school, she decided to take a college education, "says Moore.When Moore went to high school, her mother earned her bachelor's degree in physics.When Moore started studying, she was promoted mother. "She always took me one step ahead, and she was a great inspiration to me and gave me the confidence to be a woman in science."

Source link

Leave a Reply