project . 2021 - 2023 . On going


Nanoscale mineral-microbial interactions, associations, and biosignatures in gypsum stromatolites
Open Access mandate for Publications and Research data
European Commission
Funder: European CommissionProject code: 101031812 Call for proposal: H2020-MSCA-IF-2020
Funded under: H2020 | MSCA-IF-EF-ST Overall Budget: 196,708 EURFunder Contribution: 196,708 EUR
Status: On going
01 Oct 2021 (Started) 30 Sep 2023 (Ending)

Gypsum-based stromatolites (GS) make excellent paradigms for the investigation of fine-scale mineral-microbial interactions and for the detection of life remnants on gypsiferous deposits of Earth and Mars. Yet, they have been largely overlooked compared to the carbonate microbialites. To date we do not know: i) what is their exact mineralogy, ii) which microbial communities are associated to these structures, iii) what is the exact role of microbes and related bioproducts (e.g., exopolymeric substances) in mineral precipitation and stromatolite construction, and iv) which biosignatures may be preserved in GS. NanoBioS aims to address this knowledge gap by employing an interdisciplinary approach to study newly discovered gypsum-based stromatolites from Lake Bakili (Danakil Depression, Ethiopia) from a combined microbiology and mineralogy perspective. The Danakil Depression and the difficult-to-access and so-far unexplored Lake Bakili constitute a unique, natural laboratory for the study of both living and fossil gypsum microbialites, and a terrestrial Martian analogue-site. Besides the possibility to discover novel microbial lineages/metabolisms, we will attempt to identify characteristic associations of microbial groups with mineral assemblages and look for biosignatures. The overarching goal of NanoBioS is to gain a deeper understanding of the microbial influence on Ca-sulfate precipitation, as well as, to develop insights for distinguishing fossil life remnants from inorganic biomorphs on Earth and Martian chemical sediments. The host and secondment host laboratories that have advanced the subject of geomicrobiology of microbialites, will offer me intensive training in cutting-edge molecular biology and mineralogic tools, complementary to my so far geochemical expertise, aside to other, transferable skills. Overall, the development of NanoBioS will be career-defining and it will transform me in an independent, highly competitive, early stage bio-geo-chemist.

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