| by Mark Young
Life flourishes on our planet in an incredibly wide range of environments. Some of these environments
may be similar to the harsh conditions that likely occurred on early Earth or that exist or have
existed on other planets. Examples of extreme environments include those with high or low
temperatures, high or low pH, low water potential, high salt, high pressure, high radiation or low
Scientists are driven by the desire to understand organisms living in environments that are
prohibitive to other life forms. Such knowledge provides the basis for detecting and understanding
life forms that may exist elsewhere in our solar system and for developing useful new products and
processes here on Earth.
MSU's Thermal Biology Institute (TBI), in conjunction with the NASA Astrobiology Program and the MSU
Office of the Vice President for Research, will host a national workshop March 6-7, 2000, at the 320
Ranch in Gallatin Canyon. This "Life in Extreme Environments" workshop will bring together
policy-makers from NASA and the National Science Foundation and nationally recognized scientists who
study these unique organisms.
The scientists will present their views on what they think should be the focus of future research
activity in this field. MSU faculty who have been working with extremophiles for a significant
portion of their careers, and who will make presentations, include Dave Ward from Land Resources &
Environmental Sciences and John Priscu from Biology.
Myself and Tim McDermott, co-directors of the TBI, are organizing the workshop and expect this
small gathering will generate exciting cross-disciplinary discussions on a range of topics. These
topics could include the development of instrumentation and technologies that would enable remote
sampling and sensing; expanding the discovery about diversity, ecology and physiological capabilities
of extremophiles; and an increased knowledge about the geological and evolutionary history of
microbes that inhabit the extreme environments on Earth.
NASA, one of the several funding agencies supporting TBI research, will use this forum to help guide
the formulation of a future research initiative in this area. The discussions may also catalyze
collaborations with TBI faculty who are working on topics that overlap with the workshop participants.
If you have questions or wish to participate, please contact me or Jane Jessell in the TBI at
Mark Young is the director of the Thermal Biology Institute and can be reached at 994-7039 or
by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.