To infinity and beyond: Pilbara rocks and the quest for life on Mars.

To infinity and beyond: Pilbara rocks and the quest for life on Mars.

Talk outline: Heidi Allen is a paleontologist at the Geological Survey of Western Australia. She is an expert in fossil microbialites (which includes stromatolites), the oldest known examples of life on our planet. Heidi is going to talk about these remarkable fossils, explaining what is so special about Western Australia in this field of research and its application to the search for life on Mars.

 

Abstract: Microbialites, the oldest evidence of life on our planet, are structures built by a microbial community interacting with their environment. They range from a few millimetres to over hundreds of metres in size, and come in an variety of shapes and forms. Over 3.5 billion years of geological time these tiny but mighty microbes changed the course of life on Earth. Responsible for the accumulation of oxygen in our atmosphere, microbes paved the way for all other forms of life as we know it. Western Australia is renowned for its wealth of microbialites, our state is known for both its living examples such as those at Shark Bay, as well as more than 2000 documented fossil microbialite localities. This talk will explore many of the iconic fossil microbialite sites of Western Australia, including those that are currently being used as an analogue for the search for life in Mars, and share some of these exciting fossils in a hands-on Q&A session afterwards.

 

Bio: Heidi Allen has worked at the Geological Survey of Western Australia for more than 14 years where she is currently a Palaeontologist within the State Geoscience Branch. Heidi has project and field experience in many remote locations, having worked in sedimentary basins in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and South Australia, and even completing a 5 month field season in Antarctica. Heidi is an expert in fossil microbialites (which includes stromatolites), with some of her more recent projects include studying microbialites at times when oxygen was accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere. Heidi is a member of the Geological Society of Australia, and current committee member and secretary for Australasian Palaeontologists. A number of fossil stromatolites collected by Heidi are now on display at the newly opened Boola Bardip (meaning ‘many stories’), Western Australian Museum. Heidi has also been working on arthropod trace fossils of Kalbarri National Park and is soon to be a book author on this important fossil site.