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Visions of Habitability: Hendrik Schäfer

The next installment in the CEH seminar series, "Visions of Habitability", will take place on Tuesday 12th April. The speaker will be Hendrik Schäfer from the University of Warwick's School of Life Sciences; a period of discussion will follow the presentation.

Talk title: Microorganisms, atmospheric trace gases and planetary habitability

Abstract: During the evolution of the Earth System, microorganisms have played pivotal roles in changing the composition of the Earth's atmosphere, continuing to the present day. On Earth, microbial production and removal of critically important atmospheric trace gases affects climate and indeed planetary habitability.

Consequently, the search for extraterrestrial life in the universe also attempts to find signatures of life in the atmospheric composition of planets and other celestial bodies. Using specific examples, I will illustrate how microorganisms are affecting habitability of Earth through interactions with the atmosphere before considering why the recent discovery of 'whiffs' of methane in the martian atmosphere has led to much excitement. The objectives of the ongoing mission of the Trace Gas Orbiter sent to Mars in March 2016 will be discussed.