Welcome to the Origins and Habitability Laboratory!

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We are astrobiologists who study the origin of life and how life can exist on other worlds. Our group consists of geologists, biologists, chemists, engineers, and others. We work on a variety of projects to understand how geological conditions impact life in planetary environments such as early Earth, Mars, icy moons of the outer planets, and exoplanets.

Contact us to learn more about student, postdoc, collaboration, and visitor opportunities!

Recent Lab News

Astrobiology fieldwork paper

A new paper highlighting the first of several field campaigns in Permian salt deposits has been published in Astrobiology and featured on the cover. This work takes place during Scott Perl’s annual fieldwork in the Zechstein formation.

Nitrogen Redox Chemistry Study

A new study was published in Geochimica Cosmochimica Acta about reduction of nitrate and nitrite by Mars analog iron minerals, and the formation of the amino acid glycine. Various OHL members participated in this study including Laurie Barge, postdoc Jessica Weber, and grad students Eduardo Martinez and Erika Flores.

Great Minds in STEM Conference

OHL grad student Dennise Valadez attended the Great Minds in STEM conference (GMiS 2022) in October 2022. The purpose of this conference was to inspire and motivate underserved students to pursue careers in STEM. Dennise helped support the event on behalf of JPL along with NASA KSC, she was a judge for the student poster session, and she helped run NASA's career booth during the career fair.

Mars Science Laboratory rover

OHL PI Laurie Barge and OHL Postdocs Laura Rodriguez and Rachel Sheppard were recently selected as new Participating Scientists for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission. They will be studying prebiotic chemistry on Mars; detection of organics with LIBS; and geology of sulfate minerals, respectively.

Shallow Hydrothermal Vents

A new paper was published in November 2022 in Nature Geoscience by Laurie Barge and colleague Roy Price, about shallow-sea hydrothermal vents as potential sites for the origin of life on the early Earth. The Strytan Hydrothermal Field in Iceland is a modern analog to these types of vents.

OHL group members at the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference in Seattle, June 2019

OHL group members attended the 2019 Astrobiology Science Conference in Seattle, June 2019. Many group members gave talks, posters, participated in plenaries, and outreach events; and we held an OHL science social.